In the final days before a closing, most buyers choose to do a walk-through of the property. Under Florida Realtors’ contracts, they’re entitled to do this on either the day before or day of closing. While not mandatory, the walk-through can be an important buyer step to confirm that the property is in the condition warranted by the contract.
Unfortunately, sellers can sometimes leave items that the buyer doesn’t want or take things meant to stay. Here are some tips to assist you should you find yourself faced with an upset buyer or a sneaky seller right before the closing:
Scenario 1: Into the darkness
The buyer showed up at the property for a walk-through and noticed that the seller removed all the lightbulbs – including ones used for recessed lighting in the 20-foot ceiling. The buyer was very upset because purchasing and installing new lightbulbs is costly.
The seller pointed to the contract and said that nothing obligated him to leave the lightbulbs because, in his opinion, lightbulbs aren’t fixtures required to stay. The buyer wanted the seller to credit him several hundred dollars at closing to cover this new expense. The seller refused.
To start, it’s important to remember that professionalism must prevail if faced with this type of situation. Do not pick up the phone and scream at the listing agent about how her client is in breach of contract. Often times, the listing agent has no idea the seller did this. Instead, try to address your buyers concerns by saying that you’ll get in touch with the listing agent to see why this has happened.
To prepare for that call, ask your buyer what he thinks would remedy the situation, such as a credit at closing for the lightbulbs. Then reach out to the listing agent and discuss how you can work together to remedy the situation.
Please note: In this particular example, based on the Florida Realtors/Florida Bar contract (FR/Bar), the buyer isn’t entitled to anything. But the point can always be negotiated.
Scenario 2: Why’d it have to be snakes?
Buyers came in from out of town, and they arranged to meet their agent at the property a few hours before closing for a final walk-through. The buyer’s agent arrived early and decided to take a quick look around to make sure nothing was amiss. Upon entering the garage, however, the agent saw that a large glass fish tank was still there – worse, it contained a massive python.
The agent panicked. His buyers won’t want a large predatory snake in their garage, but the sellers told him that they wouldn’t remove it – take it or leave it. What now?
Believe it or not, this scenario actually happened. The agent resolved the issue by calling local animal control, and they removed the animal before closing.
Yes, the Florida Realtors/Florida Bar contract says all of the sellers’ personal belongings will be removed from the property; but the fact is, it doesn’t always happen. In this case, the agent was proactive and got the issue resolved before it became a bigger problem that could have derailed the closing.
However, take the snake component out of this example and replace it with a sofa that the sellers left behind, and the end result is similar. Yes, the seller was to remove this personal property item, but no, the seller simply did not.
In cases like this, the core question is: Will the buyer refuse to close because of the personal property item being behind? While a snake can’t be tossed in the trash, the buyer may decide it is easier to drag the couch to the curb than not close on the home.
Not always easy
Of course, there are instances without an easy solution.
For example, what if the seller removes all the stainless-steel appliances and replaces them with mismatched older versions? Here the buyer has legal options and may well want to contact his attorney and ask how to proceed.
Remember too that you and the other agent in the transaction should be working towards the shared goal of getting the parties to closing. Being on “opposite sides” and demanding results from either party rarely leads to a happy ending.
Always keep in mind that you and your fellow Realtors are in this transaction together and continue to remain professional, even in the face of an upset or difficult customer.