Should it stay or should it go?

Unless the status of a thing is specially defined in contract, whether the thing is to be included in the sale of a home, depends on whether the thing is fixedly attached to the property for sale. Because attachment is a quality of degree, disputes and disagreements often arise for the simple reason that the parties to a sale did not mutually understand the proprietary nature of particular parts of the home prior to signing the contract.

Among the things most likely to be considered “real property” and thus included in the sale of a home, are appliances that have some kind of hard connection, such as a gas line or substantial electrical wiring, and built-in appliances, such as microwave ovens and refrigerators[1] that have been built into the cabinetry in such a way that would cause damage or expose unfinished areas if removed. Lighting fixtures that are bolted down or hardwired into the circuitry of a home, outside or inside, always stay unless otherwise noted in contract.

Out in the yard, the awnings, the mailbox, the edging along planters, any half-buried landscaping stones and the in-ground sprinkler system, all stay, as do the hot tub that is built-in to the deck and the pool equipment, if such things exist.

Washers and dryers, plug-in lamps that are unbolted, and free-standing chests, are never included in the sale of a home unless otherwise noted in contract. Out in the yard, potted flowers and statuary are free to be removed by the seller. Swing sets and outdoor play equipment are likewise considered removable personal property.

Pay close attention to mirrors and shelves that may appear to be fixed while being in fact moveable. Whether blinds, drapes and other window coverings are to stay or to go, must be specified in contract, as there is no consistent rule for them. A standing hot tub is likewise negotiable, even if it has had a water line piped to it, so make certain to specify. Satellite TV equipment is another variable, because it may be rented from the satellite provider rather than owned by the seller outright.

Buying a home is one of the most important decisions you will make. Do not hesitate to make requests, and by all means double-check with your realtor and verify in contract that everything you want will be included in the sale.

© Susan Van Wig


[1] In some parts of the country it has become customary for the refrigerator to be included in the sale of a home whether it has been “built-in” or not. Inquire of your realtor whether you live in such an area.

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