Real Estate Today

A real estate fairy tale: a message to sellers

Leave your home in pristine condition for your buyers so they can have a fairy-tale ending to their home search photo: mercy / wikimedia commons

Once upon a time, a couple decided they wanted to buy a house. They took this major investment seriously and researched the steps for buying a home. Completing the first step after filling out what felt like an endless amount of forms, they received their loan preapproval letter. During the loan preapproval process, I kept reminding them that they were not singled out for torture by the lender. All borrowers were asked the same questions.

Excited to have completed step one and with preapproval letter in hand, the buyers began their search, dedicating their Sunday afternoons to visiting open houses. There is not much on the market, and I warned them that their search would take a while. A few months later, they found a home they felt was the home of their dreams and made an over-asking offer hoping to capture the seller’s attention.

To the couple’s dismay, the home of their dreams was also the dream home for 10 other buyers. They were not successful in their first attempt to buy a home. Again I assured them this was not unusual and that they would meet with success, though it might take a few offers before this happened.

The value of real estate in San Francisco kept going up, and the couple became anxious that they would be priced out of the market. We talked about choices: Looking in a different neighborhood or settling for less. They decided they didn’t want to change their neighborhood focus, and they had worked hard and saved their down payment and in the end were willing to take a leap of faith that the market would continue to go up, or at least not go down.

An over-asking offer that took the couple’s breath away brought them success. They were excited and their family and friends were excited for them. Escrow closed and I delivered the keys to the buyers that were provided to me by the seller’s agent.

Soon thereafter I received a call from the buyers, who were standing in their new home. They were not happy. In fact, they were quite upset. The sellers had not cleaned the house, though the seller’s agent assured me they said they would do this. Apparently the sellers were rushed moving out and ran out of time.

The buyers were not sympathetic. The sellers had made a lot of money on the sale, more than they would have ever dreamed possible. Leaving the house dirty and smelly was a mistake the sellers would have to correct.

The result was that the seller’s agent sent over a cleaning crew who left the home spic-and-span for the new buyers. Still, this never should have happened and is so easily avoided. “Broom clean” is all that is required, but the last thing a seller wants is for buyers to be angry on the day they close escrow and in the mood to find fault with their new home.

Home ownership is a long-term investment that always involves expenses over the years. Some will be expected, like the need to paint or a new roof. Other problems, like water intrusion, especially after a dry year like we have just experienced, can be costly and leave a homeowner in a mood to look to the seller to pay the expense of repairs. This is a road none of us wants to take.

Leaving a home spotless for a buyer might seem like a small thing in the scheme of all that goes into buying and selling a home. Actually it is important for more than the obvious reason of meeting the conditions of the contract. Buyers who are happy with the condition of their home at the close of escrow may be more likely to look past future maintenance issues as a natural cost of home ownership rather than a shortcoming in the disclosure by the seller.

The moral to this story is that professional cleaning is a small price to pay to be sure that buyers cross the threshold of their new home, smile, and say: “I love this place. We are so lucky!”

Sellers, in your excitement to take your money and run, be sure to leave your home as clean for the new owners as you would like to find it if you had just bought the home.

Happy endings are the goals of sellers, buyers, and all real estate agents.

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Carole Isaacs is a Realtor with McGuire Real Estate. Visit her online at or call 415-608-1267.