I'm not sure why Sellers think that Buyers want their old stuff....or why they think it's okay not to have their things out in time. The Buyers have enough to do with packing and moving their own things in. They do not want to deal with the Seller's things too. In addition, many communities charge for trash pickup or pickup of bulk items. The Buyers should not be left with that cost.
The standard Massachusetts contract requires that the Seller leave the property "in broom clean condition and free of all personal possessions not conveyed." While Massachusetts is an attorney state, and nearly all of the terms of the Purchase and Sale Agreement may have been changed by Buyer and Seller attorneys, this language is usually not changed.
"Free of all personal possessions" means exactly that. It does not mean free of almost all possessions or free of everything except those you think the buyer may want. Just because the previous owner left something there for you does not mean you can pass it on to the next owner.
Recently, I have had the following closings where the house was not free of all Seller's possessions at the time of the walk through:
- Here, we showed up for the walk through and the moving truck was just showing up! I asked the listing agent how we were supposed to do a walk through when the Sellers possessions were still there. After getting a blank stare back, I told him we'd let the attorneys handle it at the closing. I felt bad for the Seller...she had not been properly prepared to know she was supposed to be out BEFORE the walk through and closing, not during it.
- At this closing, while most of the items were gone prior to the walk through, some things remained in the house. There were a couple of pieces of furniture, a junk drawer in the kitchen still full of junk, curtains that the Seller was taking and some other personal belongings. In this case the listing agent HAD prepared her Sellers....they just did not "get it." And they did not understand why they could not just come back after the closing to remove their things.
- This situation was the more common thing that I see....Sellers thought the Buyers would want their old stuff. The house was mostly empty at the walk through - save for some things the Sellers thought the Buyers would want....an old TV in the kitchen, some kitchen stools, old tiles....that kind of thing. The thing is, the Buyer did NOT want those items. They were going to be renovating the kitchen, tearing out the island and the tiles and did not need these things. They had their own belongings to move and renovations to make - they did not need to also get rid of items the Seller left behind. I had to call the listing agent to get the items removed prior to closing - and it was done. The Seller was only trying to help but unfortunately, it was not helpful.
Fortunately this is the exception, not the norm. I've had two other closings recently where the adult children had the task of cleaning out the family home after 40+ years. In both cases, the house and garage were COMPLETELY empty! Their agents had prepared them well.
Sellers need to know that it is their contractual obligation to remove EVERYTHING from the house that is not being conveyed. If a Seller thinks that something may be of use to the Buyer, they should ask in advance if it can be left. It will make for a smoother closing process with no holdbacks or delays. Listing Agents need to make this clear to their clients.
Remove Your Stuff....Honestly, the Buyers do not want it!
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Christine Smith is an Attorney and Exclusive Buyer Agent with over 25 years of experience in the real estate field.
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