Some clients are amazing and their properties look like show homes 24/7. These gems are a dream to promote and are easy to sell to prospective buyers. But, what about those homes that are untidy and not as clean as they should be? It’s a touchy subject and, of course, you want to work with and support your sellers and not offend them. But sometimes unclean means unsafe, and you need to manage the risks.
Here are some tips to help deal with untidy, unclean, and unsafe homes. Whether there are potential red flags like mold and drug paraphernalia —or just minor improvements required to best showcase the home, you’ll find out how to manage the risks and prevent a lawsuit.
The Untidy Home
Showing and trying to sell unclean or untidy homes can be a challenge. Yes, everyone is busy and it’s sometimes difficult for sellers to make their home ‘inspection ready’ with kids, work, and a busy life. However, as a real estate licensee, you need to be upfront with your clients about the impact an unclean or untidy home can have on their chance of selling — and for getting top dollar.
Sure, if it’s an old home in an upscale neighborhood that prospective buyers want to demolish, they may not care about the state of the home inside. But for homes buyers want to live in, a clean home shows the property at its best. It shows the property has been cared for. It can help the prospective buyer to visualize what it might be like to live there.
If you have the ability to make a good impression, why wouldn’t you?
Unclean or untidy homes may also mask more significant issues in the home. For example, if rubbish and dirt are covering up a major wall leak or floorboards that are collapsing. This is when the headaches can start for real estate licensees. What if you sell a home in this scenario, and the buyer realizes once the property is vacant that there are all these issues that need fixing? You could potentially be sued for allegedly knowing about these issues, even if you had no idea.
The Unsafe Home
There is a big difference between untidy and unsafe. Untidy homes can be difficult to sell. Excessively unclean or messy homes that are unsafe can lead to a lawsuit. Real estate licensees should do a risk assessment of the home before doing open houses and showing people through the property. If there are any hazards identified, you should take appropriate action and not show the home until it’s safe for you, your team, and prospective buyers.
Hazards to watch out for are:
- Visible vermin or pest infestations
- Mildew and fungus
- Black mold
- Strong odors and air quality issues
- Signs of drug lab activity (read our blog on Selling a Home with Past Drug Activity for further information about this)
- Significant tripping hazards due to excessive clutter
- Risk of collapsing clutter
- Unsanitary conditions and obvious health code violations
- Animal waste
- Decomposing items (for example, rotting food and trash)
- Fire hazards
Hazards like these within the home can be dangerous to you, as the real estate licensee, and any prospective buyers who you wish to show through the home. There is potential for injury or ill health as a result of being in the home, and it’s not worth the risk.
Understanding the Risks for Real Estate Licensees
Real estate licensees have a duty of care. You should not show a home that you believe to be unsafe. Notify the property owner about the hazards and advise that these must be fixed before the home can be marketed. Where a home has been rented, the landlord may not even be aware of any of these issues if they haven’t inspected the property recently.
As a real estate licensee, you need to minimize the risk of being blamed for injury or illness. This might require some delicate conversations with sellers, depending on the state of the home, but ultimately it will lead to better outcomes for both of you.
You might recommend to the seller that they should:
- Engage a professional cleaning service
- Consider getting a professional staging company in once the property is clean
If you assess a property has high risk, and the seller won’t make the required remediations to make the home safe to show, consider not taking on the job. Alternatively, you could market the property to ‘tear down’ buyers who simply wish to develop the land. But, remember your disclosure responsibilities. Anything that can materially affect the price of a property or a buyer’s willingness to purchase must be disclosed.
Protect Your Real Estate Business
Lawsuits can be costly — even if you’ve done nothing wrong. Real estate licensees must have real estate Errors and Omissions insurance to protect against potential claims. CRES E&O + ClaimPrevent® insurance offers unique access, pre-claim, to a team of expert real estate attorneys. This means you’ll be able to get legal advice whenever you need it and prevent lawsuits before they become costly claims.
We have access to more E&O policy options than just about anyone else, because we’re part of one of the largest insurance brokers in the world. Let us find you the best coverage at the best price. For further information, contact the CRES team at 800-880-2747 for a confidential discussion today. Policies can be customized to your individual business needs.