Can sellers wait until the closing documents are signed before removing their personal property?

QUESTION: I am the listing agent on a property that is under contract. Closing is scheduled for next week. My sellers are concerned that the buyers might not go through with the purchase, and they don’t want to move all of their furniture and other possessions until they know that the buyers have actually signed all of the closing documents. Paragraph 8(d) of the Offer to Purchase and Contract (Standard Form 2-T) states: “Seller shall remove, by the date possession is made available to Buyer, all personal property which is not a part of the purchase.” What is the “date possession is made available to Buyer?”

ANSWER: The time by which a seller must deliver possession to the buyer is addressed in paragraph 14 of Form 2-T. That paragraph states: “Possession… shall be delivered upon Closing as defined in paragraph 1(m) unless otherwise provided…”

“Closing” is defined in paragraph 1(m) as: “The completion of the legal process which results in the transfer of title to the Property from Seller to Buyer.” That process includes recording the deed with the county registry.

Technically, this contract language means that the seller’s personal property does not have to be removed until the moment the deed is recorded.  However, the amount of time between Settlement (when the paperwork is signed) and recordation is typically very limited. Practically speaking, the contract doesn’t contemplate a seller waiting to move out unless and until the buyer signs the paperwork.

In the future, if you have a seller who wants to delay moving his or her personal property until they know the closing paperwork has been signed, you should try to negotiate a seller possession after closing arrangement. If you use Standard Form 2A8-T for this purpose, the Term of Possession defined in paragraph 1 could be quite short. In fact, we know of one seasoned agent who tries to negotiate such an arrangement on behalf of all his seller clients.

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