What should we do now to ensure the seller is moved out of the house we are buying on closing day?
September 10, 2010 6:52 PM   Subscribe

What should we do now to ensure the seller is moved out of the house we are buying on closing day?

We have had several request from the seller via her agent regarding rent-back and early closing, or closing on time with giving the seller 3 days to move out after that.

We also have not yet gotten a straight answer about where we will get the keys to the house when we close. We were told the closing agent (title/escrow) would not have them.

What can we do now to make sure the seller is actually moved out on the day we close and that we get the keys (and then, of course, we will instantly change the locks...).

We will tour the house 2-3 days before closing, as is in our contract, to ensure the place is in the shape it was in when we did our inspection in early August.

I don't want to be stuck on closing with no keys and the seller still in the house. I'm sure it would be difficult to get her out in that situation, and so far I have not been reassured by anything any of the agents (hers or ours) have said about this.

Closing is near the end of this month, so still a couple weeks away.
posted by AllieTessKipp to Home & Garden (33 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Have you asked her? You could try calling her or meeting her for coffee and telling her these things.
posted by TheBones at 6:55 PM on September 10, 2010

Response by poster: Our agent has discouraged us from contacting the seller herself. She is of the "buyer contacts their agent who contacts seller's agent who contacts seller" philosophy. Which is fine with me, because I am a tactless and abrupt person. My interpersonal skills would fail me here.

There have been many highly irritating things about this entire transaction that could have been cleared up quickly and easily with better communication and that is part of what has me worried.
posted by AllieTessKipp at 7:00 PM on September 10, 2010

Best answer: Your agent needs to get these answers, period.

What does it say in your contract?

Can you say that you will tour house the morning of the closing and won't hand over the money until you have the keys and have confirmed the house is clear?
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:09 PM on September 10, 2010

Best answer: You should make it clear to your agent that you expect access to the house (and seller's vacancy) upon closing. You've signed the contract, and unless you agreed to a rent-back or early closing in the contract, you don't need to agree to it now. If necessary, go by the house immediately before closing and check to see if she's still there and refuse to close if she is.
posted by Sukey Says at 7:10 PM on September 10, 2010 [4 favorites]

You don't say where you are, but do you not have a real estate lawyer? This is the sort of thing the lawyer should take care of.

Check your contract-- these people have presumably already signed a document that gives the date they're to be out of the house, when keys are handed over, and what happens if they don't (e.g. they should be paying rent if they're there past the closing).

I'd also be a bit disturbed at the final inspection being as much as a week before they actually move out.

Basically, use your agent and lawyer to make them follow the contract. Whatever is going on, they want their money, so you have leverage.
posted by zompist at 7:14 PM on September 10, 2010

My (realtor) husband says that in NC it is written into the contract that buyer takes possession at closing. If the seller is still in the house, no closing.

Anyway, check your contract, and tell your agent you will not be closing till these people are out. Since realtors like to be paid, trust me, the buyers agent and YOUR agent have massive incentive to make it so.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:26 PM on September 10, 2010

Oh, btw what state are you in?
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:27 PM on September 10, 2010

*I meant the sellers agent and your agent. Obvious I am not the realtor in the house....*
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:29 PM on September 10, 2010

Best answer: Insist on checking the house the day before the closing, if she's not out, the closing is off.
posted by HuronBob at 7:48 PM on September 10, 2010

How is this your problem? Realtors don't really add all that much value to a real estate transaction, so the least they could do is make sure the house is empty when you close. I'd let the realtor know you're concerned, and to figure it out.

They work for you. You're paying them a large sum of money to do relatively little work, so don't be afraid to turn the screws if you're not getting a satisfactory response.
posted by Geckwoistmeinauto at 7:50 PM on September 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Sorry, forgot. I am in Washington (State).

