Occupancy provisions vary in different parts of the country. In some areas, it is the norm for the buyer to be given occupancy at the closing. In other areas, the seller retains occupancy rights for as much as 30 days after the closing. In Cincinnati, both ends of this spectrum and everything in-between is possible. As with all terms of the sale, occupancy should be specifically detailed in the Contract to Purchase.
It is easy to understand the buyer’s anxiousness to gain occupancy rights on his/her new home. After all, the buyer is probably paying a mortgage as of the closing date, so allowing the seller to retain occupancy is effectively costing the buyer money. Many buyers want occupancy at closing.
On the other hand, the seller is concerned about making final arrangements to move out before he/she has money in hand from the sale. It is worrisome to think about something coming up at the last minute that might cause the closing to unravel, but still have moving arrangements completed. Many sellers want some time after closing before giving up occupancy.
Obviously, there is no “one answer fits all” on the occupancy issue. It is best for each party to the contract to empathize and work toward a mutually satisfactory compromise. Unless the property is already vacant, the seller will probably appreciate a little time after closing to move out, even if they must pay the buyer an agreed rental amount for the time from closing to occupancy. In some cases, it is also important to specify a “time” of occupancy on the agreed-upon date in order to facilitate the seller’s “move out” and the buyer’s “move in.”
If a seller is to continue occupancy after closing, it continues to be the seller’s responsibility to pay for all utilities for the length of time he/she remains in the residence and to maintain the property in the same condition as agreed in the Contract to Purchase. The seller should also consult with his/her insurance agent regarding the continuance of homeowner’s insurance during the period between closing and occupancy based upon the responsibilities as designated in the Contract to Purchase. Further, the seller may also be responsible for damages to the buyer that may occur because of failure to deliver possession of the house on the agreed upon date.
As with all issues in a Contract to Purchase, specific terms should be spelled out in writing. Your REALTOR® will guide you through the process.
Date: May 15, 1998