Sale condition rules defined
One of the most widely misunderstood elements of real estate is what condition a property should be in at settlement or possession.
What does ‘as inspected’ really mean?
In short, a property is sold “as inspected”. If there was dust on a ceiling fan when you first inspected before contracting to buy then the fan can be dusty at settlement.
The same goes for a dirty oven, a blown light globe or a squeaky laundry door. If it was dirty, blown or squeaky at inspection before purchase then so it should be at settlement. Typically, buyers anticipate the property will be handed over spotless and thankfully most house-proud sellers leave their homes in an appropriate condition when moving out but buyers should note there is no obligation on them to do so.
Unless otherwise specified in the contract, the seller is under no obligation to have the property professionally cleaned for settlement and it is surprising how few buyers ask that such a condition be included.
The seller’s only obligation under the contract (Clause 6.1(b) 2 of the General Conditions) is to “… remove from the Property, before possession, all vehicles, rubbish and chattels, other than the Property Chattels”. Many modern contracts to purchase include provision for essential plumbing, gas and electrical components to be working at settlement.
The grey area
It is trickier when, for example, a telephone jack does not work at settlement.
It is not strictly electrical but it is probably reasonable for a buyer to assume that it was functioning at inspection.
This is partly because, caveat emptor — buyer beware — has all but disappeared according to some legal practitioners. The onus is probably on the seller to disclose (in this case) that the telephone jack didn’t work. My view is buyers need to take reasonable steps to ensure the property they have bought will be presented to them in a condition they are satisfied with.
This can be achieved by either contracting with the seller to guarantee it or being more thorough when inspecting the property in the first instance.
Buyers ought to have a realistic expectation of what to expect at settlement when buying an established home and acknowledge opinions of presentation are subjective.