Do I have to patch the nail holes in your sold house before you move?
It’s a common question asked by home sellers as they transition from marketing their homes to taking down pictures and packing….you know, the fun part of selling…not! According to a report by the National Association of Home Builders, Buyers, on average stay in their homes 13 years. (I’d love to find a stat for the Seattle-Tacoma market, but have yet to come across anything share worthy.) After more than a dozen years in the same dwelling, there’s going to be more than some wear and tear here there (but hopefully not everywhere) on even the most meticulously maintained properties.
Hardwood floors discolor, carpets wear unevenly due to furniture placement and traffic patterns. Wall art is hung with sharp things that put holes in the drywall…you get the picture (I love puns!)
So when you’re selling a used house, how do you know what cosmetic issues to fix or repair or what to leave for the next owner to tackle? What’s considered reasonable? Aas it is with real estate related sales questions, the answer is “it depends.
Here in Washington State, you will be required to fill out a Property Disclosure (Form 17) disclosing known facts/defect about the property. However there will be wear and tear/cosmetic issues you may discover only upon vacating the property. So what about that? The majority of real estate contracts in our state are executed using NWMLS forms. There is no clause in the main purchase contract addressing condition of the property, however there is a commonly used addendum (Form 22D) which has a paragraph providing for the seller to maintain the property in the same condition as when the buyer viewed it. So you can’t stop cutting the grass, you can’t repaint all the walls a different color, you can’t throw a wild party and you have to repair anything that breaks down during the Escrow process.
But every occupied home has the potential for unknown, and unforeseen wear and tear….even Home Inspectors have disclaimers in their contracts about not being able to look behind furniture, through walls, under carpets, etc.
So, as you begin the move out and discover these things, what should you fix and what should you let the new buyer tackle?
My 5 Question Test usually helps clients answer the question for themselves.
1. What is the scope of the problem and how easy/expensive will it be to remedy? When you pull that 12 x 14 area rug up and see the floor beneath it is toast… damaged (not faded); gouged, dented, finished worn off, will your buyer care? Nine and a half times out of ten…YES! This is something which should be made known to the buyer and either make the repair or compensate the buyer for future repair. If it’s a stress crack at the corner of a window you discover when removing the curtains….no biggie.
2. What is the price point of the house? In the example of faded hardwood floors, if the property is a higher-end home, it might be expected by the buyer to have the hardwoods refinished if they haven’t been within the last few years. If the house is presented as magazine perfect, it probably won’t go over well to deliver the house in less than it’s best condition. (Carpets professionally cleaned, nail holes patched, yard neat and tidy)
3. What is the overall condition of the house? If the house has been “well-lived” in and it’s in that condition when it’s priced and marketed, then it won’t be a big surprise to the buyers when walking in and seeing there will be some cosmetic fixes to add to their “to-do” list. If however the house is in immaculate condition, it could be jarring to walk in and find a shot-gun blast of nail holes on every wall.
4. What do you think your buyer is going to expect? The laid back buyer who really didn’t care about inspection issues because he’s super handy and planning on remodeling anyway isn’t doing to care whether you putty nail holes. But the super
a___ uptight, stressed out, nit-picky Buyer who started out by asking for everything on the inspection list to be repaired, could be a royal pain upon closing if things aren’t “just right”.
5. What do you want to do? Put yourself in the buyer’s shoes. If you were buying the house for the price you’re getting and walked into it vacant, would you care? Is it worth the cost to make the little repairs before vacating or not? What do you think is the right thing to do? Not to saying making repair/touch-ups is always the right thing to do because it’s not in every situation. Sometimes owners want to do too much…and that’s where I step in and let them off the hook.
Unless you’re selling a brand new house, there can be no expectation on the buyer’s part that the house will be perfect upon transfer of possession. And, unless your buyer asks for specific repairs while negotiating; “Seller to have carpets professionally cleaned, or all nail holes puttied”, then you don’t have to do it…but sometimes it’s just nice.
And the right thing to do.