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Donít mess with the Peonies

Posted by Rona Fischman July 11, 2011 02:12 PM

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Today, our Monday guy Sam Schneiderman, broker owner of Greater Boston Home Team, writes about problems that could have been avoided by paying attention to the Purchase and Sales agreement, or by keeping your hands off the peonies.

Something that is not a big deal to a seller can be a very big deal to a buyer or vice-versa. That is why good Purchase and Sale (P+S) agreements spell out the details of the agreement in minute detail.

But who reads them, aside from the attorneys?

Many agents and brokers donít get involved in P+S details because they may have been told that once they do, they expose themselves to extra liability. I think that while an agent or broker is not an attorney, one needs to realize that a buyer or seller doesnít usually know what to look for in a P+S or what areas cause the most common problems if they are not scrutinized before signing the P+S. Those areas should be understood by all of the parties involved in the transaction before signing the P+S. I prefer a conference call with the attorney and client to review the P+S prior to sending it to the other side.

In my experience, the area that causes the most trouble is the paragraph that spells out exactly what is being left with the property (i.e. which appliances, air conditioners, light fixtures, etc.). If it is not scrutinized by both the buyer and seller, itís likely that someone may be surprised later.
Anything attached to a building is referred to as a fixture and is supposed to remain with the property unless specifically excluded from the sale.

Exclusions should be in offers and later carried forward to a P+S.

Here are a couple of issues that I have seen:

The P+S specified that window air conditioners were to remain with the property. When my buyers saw that, they thought that the sellers didnít want the air conditioners and would leave them. I assumed that the sellers had read or reviewed that paragraph with their attorney or their experienced agent. When the air conditioners werenít in the house at the final walk through, the buyers were disappointed.

Sometimes sellers will take a chandelier, window treatments or some other item that is attached to the house. Some will replace the item with a similar item or may offer to contribute toward a replacement. Either way, those details should be spelled out in the P+S to avoid last minute surprises.
People get emotional about the most unexpected items. Early in my career, at the final walk-through one of my buyers walked up to the building, stopped dead in her tracks and became extraordinarily upset, saying things like ďI canít believe that they could do thatĒ, etc. When she finally calmed down, I discovered that when she first viewed the property, she saw the Peony plants that were in bloom by the front steps as a ďgood omenĒ. The seller, who was settling the estate for his deceased parents, innocently dug the plants up prior to closing because they were his Momís favorites and he wanted them for his garden as a remembrance. Who knew?

No matter how small, put it in the P+S! And read it.

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About boston real estate now
Scott Van Voorhis is a freelance writer who specializes in real estate and business issues.

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