Clean House

This is a question we hear very often from our clients selling their home. In Arizona, there is currently no language in the purchase contract that states how clean the home must be left. However, some real estate agents will write into the contract that the home or carpets must be professionally cleaned by the close of escrow date. So, it’s a good idea to check with your REALTOR and review the purchase contract to determine what’s required of you prior to vacating the home. We have found that it’s good Karma to leave the home as clean as you would like someone to leave the home for you. The Golden Rule applies here.

Now even though there is nothing in the purchase contract requiring the seller to leave a clean house, there are a number of items in the purchase contract that do require certain things of the seller. For example, it states that the seller will make sure that all heating, cooling, mechanical, plumbing, and electrical systems (including swimming pool and/or spa, motors, filter systems, cleaning systems and heaters, free-standing range/oven, and built-in appliances will be in working condition as of possession or close of escrow date. This is true unless, of course, the buyer and seller signed an “As-Is” Addendum. However, if any of these items were working at the time of the home inspection and then later stop working, the seller would then still be required to put them in working condition. Also, the Arizona purchase contract states that any repairs you agree to in writing must be made in a “workmanlike manner” and that any paid receipts evidencing the corrections and repairs must be delivered to the buyer prior to close of escrow. You should check for relevant Arizona Statutes, such as, ARS 32-1121 for exceptions regarding whether a licensed contractor is required.

Be sure to check with your REALTOR to confirm when receipts are due and which repairs are required before you complete them.

The purchase contract goes on to state that the premises, including all additional existing personal property that was included in the sale, will be in substantially the same condition as on the date the contract was accepted, and that all personal property not included in the sale and all debris will be removed from the premises. Buyers are often disappointed to find junk wood and other debris littering the back yard, and full trash and recycle cans leaving them no room for anything else to be placed in the cans. It’s a good idea to make sure these cans are left empty after the trash day prior to the close of escrow date, or to call the city for a special trash and/or recycle pick-up. Some municipalities charge for this service, but the cost is usually nominal and will go a long way toward making for a happier home sale. For a list of other items that are supposed to stay with the property read an article we wrote titled Home Selling Tips – Which Fixtures & Personal Property Stay.

Also, the Arizona purchase contract states that the seller agrees to deliver to the buyer all existing keys and/or means to operate all locks, mailbox, security systems/alarms, and all common area facilities at close of escrow. So, don’t forget to leave the key to the lock you placed on the electrical panel, back or side gates, the key fob used to open the gate (if your community is gated), the key used to access the community center or community pool (if applicable), or the garage door openers hanging on your car’s visor. We have seen it time and again where the seller, inadvertently, leaves the garage door opener in their vehicle and then has to mail it back to the buyer. Many sellers will leave all of these in a large plastic bag in one of the kitchen drawers with a note on each as to what they open. And although it’s not a requirement, it’s really helpful for the new buyer when the seller leaves any manuals they have for appliances, or instructions on how to operate systems like the pool, spa, intercom system, speaker system, alarm, solar system, or any other system they may have in the home. And even though the purchase contract requires the seller to leave the keys to the home and mailbox, we usually recommend to the buyer that they have the home re-keyed and to ask the post office to re-key the mailbox, if one exists. Kindnesses like these can help the buyer from coming back to you for minor issues that may arise in the home later.

Now you’ve made all required repairs, cleaned the home, removed all debris, left the keys and instructions, and you’re trying to pack so that you can move on to your new digs, when your phone rings. It’s your REALTOR stating that the buyer wants to come back to make sure all repairs have been made and that the home is in substantially the same condition as when they signed the contract. Well, that’s in the purchase contract, too. The purchase contract states that the seller must make the premises available for all inspections and walkthrough(s) upon reasonable notice by the buyer. It also states that the seller shall, at the seller’s expense, have all utilities on, including any propane, until close of escrow so that the buyer can conduct these inspections or walkthrough(s). We usually recommend to the seller that they schedule for all utilities to be turned off as of the close of escrow date, and that the buyer transfer them into their name on that same day. This helps to avoid any additional fees to the buyer for having them turned on at a later date. Check with your REALTOR to schedule when to turn off the utilities.

As long as this list is, it may not include everything that’s required of the seller in any given home sale. None of this information should be considered legal advice. Always be sure to speak with your REALTOR or attorney regarding what’s required.