How Clean Is “Broom Clean”?

by Keith OToole on January 18, 2013

New York Law:

Under New York law, there is no specific definition for the phrase “Broom Clean”. However, it has acquired a customary meaning over the years, and it should be remembered that a contract can change that meaning.  Here, in the Rochester New York area, the standard purchase and sale contract contains the following language:

“Buyer shall have possession of the property upon closing, in broom clean condition…”

This is similar to contracts used across New York State. Other areas of the state like to use the phrase “vacant and broom clean” but it amounts to essentially the same thing.

What Broom Clean includes:

When you are buying or selling a house, “broom clean” generally means the following:

  •  vacant
  •  empty of all personal property
  •  empty of all garbage or debris
  •  empty attic
  •  empty basement
  •  empty garage
  •  empty refrigerator
  •  free of serious filth
  •  swept clean

What Broom Clean excludes:

Here’s what “broom clean” does not mean:

  •  deep cleaning or “spring cleaning” clean
  •  painting
  •  patching holes in walls
  •  scrubbing walls or floors
  •  washing windows

The Gray Area….Should it stay or Should it go?

There are some things both buyer and seller may wish to leave behind but, it is best to check with your realtor first:

  • House Parts – Most people want the spare house parts, like that closet door, or the window screens in the basement.
  • Flooring Materials- Carpet remnants and spare floor tiles can be a great money saver when floors must be repaired.
  • Paint Cans – Some people want these and some really don’t. Many home buyers want the leftover paint so they can touch up walls. Other home buyers are concerned about the hassle of disposing of hazardous waste.

Why Broom Clean may not be enough:

While the legal meaning of “broom clean” is important, there are practical things to consider. Just prior to closing, Rochester real estate contracts give home buyers the right to inspect the property in what is commonly referred to as the final “walkthrough”.

If the buyers find that the property is filthy, they may simply refuse to close. Or, the buyers may demand financial compensation.

These sorts of last minute disputes are frustrating and they can be expensive. Legal arguments aside, these are disputes best avoided.

The practical answer is this:

Home Sellers: Put yourselves in the buyers shoes. If you were moving into this house, would you be satisfied? As exhausting as moving can be, plan on a light cleaning once the house is empty. Be sure to:

  •  Remove the dust bunnies
  •  Vacuum the rugs
  •  wipe down the counters
  •  scrub the toilets
  •  consider hiring a house cleaner to start work after the moving van departs

Home Buyers: Understand that “Broom Clean” does not mean “professionally clean”. Plan on a deep cleaning before you move in. When your new home is empty is the easiest time to clean. Consider:

  • Hiring a house cleaner to clean before moving day.
  • Hiring a professional carpet cleaner.
  • Recruiting friends and family for a few hours of cleaning the day before the moving van arrives. Order a pizza and make it a social event.

If you are a home buyer or home seller and have a legal question, don’t hesitate to call me at 585.352.7300.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Ralph October 4, 2014 at 12:18 am

Question from Me, the seller. Is a unsecured rug considered part of a room.? Under broom clean must this rug be removed ? This rug is not secured by taking , nor nails.


Keith OToole October 4, 2014 at 6:02 pm

Hi Ralph — As a general rule, “area rugs”, like this:
Area Rug

are considered personal property and they are not included in the typical sales contract for a home. So, you would remove any area rugs when you move out, along with all of your other personal property like furniture, clothes etc.

However, in some contracts, specific personal property may be included. For example, it is very common for buyers to have the kitchen appliances included with the house they are purchasing. Always read your contract….Keith


Leave a Comment

Previous post: