Ask The Expert: Broom Swept, Items Left by a Seller

Q.  How clean is a seller required to leave a house at close of escrow?

The common term that is used in many real estate contracts is that a property must be “broom clean” or “broom swept” at close of escrow, when delivering the property to the new buyer. In California, we further stipulate that a property must be essentially in the same condition as it was when the buyer first saw it.  But what is the meaning of broom swept, and what does it entail?

Broom swept means that the floors are swept and free of debris at the time of closing.  All trash, whether bagged or not, must be disposed of.  All personal belongings must be removed from the property.

The following is an easy list wich described the condition of both the interior and the garage of the home.  Follow these easy points, and you will retain the good will of your buyer after close:

Clean the inside of the home before moving out

Remove all personal property,Vacuum the floors,Clean kitchen appliances, inside the refrigerator, microwave, and oven,Wipe down all kitchen surfaces,Scour sinks and tubs,Wipe down interiors of  cabinets and shelves,Wash flooring,Dispose of all trash and personal property not contractually stipulated to be included in the sale.

Cleaning the Yard and Garage

Remove all personal belongings,Properly dispose of toxic chemicals,Sweep or vacuum all floors,Stack items of construction for the home, such as extra roof materials, garden supplies, paint, or flooring if the buyer wants to retain them.  If not, dispose of them appropriately,Dispose of all trash and personal property not contractually stipulated to be included in the sale.

Most sellers will want to leave the home as they would wish to receive it.  Barring any other stipulated agreements, this is a good standard by which to make your decisions.  If the move is taxing enough, get a cleaning crew in for half a day to do the work for you.  It will be well worth the good will you leave behind for the new buyer.

Q.  If the seller leaves items behind, is the buyer required to store them?  The seller has left boxes and furniture in the garage, and we’d like to move our things in.

You MUST get an answer from a qualified legal advisor. You should be sure exactly what the law is and then you must follow it.

I tend to be of the mindset that communication is always a good way to solve a problem.  My first suggestion would be to speak to the seller directly and attempt a resolution.  If you can come to an agreement about removal of the property, put it in writing and both of you sign it.  However, once you close escrow, the home is yours, and you are liable for anything that occurs on the property.  The seller cannot enter the premises without your being there, or without your approval. I recommend you have all the locks changed right away to protect yourself.  If the seller will be hiring a mover, be sure to check their liability insurance.

If that doesn’t work, move on and reach out for help.  Ask your Realtor to call their in-house counsel to assist, and if necessary, the California Association of Realtor’s Legal Hot Line to give a legal opinion. They will more than likely suggest that you get a real estate attorney.  At the very least, it would worth the money to invest in a few hours of the attorney’s time to have him/her give you sound advice. They will often write a demand letter to the seller, stating that if the personal property is not removed by (date), then a certain action will occur. Sometimes the threat of legal consequence is enough to motivate someone to do what you want them to.

Otherwise, the alternative is to put yourself at the potential mercy of your seller’s delays.

Get your Instant Home Value…