Believe it or not, a seemingly inconsequential disagreement over blue jacquard curtains can come between you and the purchase or sale of a home.
Unfortunately, when selling a home what goes and what stays is an oft disputed topic between homeowners and home buyers. And while there are relevant legal definitions aplenty, they tend to be either vague or over inclusive, thus, largely unhelpful.
What Stays: In legalese these are called fixtures, which is everything permanently attached to the property. This means that if taking the item would ruin or disfigure the walls, fencing, porch, ceiling, and lawn, etc., it’s considered a fixture and is included in the sale. A more specific litmus test is whether or not you need a tool to remove it. Simply put, if so, it stays.
What Goes: Also known as personal property, if you can disconnect, unhook, or otherwise detach an item from your home with bare hands, it’s free to leave when you do. Personal property is almost never assumed in the sale, but can be included if the buyer and seller so stipulate.
These may sound obvious and not issue worthy, but things can and do get sticky when talking about matters of the heart or wallet. While you (probably) wouldn’t dream of ripping out kitchen cabinets or walking off with the shower stalls, homeowners have been known to dig up full grown trees planted by their toddlers; pull down an heirloom chandelier; or detach a custom fireplace hearth. Though each areclearly fixtures, some homeowners feel unable to part with their treasures, despite the legalities prohibiting their removal.
Gray Areas: To make matters worse, there tends to be confusion over particular classes of items, which can further blur the line between fixtures and personal property.
Conversion: What happens when personal property is converted to a fixture? This covers all items severally acquired but subsequently nailed, screwed, planted, or otherwise attached to your home or yard. Although the attachment clearly results in a fixture, recognizing the time and nature of conversion can be difficult ultimately causing discrepancies.
Window Treatments: Traditionally thought of as fixtures, window treatments include curtain rods, cornices, blinds, shutters, and shades. But what about other adornments? Curtains, valances, liners and sheers can slip easily off the rods, and garlands and other creative window decor simply rest on hooks. While these seem to fall into two categories of hardware (fixtures) and accessories (personal property), the distinction remains a source of controversy.
Appliances: Most appliances are personal property that simply needs unplugging before transport. But others also require gas line or water filtration hookups, begging the question of whether such requirements switch their status to fixtures.
Accessories: Some fixtures such as pools and fireplaces need fireplace tools, gas logs, and pool and spa chemicals and cleaning equipment to function properly. These accessories are all considered personal property. On the flip side, a wall-mounted cue stick holder or CD rack are fixtures which accessorize personal property; namely a pool table and CD collection, respectively. Conflict can arise when the accessories are part of a coordinating set or otherwise difficult to replace, prompting both buyers and sellers to want to keep the sets partnered.
When in Doubt: If you’re unsure about whether or not a particular item should stay or go, ask your agent. While even the agent may not know its status, he or she can discuss the item in question with the other agent and specify your interests in the purchase contract.
Special TipAs a seller,