Real vs. Personal Property
At closing time, the last thing you want is a dispute over what goes with the house and what doesn’t. But it isn’t all that unusual for a buyer to think a particular item is included in the sales price, while the seller never had any intention of including the same item! Classic examples include window coverings, lighting fixtures and chandeliers. But just about anything which might be construed by a buyer as being “part of the house” has the potential for misunderstanding and disagreement.
Generally, the law says that anything which is part of the land or attached to the house and is immovable, or can’t be removed without damage, or anything which is incidental or appurtenant to the land is real property. Personal property is basically everything else – the possessions you take with you when you move.
The law recognizes the intent and manner with which an item is attached in determining whether an article or fixture is real or personal property. Built-in appliances are usually considered real property, while free standing ones are usually personal property. If removing the item requires pulling nails, it’s probably real property. If it can be unscrewed and removed without leaving any damage, it might be an item ready to cause some disagreement!
To avoid problems, both buyers and sellers should make detailed lists of any items to be included in the sale before closing. As a seller, give your list of items to be excluded to the listing agent when you sign your listing agreement. If there is something you want to take with you, and it requires removing a screw or nail, make sure to put it in the listing agreement and the sales contract.
One of the most frequent issues that I have seen come up is if a light fixture or chandelier will stay. My advice to all sellers is that if you want to take that light fixture or chandelier with you, take it down and replace it with another one. You can put a sign on the chandelier saying it will not stay. You can write that it will not stay into the listing agreement, however the moment the buyer sees your chandelier or light fixture, odds are that they are going to want it. Removing the fixture you want to take with you and replacing it with another fixture will save you untold headaches.
Remember, as with everything else in real estate, it’s all negotiable. If there is a unique item you want included in your purchase, you may be able to get it included at a reasonable price. Especially if the item won’t fit in with the new home the seller is moving to.
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