When it is time to turn your former house over to its new owners, you might wonder just how responsible you are for its final state. How much information do you need to leave them? What about the holes in the walls from your picture frames?

A good rule of thumb is to leave the house in the state you would like to find it. Here are a few specific tips.

Make it Spotless.

Any lived-in home accumulates small blemishes: holes in the wall for pictures, scuffs on a hardwood floor, or cracks in linoleum. Unless major repairs are specified as part of the sale agreement, you are not responsible for major cosmetic fixes like resanding hardwood floors. That said, small fixes are a common courtesy. Patch over the drill holes and, if you still have the correct paint color, cover up any major scratches on the walls.

At the very least, you should clean the space thoroughly, so that the new owners arrive to a spotless interior. Make sure to save time for a last round of cleaning after you have completely finished packing. Moving out the last furniture and boxes will inevitably generate more dust and trash.

Light Bulbs

Consider leaving the light-bulbs in all built-in light fixtures, particularly overhead lights. While not technically required—the light-bulbs are your property—leaving them is a real kindness. Even if the new owners think to bring light-bulbs, it is possible that they will not properly fit the fixtures in their new home. Leaving the most important light-bulbs in place is a small expense for you, and it means there is no chance the new owners will have to spend their first night navigating by flashlight.

Leave a Note

Another thoughtful gesture towards the new owners is to leave them a note detailing important information about the house and neighborhood. Think about what information is important to the property but that the new owners are not likely to know, such as:

  • Manuals for all remaining appliances.
  • Air-conditioning and/or heating system information.
  • Trash, recycling, and street cleaning schedules.
  • The names and contact information of local plumbers, carpenters, or electricians you trust.

Touch Nothing…?

Leaving the place “as is” is not a good idea. It creates extra difficulties for the new owners and might well make them feel resentful toward you. As with any other possession that you send to a new home, you have a responsibility to make sure all aspects of your former house are clean and in good working order. If this task is too much for you to do during the chaos of moving, a professional cleaning service will be able to help.