What Can Go Wrong On Closing Day?


6 minute read

August 13, 2014

After a long search possibly over many months, a lot of frustration and perhaps some lost bids on houses or condos, closing on your new home is supposed to be one of the most exciting times of your lives!

Unfortunately, sometimes it doesn’t turn out that way.

I’ve had a lot of clients close on houses and condos over the years, and while most of the closings went smoothly, a few of them were with incidents.

Let me share a few with you…


A couple of blog readers forwarded me an article from the Toronto Star on Monday, titled, “5 Things That Can Go Wrong On Closing.”

I found the subject matter of the article to be interesting, but the content was tame.

A tree falls in your yard, the furnace doesn’t work, there are animals living under the porch, a few trees have been removed, and there’s an outstanding city permit.


And just for the record – wouldn’t an outstanding permit show up in the lawyer’s title search?

In any event, the lame content of that article served as a challenge to me to rack my brain and recall the most insane closing day stories throughout my career.

I went through the archives, studied the names of my buyers and sellers, and here are a few that stood out to me:

“Holy Sh!t”

I did a private sale once for a house that needed to be extensively renovated, only the sellers had no idea that their house was a sty.

It was one of the most disgusting houses I’d seen in years, and I felt bad since it was in an affluent area, there were two cute kids living in the house, but the sellers just loved living in their own filth.

As closing day approached, I got very nervous that the sellers were going to leave junk scattered throughout the house, so I requested a viewing five days before closing.  My buyers and I arrived to find that not a SINGLE THING had been packed!

The house was a mess, and the seller was sitting at the dining room table, punching away on the keys of a laptop, without a care in the world.

The day before closing, we requested a last-minute viewing, which was denied by the seller.  I eventually escalated this to the lawyers, and we instructed the seller to remove all debris and junk from the premises.  Their garage was full of crap – a rotting deep freezer, a set of six high school lockers, tons and tons of lumber, and more.

The night before closing, the seller hired a junk removal company to remove everything, which only served to confirm that they had absolutely no intention of removing all that crap.

After the deal was closed, it wasn’t the crap in the garage that was the concern.  It was actual crap that was the problem!  There was a massive wooden box that looked like a storage bin, which was filled with bags of dog crap, loose crap, and with only ONE dog in the house, it had to have been a half-decade’s worth.

My client said it was waist-deep.  Just picture it.  Seriously…

“Bear Down”

I once sold a condo to a young girl who was new to the city of Toronto, and perhaps it showed.

Perhaps the seller had an odd sense of humour, or perhaps he was just a beacon for human emotion, and decided he needed to get my client out of her shell.

Without getting into specifics here, let’s just say that the condo was in the vicinity of Church & Wellesley, and the seller rather enjoyed living there.

On the day of closing, my innocent, naive, quiet, shy female client went to her new condo to find several old-school VHS cassettes of gay porn, with original covers in excellent condition.

She sent me a photo, and let’s just say that it was very…..umm……hairy.  And leathery.  The seller definitely had a passion for this specific niche of cinema.

Hey, I love gay VHS porn as much as the next guy, but this poor girl was shocked!  Ironically, she did have a bit of humour in her, as she said, “I don’t have a VHS machine anyways.”

“Grab Anything That Ain’t Nailed Down!”

Back in 2008 when the market was cold for about ten minutes, I snagged an incredible deal for a buyer of a 3-bedroom, 4-bathroom home, for $810,000, that had previously been listed as high as $999,000, but was gradually reduced over ten months.

Oh yeah – there actually was a time when the market wasn’t red-hot, if you can believe it!

I can’t say for certain that the sellers of this house were upset with me, my buyers, or at the situation, but they seemed to figure they would get every single penny out of this house.

When we sell houses and condos, we take for granted that the kitchen appliances are included in the deal, since they always are.  We do ensure we include them in the “Chattels” section of the Agreement, but we would never include something like, oh, I dunno……a toilet paper roll!

Alas, my clients arrived on closing day and crossed the threshold of their new home, only to press the light switch and find no light.  It was winter, and it was dark, and this was before iPhones with incredible flashlights!

It turns out, the sellers were so incredibly cheap, that they took all the light bulbs!

They also took the toilet paper rolls, shower rods, and just about anything that could have been considered a chattel, or a fixture, and fell into a grey area, legally speaking.

Nobody is going to chase down a seller for thirty small items that probably cost $200, but is it ever petty of a seller to know they can get away with that.  Ah well – they took a bath on that house, and my clients have seen a tidy return since!

“Is That A Butterball?”

This didn’t happen to me, but a client told me this story.

A friend in his office purchased a house that had been tenanted, and the tenants were not amenable to the sale whatsoever.

They tried to stall the sale, and were eventually evicted, but they didn’t exactly go quietly.

The buyers signed the papers, got the keys, and went to check out their beautiful new home on the day of closing, and found the house to be almost vacant.

In a large, empty house, right there in the middle of the living room floor, was a putrid, rotting turkey.

The tenants had been gone for two weeks, but they left a present for the buyers who helped get them evicted.  Unless this was some sort of coincidence – that the tenants forgot their 20-pound turkey, it means they deliberately went out of their way to purchase a turkey, unwrap it, and place it on the carpet so it would fester and rot each and every day until closing.

Gotta love tenants!

“It’s Not Butter”

The continuing theme here is a coincidence, but just as the rotting turkey was no coincidence in the story above, neither was the condition of a house that clients of mine closed on in 2009.

The arrived on closing day to find that the kitchen was littered with ants, and every surface was sticky.

My client called me and said, “David, they painted the counters in butter.”

