What to do if the sellers don’t give you all the keys to the house at closing


Q: I found Ilyce’s book, “100 questions every first-time home buyer should ask” be extremely helpful. However, there was one section that I felt had been overlooked, and that was the section on receiving the keys from the owner after closing.

Specifically, what options does the buyer have if some of the keys they receive don’t work or some keys are missing?

I am expecting to have my closing this week, and would like to know what to do if I have a problem with the keys after I have already made full payment for the house.

I would greatly appreciate any advice you could provide on this.

A: Congratulations on the impending closure of your property. Why are you worried about receiving keys that don’t work? Or that you won’t receive all the keys that the sellers have in their possession? Were sellers problematic during the home buying process? Have you or someone you know ever had a problem with keys when you (or they) rented or bought a home?

Here’s what a lot of people do immediately after closing: they re-key their locks. That way, it doesn’t matter if you get all the keys you’re entitled to. You can hire a locksmith to install new locks or even electronic locks, or sometimes you can do it yourself, if you’re a handyman and know what you’re doing. You can remove the cylinders and then go to a locksmith to have new keys made.

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If you’re in a condo and you’re worried about not receiving the keys from the mailroom or the storeroom, for example, you can request that they be delivered in time for the final visit, which you should do on the day. even after the seller has moved, then test them before closing.

Usually, sellers leave at least one full set of keys with the buyer for closing. The listing broker may have a complete set in the safe or may have a complete set at the time of the home viewing. You expect to see keys to all front and back doors of the house, as well as keys to all other exterior doors of the house.

In associative developments, you can also expect to receive keys to common areas as well as keys to mailboxes, a fitness room, bike storage, storage lockers and garages. In addition to these keys, if you have a car to park, you should expect to have a garage door opener and key fobs. Also keep in mind that some single family homes also have mailbox keys.

Before you visit the property before closing, you should ask your real estate agent to ensure that all of these keys are located and available at that time. You can then check that these keys work before closing.

Sometimes sellers lose interior keys to cupboards etc. You may not see all the keys when closing, but you really need to be able to get into the house and lock it to keep it safe. You should also be able to enter and exit any garage and enter and exit any building. Of course, you should also be able to retrieve your mail. Finally, after closing, you should be able to move around a building or development using the common key, key fobs, or codes.

Then comes the question of what you could do if you do not collect all the keys, remotes or remotes when closing.

One option: a restraint. If you believe you are missing a set of keys, you can negotiate to hold funds at closing until all misplaced keys and fobs have been delivered. Sometimes when unpacking a box they find an extra set here or there and then these are usually dropped off later, either directly or through the listing agent.

This happened to us recently. We were helping a family member close a property he had lived in for 45 years. All the while, extra sets of keys have been made and distributed. A few days after the close, Sam realized he still had an extra set and immediately informed the broker. We dropped them off at the building’s doorman the next day.

Sometimes agents have an extra set of keys. You’ll want to make sure you get them. And if there’s a key left in the safe (used by agents to gain access to the house while it was listed), you’ll also want to make sure you get it.

Finally, if you are concerned that the seller will leave the property before closing, or that the seller is keeping a set of keys, you will want to check everything on the property carefully before closing.

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We always recommend that buyers make a final visit after the sellers leave, but before closing. You need to check that the sellers took what they were supposed to and left the items specifically listed in the contract. Remember that the house must be in the same condition as the day you bought it. Be sure to check for any damage caused by the move, so you can have that conversation before you close on the property.

We hope you won’t have a problem with your closing, but the best way to avoid any problems is to have a plan in place. Once you close, hire someone to re-key your locks, buy and install new locks, or have your agent work with the listing agent to secure all keys to the property before closing. And always shop around after the seller has moved.

More and more condo associations are installing keyless entry systems in their buildings and locking elevators, usually by floor. In these situations, the associations will ask new owners to download an app to their phone and give them instructions on how to use the app to enter and exit common areas of the building.

Over the next few years, we believe we will see fewer keys and more apps and codes that will be reprogrammed by the building or association once a change in ownership has taken place. So remember to ask for codes for keyless entry doors and how and when this change will happen.

We hope your closing is going well.

Ilyce Glink is the author of “100 questions every first-time home buyer should ask(Fourth Edition). She is also the Managing Director of Best Money Moves, an app employers provide to employees to measure and reduce financial stress. Samuel J. Tamkin is a Chicago-based real estate attorney. Contact them via the website, BestMoneyMoves.com.

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