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Property should kept in same shape after offer accepted
By Edith Lank | Columnist
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Published: 9/4/2010 11:09 PM

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Q. If the house I am going to buy is left a mess during a final walk-through, can I demand it be cleaned before closing? Also, the pool was crystal clear, but it's now full of algae and the grass goes beyond my knees.

A. You are entitled to receive the property in the condition it was when you first saw it and made your offer. If you find problems at the walk-through, contact your broker and the closing agent immediately. Make it clear you want the house "broom-clean," the lawn mowed and the pool problem solved before you'll turn over your money at the closing. If there's a time problem, you could offer to accept the pool as is - in return for a money credit to have it cleaned up.

I don't know your mortgage deadline, your moving date, the seller's motivation or yours. It may come down to some negotiation or even some bluffing. Understand, though, that once you've gone through a closing, it may be too late to complain.

The problems you mention, while inexcusable, are easily cured in the end. I can imagine, if the seller didn't cooperate, a buyer who wanted the place enough might shrug and go ahead anyhow.

My house was built in the late 1890s. I am planning to paint the interior. It does not appear that paint was ever used inside. There is a great deal of stained woodwork, which will not be painted.

Since homes built before 1978 need to have lead assessment done before selling, would a combined inspection and risk assessment be currently sufficient for a sale within four years? My thought is to do a thorough lead assessment now, and then remedy any potential lead problems without having to repeat at time of sale.

A. A seller is not required by law to do lead assessment or abatement. You must give potential buyers an EPA booklet about the dangers of lead paint in any house built before 1978. If they wish, buyers may order a lead paint assessment before they're committed to buy. If the interior was never painted, there shouldn't be any problem.

I have had no luck selling my home and a separate waterfront lot. It was offered through local real estate people. Please give me names to sell through the Internet.

A. If you've listed with local agents, I'm sure your property has been exposed on the Internet, probably in more than one location. And if you've had no luck selling either parcel, I can guarantee that you've simply been asking more than the buying public is willing to pay. If you do try websites, watch out for scams. Don't ever pay anyone an advanced fee to market your property.

About a contingency, as in waiting until the buyer's home sells before a closing. Do we need a limit of time? And what about the total price?

A. With a contingency contract, you trade worrying about the sale of your house, for worrying about the sale of your buyer's home. But if you won't consider contingent offers, you're eliminating a large group of potential buyers.

With most contingency contracts, the sellers reserve the right to keep showing the house. If they want to accept another offer, they can notify the original buyers, who have a few days to remove their contingency - promise to buy no matter what. If the first buyers can't do that, they have to drop out. Or in some contracts, the contingent agreement automatically becomes void after a certain length of time.

The drawback is that even though the house can remain on the market, some agents won't bother bringing in prospects, preferring to show something less complicated. So yes, some sellers do expect a price consideration in return for waiting around.

It's always prudent to find out before signing anything whether the buyers' property is fairly priced, so that it's likely to sell promptly.

I am about to close on a second mortgage. I want to know if I could get out of this loan.

A. You can certainly refuse a loan if you change your mind. In certain circumstances, you might even be entitled to a refund of some application expenses. With a second mortgage, you could even close, and then change your mind and give back the money for three days after that. It's called your right of rescission.

• Edith Lank will respond to questions sent to her at 240 Hemingway Drive, Rochester, N.Y. 14620 (please include a stamped return envelope), or readers may e-mail her at

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