Cleaning and possession – for buyers and sellers

Some of the offers I receive contain a “cleaning” clause that usually reads something like this – Seller to have the home professionally cleaned or a $500 holdback will be credited to the Buyer. I never recommend my sellers agree to a clause like this – it is so subjective and is sure to end up causing issues on closing.

What constitutes a professional, someone hired on Kijiji or does it have to be a bonded company? Cleaning companies have a wide variety of services available, surely choosing the cheapest one instead of the “move-out” package will satisfy the buyer, right? See where I am going with this? And we haven’t even discussed the fact that what is considered clean to me might not be up to your own standards!

Let’s start by looking at it from both sides, starting with the seller…

You’ve received an offer with a cleaning clause similar to the above. First, don’t be offended, most likely your home is perfectly clean enough but buyers generally want to move into a freshly, fully scrubbed house. Second, you have choices here. You can:

  1. Remove the term altogether in your counter back to the buyer – usually my recommendation
  2. If the buyer insists on a cleaning term, amend it to read something like: Seller will have the home professionally cleaned before possession date by Happy Cleaners and will purchase the Move-Out special providing receipt to the Buyer OR a $500 holdback will be credited to the Buyer.
  3. Accept the term as-is putting yourself at risk for issues on closing…I definitely don’t recommend this option!

Even if your offer doesn’t include anything about cleaning, the buyer will have the expectation that the house isn’t left in a complete mess and some level of cleaning by the seller is a common courtesy, not a contractual obligation. Now, I’m not talking about shampooing the carpets or cleaning out the gutters – it’s the little things that buyers have identified as “expected” when moving into their new digs, like:

  • Dust ledges, above doors, window coverings, window sills/window tracks, above cabinetry, baseboards, light fixtures
  • Wipe down fronts and inside cabinetry & drawers, scrub sinks, faucets and countertops
  • Pull out appliances like the stove & fridge to clean behind them, clean the inside of every appliance
  • Full clean of bathrooms including tubs and showers
  • Wash walls and doors, vacuum floors
  • Remove all personal property and garbage inside & outside, clear the yard of all debris

There are items on that list that you might not even have considered as expected as a seller so that’s why it’s vital to be clear and concise in the contract.  Remember, you are under no obligation to clean if it’s not included in the contract. You are, however, required to hand over the property in “substantially the same condition” as of viewing so keep that in mind as you are packing and moving.

We’ve covered some of the thoughts of the buyer but let’s take a deeper dive into what their considerations are when it comes to writing an offer…

You’ve found the place! After much searching you are ready to put in that offer and get ready to move in. Wait, move in, hmmm the house is amazing and pretty clean already BUT I really want to make sure that it is move-in ready when I show up with the van.

We’ve talked about the pros and cons of including a cleaning clause with your options being:

  • Include a cleaning term with very specific language laying out exactly what is to happen, by when and the consequences if not completed. Not recommended in a competing offer situation as you want to make your offer as simple and appealing as possible to the seller. “As-is” homes will not even consider a cleaning term.
  • Handle the cleaning yourself or book cleaners before the movers come. This is always my recommendation to my clients. It simplifies your offer, removes the risk of any unnecessary issues on possession and puts the control over cleaning in your hands, making sure it is done to your standards.

Regardless of which side of the deal you are on, reducing risk in the transaction is beneficial for both parties so let’s keep cleaning out of the contract and focus on a smooth transaction for all. Visit me on Facebook and Google!