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We got possession of our new house in West Lake, Prince Edward County yesterday. What should have been one of the most exciting days of our lives – picking up our keys and falling in love with our new house all over again – quickly spiralled and became a minor nightmare.
It was one of those messy closings that caused stress and cost everybody money and time. It pitted Seller against Buyer and made us feel differently about the people who had so lovingly restored our new home. And it all could have been avoided with some basic respect and planning.
Here’s what happened:
Our new house was scheduled to close on Wednesday. Our Agreement of Purchase and Sale required the Seller to remove all the debris from inside the house and in the yard (there was a LOT of it). We sent our agents to view the house on our behalf late Tuesday, after the Sellers had moved out. Here’s some of what they found:
The house was full of old furniture. Mattresses. Bags of garbage. And a massive amount of debris in the yard.
Pro Tip: It’s a good idea to schedule your last Buyer visit the day before closing – that way you can deal with any issues before you actually take possession.
As you can imagine, we had no interest in spending our time and thousands of dollars to clean out the past owner’s belongings. It was one of the biggest messes we’ve seen left behind (and having sold hundreds of homes, we’ve seen a lot).
So we offered the Sellers 2 options:
- Clean up the mess and delay the closing until Thursday; or
- We holdback $5,000 of the purchase price and deal with the mess ourselves.
Good to Know: A holdback is strategy often used to deal with issues on closing. Rather than the full purchase price being transferred to the Seller on closing, an agreed-to amount is held in the lawyer’s trust account and doesn’t get released until the Buyer is satisfied.
The Sellers chose option #1. They spent all day Wednesday clearing out their crap. They made a bonfire in the backyard to burn a lot of it. When our REALTORS returned to check on the progress, it was clear this was a bigger job, so we delayed closing by a second day. Thankfully, our move wasn’t scheduled to happen right away and our tradespeople weren’t scheduled to start work until next week.
Pro Tip: Don’t plan your move for closing day. There are lots of reasons homes don’t close as scheduled and there’s nothing worse than spending the night in a moving truck outside of your new home.
We finally closed on Friday, picked up the keys and eagerly opened the front door. Here’s what we found:
Those were our brand new floors. The basement was still plenty full too. A 2 day delay and this is how they left the house for us?
Our Agreement of Purchase and Sale also required the Sellers to leave the home in ‘broom-swept’ condition.
Pro Tip: Make sure your Agreement of Purchase and Sale directly addresses the condition the house is to be left in and specifically addresses any debris or items to be removed or left behind.
The Sellers are clearly in breach of our agreement. Potential costs to them?
- Costs to clean the home (which could have been avoided if they hadn’t left it in such a disgusting manner)
- Costs to remove the remaining items in the basement and in the backyard (including labour, rental of a bin and disposal costs)
- Costs to reimburse us for any expenses incurred as a result of a delayed move
When we arrived at the house late Friday, the bonfire was still going. I’m going to guess the Sellers didn’t think to extend their home insurance for the 2 extra days that they owned it – which could have been catastrophic given they left an unattended fire burning in the backyard. If the house had burned down, we could have walked away from the agreement and without home insurance, it would have been a total loss for them.
Pro Tip: Closing delays happen. Make sure your home insurance covers you for a few extra days post-closing, just in case.
All in all, a stressful week that could have been completely avoided if the Sellers had chosen to do the right thing. If you’re a Seller…please don’t do this to your Buyer on closing.
Thanks to our REALTORS for handling so many of our closing issues for us!