As you begin organizing your belongings and preparing your home for sale, it’s important to know what you’re taking with you, what you’re hoping to sell with the home, and whether you are appropriately straddling the line between fixtures and personal property.
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It’s common for certain items attached to the house to stay with the property, like major appliances, cabinets, wall-to-wall carpet, light fixtures attached to walls or ceilings, and built-in bookshelves. But then again, the sellers might intend to take them to their new house and be unwilling to sell the home if they find out the buyer expects certain items to stay. It often depends on the housing market.
“Everything that is permanently attached to a property stays with the property, in California anyway,” said Stephanie Vitacco, a broker associate with Equity Union in Encino, California. “If you bolt a piece of furniture to the wall, I have to exclude it. What’s normal for inclusions are tacked-down carpeting, light fixtures that are hard-wired in, and window coverings,” she explains, “So if somebody says ‘those drapes match my bedspread, I want to take them,’ I have to exclude it, and that includes the curtain rod.”
Selling your furniture and decor to a homebuyer can be an emotional rollercoaster, and the reality is the space where memories have been made can carry more value than any amount of money.
Vittaco had one deal fall through that was related to an antique bell in the back of a home. “The seller forgot to tell me to exclude it, and she said, ‘Oh, I’m taking that with me.’ And the buyer said, ‘No, we love that bell, we want that bell.’ The seller said, “But that bell was given to me by my grandfather who got it on a ship he served on,” she recalls. The buyers dug their heels in and said they were not buying the house unless the seller let them have the bell. Vittaco says the seller tanked the deal and said, “Don’t buy my house.”
And you might think something as benign as rose bushes would stay along with the curb appeal of the home. But Vittaco says, “I’ve had sellers remove rose bushes because their mother gave it to them and now she’s deceased.”
Anne Monckton, broker and team leader at Baird & Warner’s office in La Grange, Illinois, explains that selling furniture or other items of removable home decor with a property is not that common in residential real estate transactions, but it does happen from time to time. “Generally, fixtures such as chandeliers are included in a sale,” she said. “If it’s an heirloom fixture and special to the client, I recommend removing it prior to photos and showings or specifically noting the fixture as an exclusion in the listing.”
Monckton explains that the transfer of any unattached decor or furniture tends not to be included in the purchase contract because lenders ordinarily do not want to see personal property on a home’s purchase contract.
“Agents are minimally involved in these transactions but can act as a go-between to facilitate negotiations on items and prices,” she says. “Typically, this is handled via an email list and later finalized on the bill of sale prepared by the attorneys. Furniture transactions can also be handled by a personal check from the buyer to seller at the closing table.”
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