The Homeseller’s #1 Closing Nightmare — and How You Can Avoid It

by Joshua Blumen on Monday, April 16th, 2018

You know the expression “It ain’t over till it’s over?” Well, it applies to selling your home, too. Things can and do go wrong at the last minute. And it’s not always a bolt from the blue that derails your closing.

In fact, the most common closing day nightmare for sellers isn’t something dramatic, like the buyer’s financing falling through. It’s failing to leave the house in “broom-clean” condition.

I know it’s hard to believe that such a mundane phrase can cause such chaos. But I’ve seen it happen time and again.

Broom-clean condition,” which is the exact phrase likely to be used in your Purchase and Sales Agreement, means that you have agreed to leave your home for the buyer as if it has been swept with a broom.

To meet the broom-clean requirement, you don’t need to hire a professional cleaning crew (but that’s not a terrible idea if you want to be really sure). You don’t even have to sweep it with a broom. But you do have to get all of your stuff out. And that means all of your stuff. Cabinets and storage spaces in the house and the garage should be empty. All trash and debris should be removed. Nothing should be left behind for you to come back for later – because later this won’t be your house.

What should you leave behind? Only those items listed in your Purchase and Sales Agreement, such as keys and garage door openers, and anything else you have specifically agreed to leave, like a refrigerator or washer and dryer.

Don’t assume your buyer wants those extra roofing shingles or your old gas grill propane tanks, either. Unless it’s on the “agreed to leave” list, that stuff goes.

Not cleaning the house isn’t the only way sellers fail to leave the home in broom clean condition. Sometimes in the mad dash to get those last few things into the car or moving van, you scratch a floor or crack a tile. Or break a window. Or you (accidentally!) put the leg of a chair through a wall. Like I did. Twice.

How can you avoid this entirely avoidable closing nightmare?

  • Take the “broom clean” requirement on your P&S Agreement seriously — because your buyer will. Buyers are nervous enough as it is. Why give them any reason to be suspicious about your attention to detail — and any reason to look more carefully for what else isn’t the way it’s supposed to be?
  • Plan ahead. Don’t wait until the last possible moment — the buyer’s final walk-through — to broom clean your house. Buyer’s don’t want to see your old stuff in their new home. And not just because it feels intrusive. They want to make sure there are no problems hiding behind any of your stuff. (Like a couple of chair leg holes in the wall, for instance.)
  • Keep your agent and your attorney in the loop. If you even THINK there’s a chance you won’t have your house broom clean in time, tell them — and the sooner the better. In nearly all cases, your agent and attorney can help negotiate a solution that will allow you to close on time. But they can’t solve problems they don’t know about.

Selling your home in Massachusetts? Get the legal help you need. For more information, contact the Law Offices of Joshua Blumen, P.C. 781-784-2500.

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