Monday, February 25, 2008

I Want it NOW!—Immediate Gratification is a Good Thing in Real Estate

This is a world of immediacy…We drive thru for instant food. We communicate with instant messages. We are trained for immediate gratification. It is recommended in today’s changed real estate market that people SLOW things down. And this is great advice when it comes to most parts of the home buying transaction but when it comes to possession, immediate gratification is best.

Immediate Possession is a very good thing for both the home buyer and home seller. In Minnesota, possession time can be negotiated, but it is in everyone’s best interest that the buyer be given the keys and complete possession of the property at the time of closing.

As a Realtor who works with first time buyers, move up buyers, downsizers and everyone in between, I have balanced the moving day obstacle for clients on more than one occasion. When there is a chain of sales in one day…i.e. The first time buyer buys the home from a seller who then goes to the next closing to become a buyer who buys the home from a seller who will go to another closing…You see where I am going here. This moving chain can have kinks in it when sellers don’t understand possession.

Minnesota purchase agreements allow the possession time to be negotiated. When working with a buyer, I always recommend that we ask for immediate possession at the time of the closing. When reviewing a purchase agreement with a seller, I always recommend immediate possession. (See a pattern here?)

This way when buyers go to the final walk through check out their soon-to-be new home, they can drive directly to the closing, sign the papers and get the keys. The seller being out of the home prior to the walkthrough limits the opportunity for damage or other conflicts to occur.

On occasion, the seller might request 24 or 48 hours after the closing to have all property removed. If a buyer agrees, this can cause problems for the buyer and seller. Here's why: the buyers now own the home and it is their homeowners' insurance at risk. What if something is stolen or damaged? Who is responsible and how is it resolved when there is a loss and the transaction is complete? Unfortunately, there is no easy answer and the situations can get ugly and end up in court.

Here are some situations that I have heard of occurring from other agents when possession was not immediate.

  1. Pets left unattended in home. Sellers arrived to the closing and told the buyers they would need to stop to pick up the last load of laundry and their dog after the closing. They were going to use the electronic entry to get into the home. The buyers said okay as they had to do errands prior to moving in. When they arrived, the seller’s dog had been left unattended in the second bedroom for several hours and had soiled the light colored carpet. The sellers did not clean it up and left as a welcome gift for the new home owners.

  2. Take your time! Though immediate possession had been written into the purchase agreement, at the closing the sellers and buyer started talking as there were a few items that had not yet been removed. The buyers gregariously told the sellers to take their time as they were tied up and wouldn’t be moving in until the following Monday. When they arrived at their new home several days later, the seller had left all of their garbage inside of the garage and the every door to the home unlocked. Luckily the home had not been damaged but as it was very warm, it took several days for the garbage odor to be completely removed from the residence and the buyer was stuck paying for the trash removal.

  3. Squatters! Buyers for a large family home were agreeable to allowing an additional weekend for the sellers to move the remaining personal items to their new home a few houses down. Then the buyers had to come over several more times as the sellers refused to relinquish the extra keys. It wasn’t that they weren’t moved in to the new place nor needed more time to get their possessions; they just sat in the driveway of their old home drinking beer with the neighbors for several evenings until the agreed four day possession time ran out. During this time they flat out refused to let the buyers into their new home.

I could go on and on here but you get the picture. Immediate possession prevents problems from occurring. Sure in the first two instances, if a buyer had not agreed to arbitration, they could go to small claims court to get reimbursed for the damaged carpeting or trash removal fees. But that is not the point. When these situations occur, the buyer’s dreams of homeownership have been tainted! After weeks of waiting to move into their perfect home, having a previous owner with lack of sense and compassion ruin the final step is quite a blow. Immediate possession prevents 99% of these situations. Concessions can be negotiated at closing if the final walkthrough doesn’t go as planned but once the paperwork is signed, it is up to the legal system. Prevention is preferred.

So slow down when reviewing the details of buying a home but insist on immediate possession when getting into your new property. It protects buyers and sellers in the transaction. In particular part of the home buying process, immediate gratification is a very good thing!


If you are buying, selling or relocating to Minnesota and need help from a professional Realtor, give me a call or visit my website for a FREE Relocation Packet. I specialize in acreage and lakeshore properties in the north and east Twin Cities metro area including Ham Lake, Lino Lakes and all communities in the Forest Lake School District! Serving Anoka, Chisago, Ramsey and Washington Counties in Minnesota.

Copyright 2008 Teri Eckholm