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What to expect on closing day

Lindsay Smith

By Lindsay Smith/Real Estate Columnist

I am excited, elated and thrilled the offer I made on my “dream home” was accepted. Should I be concerned what I will find when I walk through the front door on the day of closing?

I have learned a few things, selling real estate over the past three decades, about how buyers and sellers handle closings. It can be summed up with two concepts – expectations and good natured behaviour. Let me explain.

Recently I had a home that I sold representing the seller. They called before closing and asked if they needed to patch and paint the holes left once their artwork was removed. As I typically answer questions such as this, I did by asking a question; “if you were the buyer what would you like to see when you move into your new home?” They did the touch ups that were necessary. However, did they have to? The answer is no.

When buying a “resale” home you are buying a home that has been loved. The oldest home I have sold was built in 1857, and trust me, it was well loved. Most resale homes come with blemishes, and buyers are pretty accepting with wear and tear, however some expect that the home will be in the same condition as a new build on closing. This is where “expectations” can muddle the experience. Typically, when a buyer makes an offer on a property, there is a warranty clause in the contract. This warranty, most times, covers the moving parts of a home on the day of closing and ensures that things are in “working condition.” Appliances, furnaces, air conditioners and any electronics included in the purchase are required to be in good working order on the day of closing. Once that day passes, if one of the items breaks down the buyer is responsible for the repair. Truly, this is a one-day warranty.

Where things get a bit more complicated are the items that are difficult to identify on an Agreement of Purchase and Sale that are smaller, however, they can cause issues if a seller decides to remove the items. I have had (dealing with both sellers and buyers) items removed from a home that one would assume would remain, however on closing were found missing. Light bulbs, light switch cover plates, sheds, mirrors, ceiling fans, electronic thermostats and security systems, wiring (hot tub wiring), light fixtures, shelving, bathroom cabinets, floor trim and gazebos have all been taken over the years from some of the homes I have sold. I mean light bulbs, people?

When an agreement is accepted between a seller and buyer, common sense comes into the mix, requiring what is being sold and what is not. There is a large amount of “good faith” on both sides when it comes to a home being sold. Real estate contracts typically cover the large items that are being sold, however there are so many things that fall into the good faith areas that would be difficult to include in the sales agreement.

A lawyer I work with, Jane McCarthy,, has a funny saying when it comes to what stays and what can be removed. “If you can remove it with your fingers, it is a chattel, if it needs a screwdriver, it is a fixture.” Unless noted in the agreement fixtures stay with the home and chattels are considered personal possessions that the seller takes with them when they move. One of the best ways to deal with any issues that may arise is to cover them with your client before making an offer. When working with a buyer, explain what typically stays with the home and identify which fixtures they want to remain, ensuring that they are noted in the contract. For sellers, walking through the home before it is placed on the market noting all items that may become issues and deciding if they are to be excluded from the sale. When the expectations of the buyers are such that they get what they think they are buying and with sellers, that they know what to take with them, and how to leave their property in a condition that will make the buyer thrilled, everyone is happy in the end.

A few other areas of concern that cause tempers to flare are moving out times and rentals. Last week we had a closing with a buyer we worked with and received a call after 10 pm from them on the day of closing. They were upset that the sellers were still packing and had not moved out. The contract states that the sellers will be out by 6 pm. In this case, the buyer was not planning on moving in that day, however if they had movers packed and waiting the result would have been very upsetting. With rentals, a recent trend we are seeing are homeowners renting furnaces, air conditioners, water filtration systems and water softeners. These items need to be disclosed by the seller, however I have seen had some circumstances where a furnace and air conditioner were not indicated as rentals and it creates major issues with closings.

Preparation, managing expectations and setting ground rules on what is appropriate for all parties is a good rule of thumb to avoid issues on closing day. There is nothing more perfect than a closing coming and going with both seller and buyer thrilled with the result.

Years ago, I had a client ask to see a home on King Street near Central Park. They had no interest in buying the home, they just wanted to walk through it and look around. I asked what their interest was and they shared with me that the seller was the owner of the home they were living in currently. When they moved in, the seller had removed all the light bulbs, light and electrical switch plates, heck they had even removed all of the toilet paper. We all giggled, and I was left with a lesson: it is the small things that cause tempers to flare on closing day, and how a conversation prior to closing can make things go much more smoothly for all involved.

If you have any question about the above information, or if you can see a real estate emergency on the horizon, I can be reached at