Purchasing a Home – Put it in Writing

When you bought your home, were you surprised the appliances didn’t look the same as when you made the offer?

You’re making an offer on a home. The first section of the standard Alberta Real Estate Association (AREA) Residential Purchase contract has sections 1.1 (b) “these unattached goods” and 1.1 (c)  “these attached goods”  What’s attached and what’s unattached?  What happens if something isn’t written in the contract?  You possibly had an expectation that certain goods were attached and would be left, or certain items were unattached and would go with the previous owners?  

The ancient Deepfreeze you Didn't Want

Think –  giant 1980s deepfreeze that you didn’t want, but the seller left it behind because it was too big and cumbersome to move and hoped you could use it. Nevermind it’s an extra $89 on your power bill a month to operate.  Seriously, I had a friend with one of these and they literally had to cut it in half to get it out of the basement. Like the meme, it may have been older than time itself and will outlive you and everyone you love.  

I also heard a story (not my clients thankfully) of the new owners discovering the giant bunk beds that were bolted to the wall were left behind.  They were considered “attached” and it was not written in the contract that they should have been removed.  Or what about that removable kitchen island that fit so perfectly, why would the seller’s have taken it?  Curtain rods, TV wall mounts, wine coolers, and the list goes on.  What if the appliances aren’t the same ones as when you first viewed the home?  I sold a home where the owner’s had already moved, so the buyer’s agent assumed the box of Christmas lights that were in the garage would still be there and the buyer could have them.  The seller’s had given them to friends before possession but would have happily left them had they known.  I like to tell my selling clients “if you don’t want to leave it, take it down before we list the house” and my buying clients “if you really like it and it fits the space, let’s ask for it in the sale”.

the Psychology of Real Estate

The reality is we’re all busy and distracted.  You, the buyer, are concentrating on the excitement of a new home, getting ready to move, thinking about where furniture is going to go, buying new things, getting rid of old things, planning your new life.  The seller, may be overwhelmed with the process of moving from the home they’ve created so many memories in, maybe they’re downsizing and have lots of items to get rid of, or maybe they’re not selling in ideal circumstances. 

Don't Assume

Sometimes you assume certain things because that’s how you’re programmed.  (I would absolutely make sure my house was spotless before leaving, why wouldn’t someone else?) When we bought our current home, before my career in Real Estate, the house was spotless when we viewed it.  Our Realtor, as great as he was, didn’t recommend we should request a professional cleaning, or that we do a walk-through prior to possession.  We had a 90 day possession and it was obvious from the time conditions were removed and the sale was completed to the time we took possession the owners had not kept up with cleaning.  I still have nightmares about finding the previous owner’s hair, 11 years later.   Speaking of cleaning, it’s very subjective. You need to be specific in your terms. 

If you agree on items to be repaired after the inspection, it needs to be in writing on an Addendum or Amendment.  (Addendum adds terms to the contract, Amendment edits, or “amends” existing terms).  If there’s anything you or your agent aren’t clear about, you should always consult with a lawyer.  Often just the act of consulting with the lawyer over certain terms will be written into the purchase agreement if the lawyer is not available and the contract is time sensitive.  Your agent should know all of the terms in the standard AREA (Alberta Real Estate Association) Residential Purchase Contract.  Because if they don’t, your lawyer will most likely find the mistakes, and that could hold up possession and become costly.*

When representing the buyer we also don’t know the motives for selling. It’s possible the reasons for selling are not favourable, creating a sensitive situation for all parties involved in the transaction. Real Estate is an emotional investment, and we, on one side of the transaction do not know what is going on on the other side of the transaction.  Your agent should be doing their best to represent you and your needs and wants, but on the other end of the transaction is an agent doing the same for their client, and unfortunately the 2 don’t always align.  Conversations get forgotten, and the little details may get missed.  It needs to be in writing to be legally binding!  In a perfect world everyone would stick to their word, but legal contracts were created for a reason. 

Again, PUT IT IN WRITING.  You may even be able to negotiate that velvet painting of Elvis you always wanted.

What’s the strangest thing ever left behind in a house you bought?  

*This is also not a substitute for professional legal advice.  Always consult with your lawyer for legal advice

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