Unfortunately, the operative word is "should." There's sometimes a big gap between what should happen and what does. As a practical matter, yes, owners strip houses. Those who do likely are angry--at the lender, at the person they bought the home from (for, in retrospect, charging too much), themselves (for having paid too much), their previous Realtor (for having represented them in a situation that hasn't turned out well) . . . and the buyer (who is paying less for the house than the sellers paid).
So some strip the property. Or they'll do things like take the nice refrigerator and replace it with a mini. They figure that because they're not allowed to walk away with anything, why should anyone else benefit?
There isn't a lot of recourse. Beforehand, the listing agent should clarify with the seller what's to remain in the house. And the agent should point out that if the sale falls through, that the seller might be looking at foreclosure, instead. (A point nicely made by Sonal.)
It's a gamble. Just another gamble for those purusing short sales.
Hope that helps.
IF you don't then that's good reason. A good agent will be able to properly guide you as to the shortfalls and possible upside of a short sale. Might I suggest working with someone EDUCATED in short sales and EXPERIENCED. This is no place to be the guinea pig. Look for a CDPE..who has the extra training..CDPE..means Certified Distressed Property Expert..However, it does not actually make one an expert. Experience helps to qualify..
The contract is like most "normal" contracts with verbiage regarding utilities appliances etc. It is typically an "as is" but also remember..the seller wants to make it work too. They have a vested interest to keep things on track.
Good luck and if you need help let me know!
Erik J. Weisskopf,ABR,CDPE,CRS,GRI
Re/Max Distinctive Real Estate
I don't see how having your CDPE prevents a seller from breaching the contract. The seller can still make off with the appliances and breach the terms of the contract regardless of the qualifications of the agent. I'm curious about what power you think a buyer agent with a CDPE has to enforce a contract when the seller doesn't follow the terms? In most states, this would be up to a judge to decide the outcome.
Glen laid out your realistic choices. In Oregon, this would most likely be handled in small claims court after the fact. While you as a buyer would likely get a judgement, getting the money is a whole other ballgame.
The buyer's recourse is pursuing performance by the seller in accordance with what is in the contract of sale. Be sure that the inclusions/exclusions are filled out correctly. If this is a concern a few saved pictures of the interior from the time of contract are good to have as evidence. Most sellers will not take appliances out if they feel it could hinder their lien being released; tenants can be more of a concern if negatively affected by visits to the property and the sale shortening their lease. The appliances can become compensation when the owner cannot afford to refund the security deposit.
Practically speaking, the concept of suing someone that doesn't have any money seems problematic. However, technically speaking, when you write the offer and list the personal property that conveys with the home, those items have to be in the home when you close, in order to be compliant with the contract.
Another practical consideration is that in a short sale, the seller is voluntarily doing the short sale, in order to avoid the more negative consequences of the foreclosure, from the seller's perspective. So the seller should be motivated to comply with the terms of the sale and should want to avoid giving the buyer reasons to back out of the contract. It would take an unusually dense seller to actually remove personal property in a short sale and upset the buyer. It is ultimately not in the seller's best interest to do this.
Keep in mind that a short sale is very different from a foreclosure, from the seller's perspective. In a foreclosure, the house is taken by the bank, and the seller doesn't know who will purchase the home, so they may be more inclined to damage the property, if they are that type of person. It's still not right, but may feel "victimless" to the seller. It is very different in a short sale, as described in the previous paragraph.