I'm thinking of selling my apartment, but it's not in great condition. I've heard the standard for sales is that an apartment be "broom clean," with working appliances and livable, move-in-ready conditions. But is there anything wrong (or illegal) about selling a place that needs to be emptied, cleaned, sanitized, repaired, etc.?
While you certainly can put your apartment on the market in its current, run-down condition, say our experts, it's not the wisest approach to your sale. That is, unless your goal is to sell off your property in a hurry, with the understanding that you'll be selling it at a steep discount.
"There is nothing 'illegal' but a great deal wrong with selling a place that is cluttered, dirty, or in disrepair," says CORE NYC Director of Sales Doug Heddings. "If maximizing your return on your investment isn't important to you and you simply wish to 'unload' the property as quickly as possible, then selling at a deep discount to market value will likely help prospective buyers overcome the obstacle of uncleanliness, clutter, or need for repairs. Price overcomes all obstacles."
"As far as I know, no one is serving time for trying to sell an apartment 'as-is,' but a standard Contract of Sale does contain paragraphs requiring a property to be delivered vacant, broom clean, and with working appliances," concurs Sotheby's International Real Estate broker Gordon Roberts.
In theory, those contract requirements can be edited out if you can reel in a buyer who will agree to it. However, warns Roberts, "Good luck finding one. [And] If you do, it’ll most likely be someone offering less than the property is actually worth, on the basis that they’d be assuming additional expense (and risk) by taking ownership of the apartment just as you’ve left it."
While it's tough to estimate how much of a hit your price might take for selling in these kinds conditions, Roberts says, "it could have an impact of 20 to 30 percent off recent comparable sales if the apartment is nothing special. If it has some redeeming attribute, such as location, size, or views, the discount could be less."
You might also run the risk in this case of your broker losing interest in marketing the place, if response from buyers is weak, says Roberts.
None of which is to say you have to completely overhaul your apartment ahead of the sale, but a little effort in this department can go a long way. Heddings suggests you "declutter, clean, fix and even consider fresh paint and staging to help buyers envision themselves in their new home." And as we've written previously, it's not uncommon to bring in a professional organizer for this kind of task if you're not eager to take it on yourself, and Roberts notes that "a sympathetic broker could provide professional guidance on how to get the apartment market-ready at minimal cost."
"There are plenty of apartments on the market that need a total renovation, so you do not have to make your apartment 'move-in-ready' by any means," Roberts explains. "But put yourself in the shoes of a potential buyer—what you describe is 100 percent negative; cluttered, poorly maintained, filthy, smelly, and in disrepair. Would you stick around unless it was priced way below market?"
Doing some cleaning and de-cluttering ahead of time will ultimately mean "more money in your pocket" when it comes time to sell, says Roberts, who adds, "It is, in my opinion, definitely worth the time and effort."