I get the feeling our agent is not able to make this clear to the other agents about the seller being gone at closing, since the seller's agents are repeatedly asking about rent-back, etc. We have been very firm with our agent about this and either she is diplomatic/vague or the seller's agents are dense. Or a mix of both there. As far as I am concerned, contract is signed. End.

The contract says we will take possession at closing. Then today our agent said we would get the keys after the loan is recorded/funded. I don't know if that means at the time we sign or not. She did not clarify that. Our agent did say that the escrow company could hold the keys or the seller's agent could hold the keys but she was not sure what their (either one's) usual thing was. We have told her we prefer that the keys wait for us in the hands of the escrow people.

I like the idea of going over there the morning of closing and peering in windows. :) If she IS there, then I can make a big fuss. I excel at making a big fuss. So I will go over that morning. We will still do our tour 2-3 days ahead of closing to make sure lawn is mowed, house is still standing, etc.

This whole house-buying thing has been very unpleasant for me. I am never doing this again willingly. :P
posted by AllieTessKipp at 7:53 PM on September 10, 2010

Response by poster: Our real estate agent (broker, really, and not a Realtor anymore - she used to be but stopped paying whatever dues were required, she said, after becoming a broker) lives about 2 hours away from us. She has been working with us for about 5-6 years looking for a house, in various locations (originally, of course, very close to her location!). She has done quite a lot for us, especially in terms of driving all this way many, many times to tour houses with us. So her coming over to check on the seller being out won't work. But I am very happy to do it myself.
posted by AllieTessKipp at 7:55 PM on September 10, 2010

You call the police if she's still there after closing, because it's your house.
posted by smackfu at 8:21 PM on September 10, 2010 [2 favorites]

It didn't even occur to me to worry about this when I bought my house, as I had a signed contract saying I would take possession at closing. As you do as well, I think you're overthinking it. I agree with smackfu; if, for some reason, they are still there after closing, you should call the police.
posted by deadweightloss at 8:39 PM on September 10, 2010

Response by poster: Call the police? And look like an idiot in the newspaper? ;) I don't think so. I only call the authorities for blood or fire. ;)

I'll just go take a peek on the morning of closing. That will work fine for me. If she's there, I throw a fit.
posted by AllieTessKipp at 8:52 PM on September 10, 2010

It seems really weird to me that you're doing a walkthrough days before the closing. When we bought our house, we did the walkthrough right before going to the closing. A lot can happen in a couple of days, and because I'm naturally a nervous nellie, I'd be worried about some sort of retaliation because you're not giving in to her demands.
posted by Ruki at 8:55 PM on September 10, 2010

AllieTessKipp, throwing a "fit" isn't necessary. Call your agent in the morning. Tell her/him that if the house isn't empty and keys turned over at the closing, the deal is off. Tell him/her that you want to inspect the house before the closing to assure it is empty and in reasonable condition.

It's really very simple, if these terms aren't met then you aren't buying a house, you're buying a problem.
posted by HuronBob at 8:59 PM on September 10, 2010

Wow, your agent sounds lame. When we bought in Seattle in 2001, the owner's adult daughter and her kids were living there because of a fire where they had lived before.

The seller actually said to my agent "Where will she go?"

And my agent said "I don't know, but she's NOT going to be here." She was out in time.
posted by GaelFC at 9:23 PM on September 10, 2010

This is a good reason to have a real-estate lawyer, not an agent, at your closing. When we bought our house the old owners needed a few hours after closing to finish getting their stuff out (understandable, since they needed to go close on their new house right after in order to have a place to move to), and protecting everyone was easy with a lawyer in the room -- quick addition to the agreement, and something like $5k added to escrow that would either be returned to them when they were gone or forfeited to us if it took longer than a day.
posted by range at 10:03 PM on September 10, 2010

When we bought our house, we inspected the place about 3 hours before closing and when we were done our agent left with the keys to meet us later at the closing location. In fact, the seller was pretty nervous when we arrived to inspect since he was still stuffing a few odds and ends into his car when we arrived and our agent was miffed that he hadn't completely vacated by that point. The seller was supposed to be completely vacated and gone at the time of our inspection. I definitely recommend inspecting the premises immediately before closing.
posted by wigner3j at 10:27 PM on September 10, 2010

