Sellers have a responsibility to clean the home before they leave, but herein lies a vexing question: just how clean is clean? because everyone’s perceptions of ‘clean’ are different. I encourage every vendor to present their house/property in the very best light from listing to settlement and this means clean and tidy inside and out, including shedding, yards, paddocks, – plus all to be rubbish-free. Assuming this is how the property sold, then there is a moral expectation to hand the property over in the same condition that attracted the buyer.
Pre-settlement inspections are designed to cover the structural integrity of the property – to ensure no holes in walls, broken windows or other damage, accidental or otherwise have suddenly appeared; that doors, fixtures and fittings haven’t been removed etc. But pre-settlement inspections aren’t designed to cover the cleanliness of the property settlement day. Most vendors will do the right thing and leave the property in ‘move-in’ condition, but sadly this isn’t always the case.
My advice to sellers is to treat their new buyer as they wish and expect to be treated themselves. That means cleaning all rooms to a high standard: cobweb ceilings and walls; dust/wipe skirting boards/architraves and behind where furniture has sat; clean bathrooms fully to ensure there is no mould. Shower screens and tiled areas are regular culprits. Clean vanity and medicine cabinet shelving and drawers. And don’t forget the toilet! Clean bedrooms thoroughly including inside wardrobes. Kitchens need benchtops and cabinetry, cooktop, oven and the fridge (if it’s staying) cleaned inside and out. Vacuum and wash hard floors. Vacuum and ideally steam clean carpeted areas. And take care not to leave broken/unwanted furniture or rubbish. Anywhere. This includes the garage, shedding, backyards & paddocks.
I advise sellers to continue to maintain gardens through to settlement with lawns and paths mowed and edged. Plants should be watered to avoid the new buyer turning into the driveway only to find botanical carnage. If the property has a swimming pool, a good idea is to meet with the new buyer to explain how to maintain the pool post-take over. And remember – if an item is included in the Contract of Sale, don’t take it. It’s also poor form to substitute an expensive oven with a cheaper appliance.
Think of it as walking into a hotel room. You expect it to be ready for you to enjoy your stay you’ve paid for. You don’t expect to open the door to a dirty room and bathroom. This isn’t to say that I don’t understand that as settlement closes in, sellers are busy and stressed and often pressed for time. I’ve been a vendor myself, so I fully understand – and sympathise. The trick here is to start clearing and cleaning once contracts have been exchanged. It’s a good idea to start boxing items and storing them in one room – a spare bedroom perhaps – and emptying rooms one room at a time and cleaning as you go. But if this is all too hard, then one way to ensure you do the right thing, is to engage a professional cleaner to do a full exit clean. And there are oven-cleaning specialists that will return your oven to showroom condition! Yes, there will be a fee, but it’s worth it, not only for your buyer, but for your peace of mind – and your reputation.