Buying a home, selling a home and moving: They’re all exciting, stressful events that require patience, organization and coordination. One of the most common complications that people encounter is that the end of their current lease or their own home’s sale may occur earlier than the purchase date of their new home.

If that should happen to you or the person that you’re selling to, you may be tempted to enter into a “handshake deal” to take early possession of the home in order to move furniture and other possessions in before making settlement. Buyers may also ask for permission to get early access to the home before a sale so that they can start painting, cleaning or making improvements.

Whatever the goal, we strongly urge you not to do that for the following reasons.

  • If you are the seller, having the buyer move their items into your home will make it much harder for you to accomplish your own move.
  • Given the opportunity to access the home before a sale allows the buyer to discover problems within the home that they may not have been aware of. If they find that there are repairs that are needed or items that they find unacceptable, they can potentially try to renegotiate the sale price, withdraw from the deal, or demand that repairs be made before the deal is completed.
  • If you are the buyer and you move in early and the seller then withdraws from the deal, you face the added complication of having to then move back out and find someplace else to store your things and live.
  • If the deal does not go through and the buyer has moved in temporarily, they may already have made significant changes to the home that the seller did not want.
  • Allowing the buyer to take early possession raises issues of liability, as the insurance remains with the seller until the home sale is complete. This includes responsibility for anybody who is assisting with the move into the home, theft of any of the buyer’s belongings that are in the home, and damage caused by fire, storm or other disaster.

If you do choose to enter into an early possession agreement, it is important that you work with an attorney who can make sure that you have adequate legal protections in place. This is true whether you are the buyer or the seller. Points to be covered should include:

  • Security deposit
  • Liability and insurance
  • Condition of the home at the time of early possession

If you are trying to navigate a home sale on your own, it is a good idea to arm yourself with experienced and knowledgeable legal advice. At Legalty, we offer low-cost retainers with set fees to help give you the confidence and protection you need. Contact us today for more information.