Fischer: Don’t get swept up in selling a home that isn’t ‘broom clean’
Spoiler alert: My house is not “broom clean” right now. Since I am not selling my home, this is my own problem. Once a home has been sold, funded and recorded, it is the seller’s responsibility to, according to section 10.3 of the Real Estate Purchase Contract, “deliver the property to buyer in broom-clean condition and free of debris and personal belongings.” Before embarking on the variety of ways one can interpret this section, I would like to first take a moment to defend my status of current squalor in my own home.
Frankly, it really isn’t that bad; however, it is certainly not up to my usual standards. One would think that two grown adults with plenty of space could always keep a home in show-worthy condition. Yet, throw in a couple of medium-size dogs, a 16-year-old grandson and 23 of the neighbor’s visiting grandkids, two nieces, a nephew, a stepfather, three adult children and their significant others, including their two dogs, and two very competitive sisters and you have all the ingredients for a raging tempest. Have the grandson break the tempered glass on the shower door to boot and you have the results of a natural disaster. That is my home the week after Thanksgiving. Since I have the choice of cleaning it all up or going on vacation, I think I will choose the later. I’m assured it will still be here when I get back.
When moving out of a home, however, the cleaning cannot wait. It must be done to the appropriate standards. Too vague? I agree. While the terminology “free of debris and personal belongings” is more specific, “broom clean” is subject to wide interpretation. Clearly, nobody wants your mysteriously sealed footlocker wreaking of some curious odor other than feet. Nor do they want the old appliance manuals from the original Amana microwave that has been buried in the dump for the last four and a half decades. This is considered “debris.” Yet, I also don’t want a call from the buyer’s agent after closing on a home complaining that my 83-year-old client did not leave the home broom clean, only to find out she had accidentally left a tomato on the counter. I removed the culprit immediately and my seller was none the wiser of the entire ridiculous incident.
I did, however, on more than one occasion, have a seller vacate the premises without having even attempted to use a broom, or any other cleaning device. In fact, I had one seller leave every piece of clothing and furniture that she didn’t want in the home for the new buyers to enjoy. When I received that call, I did relay it back to my client this time. She happened to be at work and wouldn’t be getting off for 11 more hours. The buyers had their moving van at the home, waiting to move their stuff in. They had to have the van back in a few hours. I engaged all the child labor I could find, hooked up my trailer and we went to work. After five trips to the dump and sore knuckles from scrubbing, the home was ready. Alas, but for the things we do that are not in our “job description.”
A bit more blatant a misinterpretation came from a call I received several years ago, during the time of short-sales and bank repossessed properties. I was representing a seller on a home that we had negotiated with the bank to sell for short of what was owed. Despite the condition of the home, which was incredibly difficult to even tell since these sellers were legitimate “hoarders” by every definition of the term, we did receive an offer and went under contract. At this point, I told the sellers they needed to begin packing. Once the bank agreed to the offer, we had a nearly non-negotiable timeline in which to close. It was still an ample 30 days, but we could not extend it without serious consequences. Every few days, I would check in to see how the packing was coming. Although they assured me they could get it done, each time I checked, they hadn’t begun. The days were rapidly passing, and my urgent pleadings were rapidly increasing. Finally, three days before closing, I received a call from one of their neighbors. He called to inform me that they had asked a few of the neighbors to help them move that day. When they arrived with trucks and people to help, they were told they still needed to pack. Since this was not what they were there to help with, they all returned home. I called my clients and informed them that they now had 72 hours to get everything out. They seemed legitimately surprised.
Closing day came and they had not lifted a finger to pack. The neighbors came over, moved everything they owned to the front lawn so the buyers could begin their rehab on the property before moving in, and it took them nearly 14 days to slowly move it all. They threw nothing away and nobody even attempted to “steal” anything from the yard.
Broom clean may often hold different meanings to different people, but no one could possibly argue that this one did not meet the definition. Just be courteous. How would you want your new home to look?
Jen Fischer is an associate broker and Realtor. She can be reached at 801-645-2134 or firstname.lastname@example.org.