Oh yeah, I second the notion of having a real estate lawyer present at the closing. We didn't have one and the seller decided mid-closing that he was going to be liable for too much in taxes and had some crazy idea of setting up an off-shore account through his accountant. We stupidly waited around for him to straighten himself out. Meanwhile our agent was completely useless during this drama and seemed mostly concerned with losing her sale. In the end he did nothing and we closed as planned, but a lawyer would have protected us and at least put our minds at ease. The point is that an agent can help find the house, assist with logistics and negotiations, but when it comes to contracts and closing procedures they likely have nothing to offer.
posted by wigner3j at 10:40 PM on September 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Also wondering why you're not inspecting on the day of the closing. We went from the inspection to the closing back to the house. Also also, if you've all signed a contract that says "possession at closing," then further verbal amendments are not legal. I'm concerned that your agent thinks those kind of changes are okay.

Were I you, I'd call the sellers' agent directly, or on a conference call with your agent. Something's fishy here, and it might be your agent's unwillingness to make a fuss since she's finally found you a house after six years.
posted by catlet at 4:49 AM on September 11, 2010

Call your agent today. TELL YOUR AGENT, do not ask. Conversation should go like this: " I just want to verify some key points with you. These are the things we expect on closing day. 1. If the seller has not completly vacated the property during our walk-through three days before, we will conduct another walk-through on closing day. 2. At that time, seller will have completely vacated premises 3. Keys will be transferred at closing and we will take possession of the property. These points are non-negotiable and we will not close on the property if this is not done, per our original contract." You can do this now in a completely professional manner. You are not asking for any special treatment here, this is the way these things are done, and if your agent pushes back in any way you need to then pitch your hissy-fit. Or simply respond with "Then we have no intention of closing, since the terms of the original contract will not have been met." Hold firm, they are giving you some kind of run-around. I have NEVER heard of any house purchase that did not include handing over the keys at closing, unless it was previously negotiated. They are giving you a run-around here and you need to stand firm. Have your fit NOW if necessary and save everyone the headaches on the day of closing.
posted by raisingsand at 6:01 AM on September 11, 2010 [3 favorites]

What raising sand says. And your agents sounds useless, I suspect home-buying would have been much more pleasant with a decent agent.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 6:23 AM on September 11, 2010

Response by poster: I contacted our agent with my concerns about picking up keys and touring and making sure the seller is out of the house when we take possession at closing.

I was told to have faith in the process. Also, we will sign paperwork a few days before the "closing" date, so "closing" and "possession" apparently have different definitions than I thought. "Closing" is when we get the keys -- a few days after we sign.

We tour the house "within 5 days" of closing, and I was told that the walk-through was not to determine if the person is out but to determine that all the fixtures are still in place. There is no need to point out to me what can happen inside of a couple days. :P

As for "telling" my agent anything... The closing date on the paperwork is not the one I stated I wanted (we are renting - closing in the middle of the month means we don't pay rent for the next month). I was given a run-around when I said I wanted it changed to the date I wanted. I did not get any backup from my spouse on that issue, so I let it go. Obviously that was a big mistake because it was only the first page in the Drive Allie Crazy Handbook.
posted by AllieTessKipp at 2:42 PM on September 11, 2010

IANAL and IANYL (but I was an agent for a few years)

Real estate transactions are different in every state so I can't speak to the weirdness of closing on one day but not taking possession until a few days later...this is different from how it's been done in the two states where I've bought houses (Indiana and Connecticut). But, delaying the closing is the BEST leverage you have to get anything done. I can't tell you the horror stories I've heard about people that went ahead with a closing (against their better judgment) and ended up regretting it when the previous owners won't move out. Really, it's a nightmare. I have no idea how your state would handle it but the worst case scenario is that you have to start eviction proceedings to get them out. Then you're dealing with a non-paying renter and you still have to find a place to live...it's crazy.

