Do Unto Others…


5 minute read

September 27, 2011

…what you would have them do to you.

When you’ve sold your house or condo, and you’re packed up and ready to leave, why not leave the place in great shape for the new owner?

Okay, so how cheezy is that image above?

It looks like something out of an after-school special that we’d be force fed when we were kids.  Or perhaps the logo on some handout that “Officer Dan” gives to your grade three class back in 1986 when he comes in to give his “drugs are bad” speech.

Anyways; moving on…

Some sellers are highly emotional as they hand over the keys to the place they called “home” for some period of time, and others could not possibly care less.

Either way, I think “what goes around comes around,” and all sellers should make an effort to hand over a presentable property to the person who undoubtedly paid top dollar for the former home.

No, I don’t believe in much, and I’m not a spiritual guy, but I do think “what goes around comes around,” and while it’s not karma or fate, I think that we all have a long, long real estate time horizon, and if you treat everybody right, eventually you’ll catch a break.

My buyer-clients often email me on the day of closing and ask, “Is it normal for the seller to leave eight cardboard boxes behind, as well as three bags of garbage, some pizza crust, a half-bag of kitty litter, and a pile of broken glass in the corner of the room?”

It’s not normal, but it happens; and it’s really sad when it does.  This happens in probably 1/4 of all transactions, and I think it sucks.

I tell my sellers to leave their properties in the best shape possible, or how they would like to find it.

You might think this is corny, but I think it’s thoughtful and it goes along way toward brightening the day of that new home-owner.

Here are a few things I wish every seller would do:

Patch Up Holes In The Wall

If you take your wall-mounted TV down of the wall, rip out the brace, and leave giant holes, then you’re a dick.  Plain and simple, you’re a dick.

Many buyers and their agents will include a clause in Schedule-A that reads something like, “Seller hereby agrees to patch up all holes…,” but I don’t think that’s necessary.  I think you should patch up the holes because you made them!

Doesn’t everybody have a small tube of Poly-Fila in their shiny red tool box?  Just squeeze some out on your finger, smush it into the hole from a nail, picture hook, or the mark you made in the wall when you were moving your couch, and wait for it to try.  The next day, take a tiny piece of sandpaper and rub it down.

Whether you choose to touch it up with paint is up to you, but personally, I patch up all the holes because it takes a couple minutes of my day and it makes the condo look more presentable.

Leave Extra Paint Behind

This is especially important if you’ve just re-pained the house or condo for the listing process.

There’s a common misconception that everybody re-paints when they move into a new home, but that’s not the case.  If you happen to have a quart of “Wonderful Wilderness” or a half-gallon of “Navajo Beige,” leave it in the hall closet so that the new ower can do touch-ups.

As a sidebar: I want to know whose job it is to name paint colours.  Have you ever taken a read through the average paint-chip?  I’m looking at one right now: Maiden Voyage, Teal Bayou, Grand Rapids, Wipeout, Tropical Splash, Dreaming Blue.  Seriously?  Who came up with “Maiden Voyage?”  Imagine taking your friends on a tour of your new home and one of them asks, “I just love this colour!  What is it?”  You smile, and reply, “Impressionist Sky.”

Anyways, as I alluded to in the section above, I would personally recommend patching up holes, sanding them down, and touching them up with some paint.  But if you don’t feel like doing that, leave some of the paint behind so the new owner can do as he or she would like.

One of my clients moved into her new condo last year and while there wasn’t any paint, there were a couple Benjamin Moore paint-chips on the counter with the colours circled and labelled according to room.  I think that was a nice touch.

Leave A Note Or A Card

I don’t expect the average downtown condo owner to do this, but I would still suggest it.

In the case of a large family home, I think there’s a lot more emotion involved both in terms of the family that’s leaving, and the family that’s moving in to start a new life.

Condo owners who have been in the unit for 28 months likely don’t care who is moving in, and might not have created any memories worth taking with them.

But a family of five who is leaving their North Toronto home has certainly built a life, and it’s a nice sentiment to leave a hand-written note congratulating the new owner and wishing them many happy, healthy years in the home.

Just as a buyer might wish to know the history of the century-old condo-loft conversion that he or she just purchased in, perhaps a home-buyer might like to know about the family that lived there from 1982 up until last week.

Or in lieu of getting too personal, how about just a note that reads, “Best Wishes In Your New Home.”

Take Care Of The Garden!

When I bought my first condo, I added all the outdoor pine trees on the terrace into the agreement.  What I didn’t do, however was add a clause that read, “Seller agrees to water the trees every day until closing.”  The trees were dead by the time I got there, and I’d rather have not had any trees than have a dozen dead ones.

Again, this is something that only the honest, proud, and thoughtful home-owner will do, and something that the lazy and careless would ignore.

Those who won’t patch up nail-holes in the wall because it’s not written into the agreement also won’t water the flowers if they don’t have to.

I just think there’s something lazy about watering your plants every day for years and then flipping that switch to “OFF” as soon as the sale agreement is signed.

Buy Flowers

How much could this possibly set you back? $10?  $20?

Leave a bouquet on the counter, with or without the hand-written card, and brighten what may already be the most exciting day of the buyer’s life.

Have the Property Professionally Cleaned

Alright so many of you are saying “yeah right,” but I don’t think the idea is that far-fetched.

As I said at the onset: “do unto others.”

The real estate universe has a funny way of equalling out, and maybe the $95 you spend on a cleaning lady will find its way back to you, and then some.

Believe it or not, a lot of sellers do this.  Property-owners that take pride in their homes will treat it like their own until the very, very end, and some just want the new owners to smile give thanks when they walk in the front door.

