Home sellers should be clear from the start about what does — and what does not — convey with the sale of their home.
The concept of real property is central to the practice of real estate sales. Real property, in broad terms, is the land and anything permanently attached to it. Personal property, on the other hand, can be thought of as movable items not attached to real property.
Sometimes, a buyer and a seller have differing opinions on what constitutes real property, and will be sold with the home, versus what’s personal property, and can be retained and moved by the seller. That’s why, as a home seller, it’s important to specify upfront exactly what you plan to take with you when you move…especially if it’s attached to the home.
Think About “Fixtures”
In real estate, personal property can become real property once it is permanently attached to other real property. A new bathtub sitting in your garage is personal property, for instance, up until the moment you install it in your bathroom, thereby attaching it to the residence.
The same can be said for lighting, window treatments, ceiling fans and similar items. Once they’re installed in your home, the buyer will likely assume they come with the house.
That doesn’t mean you can’t take grandma’s heirloom chandelier with you when you move. But if you plan to take it, it’s important to specify that upfront, in the listing agreement, and in the Multiple Listing Service (MLS).
Grounds & Landscaping
Trees and shrubs planted in the ground would generally be considered real property. Plants in pots/planters could be considered personal property. So, if you have a small fruit tree or flowering shrub you’ve planted, but still want to take it with you to transplant, make sure you list it as an item that does not convey.
On the other hand, if you have palm trees or fruit trees or the like planted in large, heavy pots, the buyer may assume you’re taking them with you. The same may go for a hot tub, fire pit or similar item. If you’re not taking them, make sure you make your intentions known in the listing agreement, MLS and the sales contract. That way, there are no surprises at closing involving a buyer demanding a seller remove certain unwieldy items.
When in Doubt, Spell it Out
Have some expensive, high-end surround sound speakers installed in your home that you plan to take with you? Your buyer may assume, as they’re attached to the home, that they’re staying. Same with a fountain or water feature that looks to be a permanent part of the landscaping.
Bottom line, if you’re unsure that something you want to take with you after the sale of your home is considered real or personal property, make your intentions clear in the listing agreement, MLS listing and sales contract. It doesn’t mean that a buyer won’t ask you to leave specific items as part of the sale. But at least there won’t be any confusion at closing, and you can use the item(s) as a negotiating point when coming to an agreement on sale price.
Managing expectations appropriately is often one of the most complex parts of any real estate transaction. So, do yourself–and your agent, and your eventual buyer–a favor, and clearly communicate exactly what you plan to sell with your home, and what you plan to take with you.
Better yet, if there’s something attached to your home or property that you’d like to take with you, remove it and replace it before you put your home on the market. That way, there’s no doubt as to what stays, and what goes.