Chattels And Fixtures - What's Included In A Real Estate Sale?

Which items stay with a home? Which ones leave with the seller? - These are age-old questions and among the most common sources of disagreements in real estate deals. The answers are not always clear-cut, but depend on the interpretation of chattels and fixtures.

Chattels - Pick-Up-And-Go Pieces

Chattels are items that a seller can simply pick up and walk away with. Doing so generally involves no mess, no damage and no invasive procedures. Some more obvious examples include furniture, floor lamps and small, plug-in appliances.

Chattels are typically excluded from a home purchase. But if you're a prospective buyer and an item catches your fancy, you can always negotiate it into the deal.

Fixtures - Immoveable Objects

Fixtures are items that have effectively become a permanent part of the property. They typically require tools and hardware to remove. While an armchair is considered a chattel, a bench that's been built into a wall would become a fixture. Other typical examples might include fencing, water heaters and electric light fixtures.

Many Grey Areas

Beyond the general definitions of chattel and fixtures, many exceptions and grey areas exist. Take the modern-day conundrum of the wall-mounted televisions. The brackets are drilled into the wall, but the TV itself may simply hook on and off.

Ovens simply plug into an electrical socket, but if the seller has invested in a high-end piece, that item may not be included in the deal. A similar situation may arise over pricey crystal chandeliers. Other items may have been rented as part of a home staging and off-limits to the buyer.

Tips To Avoid Discord

When working out the deal, rule #1 is: Never assume.

Buyers and sellers need to be specific and clear on s included or excluded. Whether chattel of fixture, just about everything is negotiable.

If a certain item is expected to leave with the buyer, discuss whether there will be a replacement. During the final walkthrough before closing, buyers should take note of what's still in the house.

Always get the details down in writing - complete with makes, models and serial numbers. The effort will go a long way toward minimizing misunderstandings, disappointment and litigation.

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