Thursday, June 20, 2019

No sellers, you cannot swap out your fancy Nest Thermostat before the close of escrow...

As one of my seller clients was finishing the final move-out from his home recently, he called to ask me how he should plan to get the extra keys to the buyer at closing. Once we determined he would leave extra keys in the house for the new owner, he then said he "was leaving as soon as he removed the Nest Thermostat and replaced it with a standard one." 

UMM, NO. Thankfully he and I had this conversation, and thankfully it was before he removed it. This off-hand comment saved him and saved me a lot of trouble. A thermostat is a fixture and generally stays with the property. 

Ironically, about a week later one of my other seller clients asked me about removing a Nest Thermostat at a different property. Thankfully this was long before closing and he did not have a screwdriver in his hands. I explained that it needed to stay with the property. 

Paragraph 8 in the current version of the Residential Purchase Agreement addresses items included and excluded from the sale. It specifically states that existing "mechanical" systems stay with the property. It also goes on to say that "home automation" devices and "control units" are included in the sale. This is the default unless you specifically exclude those items from the transaction.

So no, sellers, please do no remove the Nest and ride off into the sunset with something that belongs to the new owner of the house. You will have to replace it with another Nest at your expense.

Now, if you are really attached to your Nest, you can take it with you -- if, and only if -- you do one of the following:
(1) Remove it and replace it with a regular thermostat before you put the house on the market. At that rate, the buyer will never know there was a Nest in the first place. 
(2) Make a note in MLS that the Nest is not included in the sale. Maybe even put a little note on the unit in the house in plain sight for potential buyers to see. You will want the buyer to be aware of this at the beginning of the transaction. Then be sure that paragraph 8 in the purchase agreement specifically excludes the Nest from the sale. Then you may remove it at closing. If you make the comment in MLS, but the contract itself does not reflect the exclusion, then the Nest must remain with the house. (this confuses a lot of buyers, sellers, and agents alike)

And really, you can substitute a the same general two formulas for other items in the home that the seller wants to exclude from the sale. Like grandma's antique chandelier. Or your custom fish-shaped mailbox. Or the rose bush in the front yard that your mom gave you.

My suggestion? Remove whatever it is you do not want to include BEFORE the property goes on the market and replace it with something else. That way, the buyer does not know anything different and everyone has the same expectations.

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