At Solutions, we’re often asked by our Sellers what it means to leave their home in “broom-clean” condition at closing.
According to wording in a Virginia Association of Realtors® (VAR) residential contract, the Seller agrees to “deliver the Property to Purchaser at settlement, in its present physical condition, ordinary wear and tear excepted, but with such repairs and improvements as the parties otherwise agree.” The contract adds that the seller agrees to “deliver the Property in broom-clean condition and to exercise reasonable and ordinary care in the maintenance and upkeep of the Property between the date this Contract is executed by Seller and the time of settlement or Purchaser’s occupancy, whichever occurs first.”
There’s no legal definition on what constitutes “broom-clean” condition, but the general understanding is that the seller will do the following: Remove all personal property (not included in the sale), debris and trash prior to the closing; and vacuum the carpets and/or sweep the floors.
What’s the difference between Broom- and Professionally Clean Condition?
Most Buyers prefer that a home be truly move-in ready at the time of purchase so that they don’t need to thoroughly clean the property after closing. Unless otherwise specified in the contract, however, the reality is that the Seller will typically deliver the property in “broom-clean condition,” but it still may need a good cleaning.
There’s a clear difference between broom-clean and professionally clean condition. If the parties have agreed to a professional cleaning, then it really should be move-in ready. The walls, surfaces, floors, appliances and furnishings should be dust and dirt free, bathrooms and kitchens should be scrubbed with cleaning products, and there should be no substantial additional cleaning necessary following transfer of title.
Even with professionally clean condition, however, there’s always a grey area – common questions are whether a seller needs to patch or repaint holes left by pictures and mirrors for example, and whether the seller should leave or take the brackets and nails that hung the articles? What about paint cans that match the existing paint or remnants from carpet, and extra flooring, vinyl sliding and roof shingles, etc.?
These details should be worked out prior to the real estate closing, just so everyone is on the same page and there are no disagreements and disappointments later on.
The Importance of a Walk Through
Before the closing, a Buyer should do a “final walk through” to inspect the property and ensure that the property is delivered in broom-clean condition (if that is what was agreed to). Be sure to inspect all areas of the property, including inside cabinetry, the attic, crawl spaces, eaves in a Cape-style home, the garage, shed(s), and often outside as it is common for there to be debris left behind exterior buildings, in wooded areas and under decks, that are often forgotten about.
Advice for Sellers
When you have to clean a place you’re moving out of, unless there is a security deposit on the line, it’s difficult for a Seller to truly be invested in the concept of sparkling clean, even though it’s common courtesy to not leave a mess for your Buyers – they’ll be happy, however, if you:
1. Empty your refrigerator & defrost the freezer: Wipe down the shelves and don’t leave anything behind. If you’re on good terms with your Buyer, then you may want to leave a little welcome gift, otherwise empty is better.
2. Scrub all kitchen countertops, appliances and sinks: The kitchen should be a grease-free zone in case the Buyers take some time to move in and the mess has a chance to settle in.
3. Wipe down kitchen cabinets: Don’t leave anything, including crumbs, that might tempt insects or rodents.
4. Clean the oven & stove: If you have a self-cleaning oven, push that button. If not, buy some oven cleaner and get to scrubbing. Remember to clean around the stove’s burners as well.
5. Scrub the bathroom: Any toilet, sink and shower must be scrubbed down and any residue removed.
6. Floors: If there’s carpet, you should vacuum or steam clean. If it’s wood or tile, just mop.
7. Washing walls: Check the walls for any scuffs, stains, or smudges. If you spot any problems, carefully clean them up, but make sure you don’t remove any paint.
8. Dusting: Light fixtures, blinds or other flat surfaces should be dusted off.
9. Windows: Clean the inside and outside of windows wherever possible.