Chattels and Fixtures

Ryan Coffey

If you’re thinking of selling your home in the near future, have you given much thought to what you plan to leave with the home and what you’d like to take with you?  Have you considered the washing machine and dryer or the fridge and stove. How about the heirloom chandelier in the dining room?
While these may not seem like important concerns right now, the failure to address them in your listing and the contract of purchase and sale could lead to a major misunderstanding with a potential buyer.
The last thing you would want is the loss of a sale of your home due to a dispute or misunderstanding over relatively minor items.
REALTORS will guide you through the listing process and will ask you what you want to include in the sale.  But it’s a good idea to make up a list before meeting with your REALTOR to be sure you don’t forget something.  The list of items included or excluded in the listing contract should be addressed in the contract of purchase and sale, as these are two separate contracts.
CHATTELS ARE NORMALLY REMOVED.  When chattels are included in the contract of purchase and sale, they must be listed.  It’s fairly common practice for Sellers to include items which would normally be considered as chattels in the selling price.  Appliances and window coverings are conventional examples.
A REALTOR will explain that FIXTURES ARE CONSIDERED PERMANENT IMPROVEMENTS to a property which normally stay with the property as part of the sale.  For example, if you’ve installed a built-in vacuum with attachments, heat pump / air conditioning systems, these are considered to be permanent.
However, keep in mind that the law is not always crystal clear about what constitutes a fixture.  There are circumstances where you may plan to remove something that might ordinarily be considered a fixture – like your chandelier or decorative wall mirrors.  Let your REALTOR know if you have any leased equipment in your home:  propane tank, security system, oil fired hot water tanks, heating oil tank.
Other Items to consider are lawn ornaments, smoke & fire alarms, shower rods, motion sensors.  Generally these types of items are left with the home, but some people still like to take things with them.  If you tend to be one of these people, clearly state in writing what WON’T be included in the sale.
WHAT CAN HAPPEN?  Most REALTORS can relay “horror stories” about homeowners taking their wall-to-wall broadloom with them – without specifying this in the listing or contract of purchase and sale.  Others can attest to the type of Seller who insists on taking a wood stove, oil from the tank and water purifying system.  To avoid confusion and disappointment later – put in writing now.
IF IN DOUBT?  If there is any doubt about a particular item, REALTORS will include it in the list of items to be included or excluded from the purchase price.  That way, if there are any questions, the situation has already clearly been addressed.
If you have any concerns, talk to your REALTOR.  As a trained professional, he or she will be able to guide you smoothly through the selling process and answer any questions you may have.
(Article provided for the information and benefit of consumers from:  Coast Realty Group) Jan. 2009

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