Basically, confirm yourself that they are out or delay the closing!!!
posted by victoriab at 3:01 PM on September 11, 2010

I've always guaranteed it in the past by making clear to the seller's agent that I already have movers arranged and will be arriving on the day I take possession with all my furniture.

This has occasionally been a fib, but it has always eliminated the "well the property is going to be empty so they won't mind a day or two" factor. In fact I had one seller tell me how upset he was when I didn't move in until the next day because he had worked his ass off to get out on the day he was supposed to. Needless to say my sympathy was limited.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 3:28 PM on September 11, 2010

Your state must be really weird. In our state closing IS the actual signing of papers.

I would not sign those papers till that woman is out, if it were me.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:02 PM on September 11, 2010

And let me tell you-since I am not a realtor-in my opinion your realtor is sorry if they cannot explain this to your satisfaction and act like they are on YOUR side. Your realtor should be communicating to you and bending over backward to reassure you on this deal.

You can always contact your realtor's broker in charge if you have any concerns over how this is all being handled. It is a broker-in-charge's JOB to ride herd on the agents.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:07 PM on September 11, 2010

Yeah, in our state closing is signing of papers, and everybody is there - buyer, seller, agents, escrow person, title co rep who's a lawyer. We walked thru the house in the morning, then went to closing office and went through all the documents there and then - took FOREVER to read everything and ask questions, but don't be daunted, bring a sandwich and take the time you need. Then money and keys changed hands.

I don't know anything about Wash state, but what your agent described sounds really weird. What are these papers you're going to sign? Do they say "I hereby accept the current condition of the house"? Because if they do, you shouldn't sign them* until you've confirmed that the house is clear to your satisfaction. Bullshit on anybody who tries to pressure you to sign anything that's not accurate (eg if they try to get you to sign "I have inspected and found everything satisfactory" if you haven't been allowed to inspect since seller moved out). Remember that you have the power here - you have the money. Read your contract carefully and see under what conditions it lets you balk. If you suspect your agent is not representing you well, touch base with a lawyer now.

*Again, I'm not a lawyer and don't know anything about Wash state law - this just sounds fishy as hell to me.
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:15 PM on September 11, 2010

I'm in Washington, and in my experience closing is when you sign the papers and fork over the money. We didn't get the keys until a few days after that, as we'd arranged to rent the house to the previous owners while their new house became available.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:53 PM on September 11, 2010

Response by poster: In my area of Washington State, buyers and sellers sign at different times. No real estate agents, brokers, REALTORĀ®s (not every agent or broker is a REALTORĀ®), or lawyers are present. Only the people signing and the closing agent at the escrow company are there. Our agent says that it takes a couple days to record the sale and that after it is recorded we get the keys. We have no agreement with the seller for her to stay after the closing/possession date.

My husband is a very mellow guy, so I think he was not as concerned as I am about this issue. I wrote down my list of reasons for my concerns about this (it was very long) and of course you all have mostly said what I have been saying, so he (a diplmatic, tactful person - unlike me) is going to call our agent and inform her that we will drive by the house before the signing appointment. If the seller is still there (LOTS of windows so this won't be a problem), we will not sign.

The agent is going to be upset and will have a thousand reasons why we cannot do this, most of which she already emailed me yesterday when I wrote to say I wanted the tour the morning before the signing to make sure the seller was out and to make sure that all appliances, fixtures, etc. were still there. I did not buy any of those reasons, and especially did not buy her plan of "we'll just wait and see what happens" for dealing with a seller still in the house. Once we sign, no one has any incentive to help us get her out, so "wait and see" is not a workable plan.
posted by AllieTessKipp at 11:42 AM on September 12, 2010

Please do update and let us know how this turns out!
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 8:11 PM on September 12, 2010

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