I told him there’s no way that it was butter, and it had to be some sort of cleaning product.

He remained convinced, through his own diligence (taste test, maybe?) that the disgruntled sellers had lathered the granite counters in butter, so that a mild infestation would result.

“Painted the counters in butter.”  I have this visual of somebody microwaving several bricks of butter until it’s liquid, then dipping an 8-inch deck-brush into the liquid.

Would somebody actually do that?

“It’s Not Furniture”

Here’s a story from my own dealings, and while I’ve told this story before, it’s worth telling again to show you that some people will spend time and money to chase something merely out of principle.

When I sold my principal residence a couple years ago, the Agreement of Purchase & Sale noted in the “Chattels Included” section, “all outdoor furniture.”

To me, that meant the table and six chairs, with the umbrella and stand, as well as the “conversation set” that contained two chairs, table, and bench.  This was discussed when we signed the offer!

A week after closing, I got a letter from the buyer’s lawyer saying that I was to return the “storage unit,” which he deemed to be “furniture,” and I clearly did not.

Unless you were going to play hide-and-seek in that thing, it really wasn’t furniture per se.

Nevertheless, after responding to the lawyer’s letter (that was my first mistake…), the lawyer sent me another letter, and then another.

The only reason I kept communicating with the lawyer was because I found the correspondence to be amusing, and because I wanted to know what he would say next!

You gotta love lawyers, with their uber-professional tone: “Dear David, I am in receipt of your email, dated 4:39pm on September 20, 2011….”

I eventually told the lawyer, “I feel bad at this point, wasting the buyer’s money, so I’m not going to respond to anything else you send me.”

He sent me another letter after that, but then it died out.

The storage unit cost me $199 at Home Depot, three years before I left the condo, and was probably worth about $50.  I have to think the buyer spent a LOT more than that to get the lawyer to chase it for three weeks.

In the end, every buyer has some sort of story to tell after experiencing the closing process, some are good, some are bad, and most are uninspiring.

People are people, and some are thoughtful and caring, while others will go out of their way to leave a rotting fowl for you to find.

Call it cheesy, but I believe you do unto others, and that what goes around comes around…

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

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  1. Geoff

    at 10:24 am

    I don’t think this was intentional, but when we moved in (the same day as they were moving … never do that kids, but it worked out) the former owner mentioned that they left us an extra green bin in the garage.

    I thought awesome, maybe we’ll need it. A few weeks go by, and I keep noticing we have a bit of a fly infestation in the garage, but since I just moved and it’s spring, I can’t tell if that’s just normal (also – never owned a home before). So then it gets worse so I investigate further.. and open up the green bin… only to have a swarm of flies fly right up my face. They left bags of now rotting chicken in the bin, infested with larvae and flies. I gagged and almost threw up immediately, and had to get work gloves and quadruple bag the rotted food.

    Like I said, not done on purpose; i had assumed it was empty but they didn’t actualyl say that and probably assumed that where else would they put their green bin waste but the green bin (duh).

    Still the best part is that as I was dealing with this on the driveway (periodically walking away to dry heave and gag quite loudly) I come inside and my wife is hysterical, talking about how there were these kids on the neighbour’s lawn just laughing their heads off at me as I’d almost puke all over the lawn.

  2. JP

    at 5:52 pm

    Someone is upset that gay video porn was left behind? Pfft.

    At least it wasn’t human excrement on the floor in the middle of the basement. Not a video of human excrement either… the real thing.

    Or more mildly…. furniture in the basement that was so big we had to take a chainsaw to cut it up to get it upstairs.

  3. SCM

    at 8:23 pm

    Under the ‘grab anything that isn’t nailed down’ section, when we bought our current house in 2007, the wife of the couple we bought from thought everything was hers to take. She took the lightbulbs, the toilet paper, the mailbox (previously fixed to the front of the house) and the toilet seat covers. Yup, the seats and the rings; left us just the porcelain bowls.
    We called our agent who called their agent who sent the husband around with a bag of toilet bowl seats and covers (we have 4 bathrooms) and he was mortified on behalf of his wife. Awkward.

  4. G___

    at 12:55 pm

    Open permits will not show up on a “Title” search (pulling the PIN), PINs will show ownership, encumbrances, and the legal desc including RoW, easements, etc…

    Off title searching will show permits, however this is only accomplished by sending the relevant municipality a letter asking for open/outstanding permits. Turn around times vary (small town, next day, Toronto it can take weeks).

    Hence title insurance to cover off these defects of title and reduce the time/work load.

    Of note, lawyers don’t generally get paid to chase things after closing (see your furniture story), these are the RE deals that we end up getting paid $20/hr on…

  5. Gwen

    at 11:08 pm

    I have a friend who bought a house in south Etobicoke and the seller dug up her rosebushes and took them with her.

    1. Maggie

      at 11:52 pm

      I took quite a few plants with me when we moved but I had expressly mentioned in the sale that we would be taking up to 50% of the plants on the property. My mother-in-law dug up our magnolia bush and has it at her place now.

  6. Ron Kells

    at 1:14 am

    It always is the “bad” seller, what about the buyer who shows up at the final walkthrough , with every relative they have?
    Home inspection :we came back home after 3.5 hrs to find the buyers lounging around the pool with their agent !! The inspector had already left.
    It is not just sellers , buyers have to realise ,yes they are purchasing the home BUT it is the SELLERS home until closing.!
    Currently selling home close to beach, buyers showed up for 2nd visit (AFTER home inspection visit) with towels in hand, SERIOUSLY? ????
    they spent 10 minutes in the house and thought they could park in my driveway for the rest of the day so they could have a day at the beach.

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