Selling etiquette

Q: I’m about to move in to my new property, how should I expect the current owners to leave it?

A: Finally getting the keys to your new property is a pretty exciting event and many buyers will rush over to the property, eagerly swinging the door open to a new chapter in their lives. However, your elation can quickly disappear if the seller hasn’t left the property in the state you were hoping.

Years ago, one client cited a previous purchase where on completion he was presented with a property full to the brim of junk. Rather than moving his belongings in he spent two hours calling around junk removal companies, he had to wait four hours and spend £1,200 for the rubbish to be removed. Needless to say, it took the edge of his completion high.

Where possible, I would always advise doing a pre-completion inspection. We do this for all of our clients; on the morning of completion we visit the property to check that everything is as it should be – to check that no last minute damage has occurred and no belongings or junk have been left and so on. We then confirm with our client and their solicitor that we’re happy for them to send the completion funds to the seller’s solicitor and for completion to happen.

Inspecting a property this way is only possible, however, if the property is empty; if your seller is in a chain, for example, they can’t vacate the property you’re buying until your completion funds clear in their solicitor’s account and are then passed up the chain for their onward purchase. Therefore they will still be in the property so even if you do an inspection, you won’t see a huge amount. If the property is empty, though, do insist on one.

If you do come unstuck and the property hasn’t been left as it should, inform your solicitor as quickly as possible; if the seller has breached their obligations, your solicitor will inform theirs and try to get the seller to rectify the issue. Unfortunately, some vendors have more of a conscience than others and we’ve seen cases where the seller has refused to clear rubbish and there’s little the buyer can do once completion funds have been sent. If your seller has been a tricky character, or relations have soured during the purchase, then you should be on even higher alert.

If you are a seller, try to think about the buyer as you’re leaving. Presenting a clean property perhaps with a welcome note or a bottle of wine in the fridge is a small gesture but it goes such a long way. One client we bought for was thrilled to find an immaculate house, flowers in a vase on the kitchen table, a bottle of champagne in the fridge, and a note from the previous owner with details of their favourite local restaurants, recommended dry cleaners, and so on. It absolutely made our buyers’ day and I know the seller would have left that morning feeling great. So, if you’re buying or selling, think about how you can make the experience positive for the other party – a small deed goes a long way.

If you have a question you’d like Jo to answer please email or tweet her @joeccles.