Home sellers want their house to be show-ready at all times, but ensuring that this is the case can be a chore—especially if said sellers have already moved out. Who's going to mow the law, pick up the newspapers, and do those other daily or weekly tasks? If a home is still showing, you'll want it to be in tiptop shape to impress potential buyers, but if you've moved out of town, dropping by to tidy up is probably not feasible. So whose shoulders do those maintenance tasks fall on?
The easy answer: General upkeep of the house is the responsibility of whoever owns the house. So, if it has yet to sell, the seller is liable for how it looks. A home that's maintained is bound to impress buyers. Plus, neighbors can get quite testy if your home becomes an eyesore.
Don't assume your real estate agent is your gardener
Some people might consider relying on their real estate agent to maintain the house; after all, the agent also has a vested interest in making sure the home sells quickly and at a high price. While the agent might be up for the task, never assume he owns this responsibility. It’s important to have that discussion upfront so there’s no misunderstanding, says Tara Tronson, a Realtor® in Great Falls, MT.
If your real estate agent is game, make sure to specify exactly what work you want him to oversee. If the listing agreement has just a vague maintenance category, that could include a laundry list of items such as termite repairs, yard maintenance, interior and exterior painting, roof repairs, flooring replacement, appliance updating, and more, says Debra Kroon, a Realtor with Yosemite West Real Estate in Yosemite, CA.
“Usually the Realtor will advise the seller what needs to be done to improve the marketability of the property,” she says. Let your agent know you’d like to be informed of any work he'll be doing so you know the costs. That goes for ongoing work as well, so you aren’t blindsided by a pricey service bill you weren’t counting on.
Know that ongoing maintenance can become a burden
A real estate agent also might object to managing ongoing maintenance because it can put him at risk if he assumes responsibility and something goes badly, says Steve Ujvagi, owner of the Atlanta-based Keller Williams Results Team.
For example, if the real estate agent sends over his favorite house painter and the painter takes cash for the job but never completes it or does sloppy work, the seller is likely to blame the agent. To prevent such a snafu, an agent might suggest a couple of contractors and then encourage the seller to solicit her own as well; at the very least, the agent can suggest the seller take care of the bidding and hiring process.
“That way the seller is more involved in choosing the contractor, and less likely to blame the agent if something goes wrong,” Ujvagi says.
Sellers can also hire a property manager to handle the ongoing maintenance tasks if getting back to the house on a regular basis will be tough or impossible.
No matter the situation, a helpful real estate agent will have your best interests at heart and will be set on keeping the house in top condition. If you won't be living in your house while it's on the market, be sure to discuss your maintenance plan with your real estate agent so everyone is on the same page.