Private Property in the Real Estate Transaction
Buyers and sellers often misunderstand what constitutes private property. Most states mandate that anything physically attached to the property, permanently installed or built into the home must stay on the property in the event of the property’s sale. However, when it comes down to the real estate agreement, both parties can misinterpret what stays as part of the property and what the seller can take by law.
Under the law, certain things must remain within a home when a transfer of ownership takes place. Before your REALTOR® puts your house on the market, it is important to understand what must stay with the property and what can be taken upon selling the home. Below are some of the most common household items that can lead to private property disagreements.
Two common household appliances that are often mistaken by buyers as inclusive are the washing machine and dryer. In Texas, these items are not conveyed and can be removed by the seller prior to listing the home on the market. The same goes for other appliances, such as the microwave (depending on whether it’s installed into or on top of the space) and refrigerator. However, a dishwasher is considered permanently conveyed. If you have questions about which appliances you may remove before selling your home, consult your REALTOR®.
Wall and ceiling décor
Drapes, rods, mirrors, hanging lights and wall sconces can raise questions to potential buyers who do not know what originally came with the house. Whether an item is conveyed in the asking price depends on how the décor is mounted. Some states consider a mirror hung by a nail to be removable, but a mirror screwed in by studs to be permanent. Even ceiling fans and your grandmother’s antique chandelier could be considered permanent unless you remove them and repair the ceiling before showing a buyer. In this case, you are required to restore the house to the original state, meaning that wires must not be visible.
Wood Flooring and Front Doors
You may be surprised, but some sellers have actually taken their expensive wood flooring or front door with them upon selling their home. This property is meant to convey as part of the house and cannot by any means be left vacant for buyers.
Television satellites, speakers and other technology often come into question when it’s time to sell. Satellites attached to the roof of the house and speakers attached to the walls are considered part of the house. They must be replaced or the house must be restored to its original state before it is put on the market. Also, placing a sign that says “Do Not Take” on an item is not legally binding. Instead, the item must be completely removed before a buyer walks through the house; otherwise the buyer has rights to own that property.
Interestingly enough, there have been disagreements over artificial fireplace logs, which are legally conveyed within the home. Unless otherwise noted in the contract, fireplace screens are also meant to convey as part of the fireplace regardless of whether they are fixed or free-standing.
Garage door openers and pool equipment
Garage door openers are the exception to the “permanently installed” rule because per real estate contracts all accessories that are part of “permanently installed” features are also conveyed. Pool accessories and maintenance equipment must also stay when the house is sold, because they are technically pieces of permanent property.
Outdoor property such as plants, shrubbery and non-removable barbeque pits are conveyed because they are part of the exterior of the house. Landscaping, no matter how much time and effort was put into it, is permanent with the house and cannot be packed into the moving van.
It is extremely important to let your REALTOR® know what you would prefer not convey to the property before you put up a “For Sale” sign. Work with experienced REALTOR® who can walk you through the house and ask questions to determine exactly how the house will be presented on the market. Your REALTOR® can then disclose in writing certain items that are not included with the sale of the house to avoid disagreements later.