It’s one of the biggest moments in your life… the door of your new home opens, and the previous home owners have left a disaster. The space is dirty, there are belongings left behind, there is a hole in the wall and the yard is a mess. What should you, being the new home owner, do now? What can you expect from your realtor? And how could this have been prevented?
Getting the keys to your new home is one of the most exciting things in one’s life. For us as realtors, it is one of the most rewarding parts of our job; the first time home buyer’s pride. A nest for the young couple. And the immigrant’s opportunity for a better life.
The purchase contract of a home states: “When the Buyer obtains possession, the Property will be in substantially the same condition as it was in when this Contract was accepted.”
However, most often there are 30 or 60 days between buying and key release, and anything can happen in that time.
The best thing to do is to immediately call your lawyer and explain the situation. Add pictures if possible. You only get the keys when your lawyer transferred the purchase price to the lawyer of the sellers. Your lawyer cannot get any money back, but he can call the sellers’ lawyer and see if they can come to an agreement. A lot will depend on the situation. If it just junk in the yard, you may have to take your loss and clean up yourself. But did the seller take out a complete wall that was there when you bought it? This clause then comes into effect. In this situation, the role of your realtor is very limited. It must be dealt with on a level that involves a lawyer.
Prevent a disaster with a walk-through
When you purchase the home, you can ask your realtor to add a term (not a condition) to the contract that you want to inspect the home 24 hours prior to possession. This way the sellers must grant you access to the property. This is also good practice when you buy a rental property. If this term is not in the contract, you do not have the right to go into the home prior to the possession date!
If there is a lot of junk in the yard, you can ask your realtor to put a term in the purchase contract, that the junk must be removed with a hold back of an certain amount of dollars, for example, $500. This amount is withheld by the buyers’ lawyer when the money is transferred to the sellers’ lawyer. If the pile of junk has been removed by possession, then the seller will still get his $500. If the junk still in the yard, you, as the buyer, keeps the $500. You can call a company like 1800-Junk to have everything removed.
When you, as a buyer, are negotiating with the seller and you like something repaired in the home, you can ask your realtor to do the same, add a term. Ask for the cracked window to get repaired, with a hold back of a certain amount of dollars. The amounts must be in line with the actual cost. You cannot ask for a $10,000 holdback for a $1500 window.
Negotiating terms in a real estate contract
Understand that these terms and conditions in a contract must be negotiated and signed. If buyer and seller do not agree to a term, the buyer may have to take the risk or negotiate more on the actual purchase price.
Overall, we, Tanja and Ariette, are quite impressed in general with how sellers leave their home for the new buyers. On several occasions, we made sure that a term solved the problem and when possession came, the promise was kept by the seller. Yards were cleaned up, holes and windows were repaired.