Westcoe Realtors, Riverside Ca…Today’s topic comes right from the real world of real estate. Here’s the scenario: the buyers, who are massively excited to close escrow on their new home, have jumped through all the hoops required these days to purchase a home. They have done their home inspection (at their cost, which is normal), signed almost a million forms for their lender, dealt with all the escrow demands, and are only days away from moving into their new home. As mentioned, excitement fills the air like the anticipation from a 10 year old for a visit to Disneyland.
So…since our buyers are ready to move, and they cannot contain their impulse to drive by the home, they do so…and discover to their utter dismay that the seller has let the lawn turn brown, some other landscaping has also deteriorated, and a quick peek over the fence reveals a pool that is greener than your gills after too much alcohol on New Year’s eve.
What happens now? What are their options?
Well, we’ll give you the technical answer, and then the real world options that you won’t find in a text book.
First, the legal, technical answer is that the seller is totally liable for the loss of the landscaping and the greening of the once pristine pool. The standard Residential Purchase Contract contains the following wording: (Paragraph 11)…”the Property, including the pool, spa, landscaping, and grounds, is to be maintained in substantially the same condition as on the date of Acceptance…”.
So…the seller has obviously failed to live up to their end of the contract, so they are responsible for the damage. OK…but now what?
Option 1 is to delay the closing of the escrow until the buyer is satisfied with whatever remedy they feel is necessary. Maybe the remedy is simply to begin watering the lawn and drain & refill the pool…maybe the remedy is new sod and the repair of some faulty pool equipment plus the water costs. Every situation is different.
Option 2 occurs when the escrow cannot be delayed (movers hired, loan docs set to expire, etc.). Here, then perhaps the remedy is for the seller to credit the buyer some amount of money (totally negotiable between the buyer and seller) that makes the buyer happy and gets the seller off the hook. If this is the route you take, just make sure enough that any money left by the seller is enough to cover any costs…because there is generally no going back to the seller once you have accepted the cash for the problem.
Option 3 occurs when the seller is a jerk, won’t credit the buyer any money, and the buyer still wants the house, and the escrow must close without delay. In this case, then remember…the seller is still contractually bound for any damages that occur from letting things “go”, so simply document the damage (green pool, dead lawn, shrubs, etc.), and your remedy will probably have to be small claims court. If you go this way, remember…small claims court is a pain-in-the-you-know-what, but it will eventually get you where you need to go, which is an award against the seller.
In the end, we sincerely hope you never have to deal with a situation like this…it really takes the damper off the excitement of buying a new home. However, if real estate life throws you a lousy seller who lets this happen, then our suggestion is to try options 1 or 2…and only use Option 3 if you must.
Good luck…and lets keep the green in the lawn, and not the pool!