Where I would not expect to see a seller have the property professionally cleaned is in the case of a $5 Million house.  First, because the new owner likely won’t notice, let alone, appreciate the gesture, and secondly because the new owner can definitely afford to have it cleaned on their own!


A good portion, perhaps half of downtown Toronto condos are owned by investors who really don’t care about the person buying the unit, and who would likely take the lightbulbs out of the fixtures if they could remember to do so.

But many transactions in this city are face-to-face, person-to-person, and when somebody pays top dollar for your unit, the way most properties have been selling over the past few years, and I hope you take a moment to respect the person who purchased it.

A little gesture can go a long way.

Isn’t that worth doing?

Written By David Fleming

David Fleming is the author of Toronto Realty Blog, founded in 2007. He combined his passion for writing and real estate to create a space for honest information and two-way communication in a complex and dynamic market. David is a licensed Broker and the Broker of Record for Bosley – Toronto Realty Group

Find Out More About David Read More Posts

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  1. Craig

    at 8:36 am

    When I sold my last house, happily with exactly the price and closing dates I wanted, I made sure to leave a long “Welcome to your new home” note. In it, I described where all the perennials could be found (they were moving in November so they wouldn’t notice them all) and most importantly where the large raspberry bush was(a new neighbour didn’t realize what they were and cut down their side about a week before they would have gotten about 2000 fresh raspberries). I went on to describe the neighbours, the good local haunts (there weren’t many), where the cable and sattelite tv outlets were as well as I dug up all the manuals and warranties to the appliances and hvac.

  2. Moonbeam!

    at 9:36 am

    I totally agree with you about leaving your property clean and tidy… Another thoughtful touch is to leave a folder containing appliance manuals, and info about local services, stores, schools, etc…
    But always always book a cleaning lady for your own move-in day to make your new place shine.. and buy new toilet seats & toilet-paper holders….

  3. CD

    at 10:24 am

    We have always left our home in great shape and had it professionally cleaned each time. We run into the people that bought our home in the grocery store some time. We would probably have to run the other way if we left the house a disaster.

  4. Joe Q.

    at 11:03 am

    The previous three posters are class acts. The bit about leaving behind all the appropriate manuals and maintenance history for appliances, etc. is pretty significant — it can save the new owners a lot of headache.

    But I wonder about this, David:

    When I bought my first condo, I added all the outdoor pine trees on the terrace into the agreement. What I didn’t do, however was add a clause that read, “Seller agrees to water the trees every day until closing.”

    If you had inserted that clause, and yet still found the pine trees dead when you arrived, what recourse would you have? Would you have been able to make the sellers pay for new trees?

  5. Adam

    at 6:11 pm

    When we sold our condo last year, after the unit was emptied, we cleaned the place from top to bottom. We also left the manuals, and made sure there was a full roll of toilet paper for them. Our agent told us they were first time buyers, so we left the floor lamps behind in the room with no light fixtures.

    When we moved into our new(er) condo, it was so filthy, we spent 2 days cleaning before we could even unpack. And yes, the previous owner left the TV bracket on the wall, so I had to repair the wall as well. They even left some junk behind in the locker.

  6. Kyle

    at 12:35 am

    Great post. Every property i’ve sold, i’ve cleaned top to bottom and left all manuals, warranties, extra keys and remotes. I even go as far as to wash all the shelves and bins from the fridge and freezer, as well as clean the inside of the ovens. Wish more people would do the same. Many years ago we sold our loft to a first time home owner who came out on top in multiple offers, we left a congratulation note and a bottle of Veuve Cliquot in the fridge. Unfortunately i’m still waiting for the good house closing karma to come back my way. Of the properties i’ve bought all but one was left in a complete mess.

  7. JC

    at 10:17 am

    When I left my old place, I not only patched but painted entire walls because the movers scratched a few moving stuff out. Washed floors. It looked better than it did during showings! 😉 I made a list that ended up being a small book about what service contracts were in place, extra warrantees for appliances, contact #s, manuals, user guides, identified and offered to help thin out the plants in the front garden (it was an award winner) the next season.

    Re: cleaning…. it amazes me that no matter that it is put into the agreement to lease, that the landlord agrees to have the place “professionally cleaned” that so many landlords for more expensive properties (we’re talking 4,000/mo +) will totally ignore that and not even run a swiffer through the condo they’ve never lived in and are now making a good buck on in rent. It’s usually absentee “investor” landlords.

    I sold a place once and called the listing agent on possession date. His client left a ton of furniture in the basement. He asked me, and I quote: “so what do you expect me to do about it?” My response? “your client apparently isn’t coming, so get your ass over here and bring a chainsaw”.

  8. Moonbeam!

    at 7:28 pm

    Glad to see some discussion about thoughtfulness and good karma in buyers and sellers…. I agree it should be the norm … but some people don’t think of others. Kyle you nset the bar high!!

  9. Devore

    at 12:14 pm

    I’ve done the same with my condo when I sold it. Had the place done over by professional cleaners, and the carpets cleaned by a carpet cleaning service too. Noticed the blinds (vertical cloth) were a little dingy around where the windows open, so I had Coit pick them up and clean them. I was a little distraught that they were bent a little (is that normal? will they straighten out?) wondering what the buyers will be thinking of me.

    Spent nearly a grand getting the thing ready after the papers were signed and my stuff already moved out.

    Didn’t leave a note, but I did meet them (on showing, when they called from the front door at 11pm, seconds after the listing was posted, and again on inspection when I was working from home).

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    at 2:33 am

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