Many Buyers assume that when they purchase a property, it will be delivered clean and move-in ready. That is not always the case.
In Massachusetts, properties are sold “as-is.” Unless there is specific language to the contrary in a contract / offer to purchase or a purchase & sale agreement, a buyer purchases a property in the condition that it is in at the time the contract is signed, wear and tear notwithstanding. There is nothing that requires a seller to remove trash and debris and/or clean the property prior to the closing. The condition of the property at the time of closing needs to be agreed upon in advance.
Standard Form Purchase & Sale Agreement
In Massachusetts, unlike many other states, there is not one “standard form” purchase & sale agreement (commonly referred to as a P&S). There are two commonly used P&S forms and they differ quite substantially on the condition a property has to be in at the time of closing.
The Massachusetts Association of Realtors® Standard Form P&S provides the following: “SELLER shall give the BUYER possession of the entire Premises, free of all occupants and tenants and of all personal property, except property included in the sale or tenants permitted to remain. At the time for performance the Premises also shall … be broom clean and in the same condition as the Premises now are, reasonable use and wear thereof excepted, with the SELLER to have performed all maintenance customarily undertaken by the SELLER between the date of this Agreement and the time for performance.”
On the other hand, the Greater Boston Real Estate Board Standard Form P&S, which is also often used, states that a Seller only has to deliver the property “free of all tenants and occupants … in the same condition as they now are [meaning at the time the P&S is signed], reasonable use and wear thereof excepted.” There is no obligation to remove personal property not included in the P&S or clean the property prior to closing.
This is one of the many things a good real estate attorney will review when he or she negotiates your purchase & sale agreement. The lawyer may have an addendum / "rider" to the P&S that covers broom swept condition and many other similar potential issues in which the P&S is silent on or favors the seller’s interest.
What is Broom Swept Condition?
There is no legal definition on what constitutes “broom swept”, or “broom clean” condition, but the general understanding is that the seller will do the following:
1. Remove all personal property (not included in the sale), debris and trash prior to the closing
2. Vacuum the carpets and/or sweep the floors
Broom Swept vs. Professionally Clean Condition
Most Buyers prefer that a home be truly move-in ready at the time of purchase and that they do not need to clean the property after the closing. However, even if the Seller has delivered the property in “broom swept condition”, the property still may need a good cleaning.
There is definitely a distinction between broom swept and professionally clean condition. If the parties have agreed to the latter, 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, there is always grey area – common questions are whether a seller needs to patch or repaint holes left by pictures and mirrors and the like; does the seller 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 is no disagreements and disappointments later on.
Before the closing, a home buyer should do a “final walk through” to inspect the property and ensure that the property is delivered in broom swept condition (if that is what was agreed to). There is often a provision in the P&S that authorizes a home buyer’s walk through, but not always, so again, a home buyer should have a good real estate lawyer review and negotiate your P&S agreement prior to signing.
At the walk through, 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.