The House Is Trashed!

by Jim Palmer Jr. – Real Estate Marketplace N.W. Inc.

     I received a distressed call from one of my brokers the other day that had recently represented a seller on the sale of their home, but now the buyer was upset.   The deal had closed a week prior but the buyer had just now arrived at the property and found it a mess.  Even though my broker had not represented them, the buyer’s first instinct was to call the seller’s agent for relief.  After explaining to the buyer that they were not responsible for enforcing the contract, the compassionate listing broker made the effort to deliver the unhappy message to the seller.

The purchase contract clearly stated that “seller shall clean the interiors of any structures and remove all trash, debris and rubbish from the property prior to Buyer taking possession.”  Based on this language, the seller was clearly in breach of contract, but how does the late arriving buyer find a remedy? Where did this buyer go wrong?

The contract also clearly states that the Buyer reserves the right to  walk through the property within 5 days of closing to verify that seller has maintained the property and cleaned the property as agreed upon.  Since this buyer never returned to walk through the property prior to closing, they did not know the true condition of the property and in essence gave up the power to enforce that part of the contract by funding the sale even though the terms had not been met.  Even though the buyer had closed without performing the walk through, that action did not automatically waive the seller’s responsibility to perform.  But because the seller already had money in hand, the buyer was left with only two options. 1) rely on the good will of the seller to come back to the property and clean out the mess, or 2) take the seller to court to find relief, which would be time consuming and costly.

The problem with both of those options is that the seller is now long gone and has no intention of coming back to clean up his mess, and litigating the solution may be more costly and time consuming than it is worth.

If you are a buyer, the moral of this story is that you should always take the time to view the property or have your agent view the property prior to closing so that you can retain some leverage over a seller who needs their money to move on.

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