One of the elements of a Real Estate transaction that I find myself spending time negotiating more and more these days are chattels and fixtures.
With flat panel TVs being mounted on walls and stainless steel appliances being strategically used to stage homes, buyers are including more and more chattels in their offers.
Chattels are items of movable or transferable property, unlike land and buildings that are fixed and immovable. If the items are neither land, nor permanently attached to land or a building, they are, by definition, chattels. (The word chattel dates back to feudal times when cattle were the most valuable item of property - except for land.)
A fixture is a piece of equipment which has been attached to real estate in such a way as to become part of the premises, and its removal would do harm to the building or land.
Using these definitions, a mirror that is hanging on a hook is a chattel and can be removed by the seller.
The same mirror becomes a fixture if it is permanently attached or mounted to a wall in the house.
Fridge, stove, microwave, toaster etc. are all chattels. If you're viewing a home, make sure to take a look at these items. You may want them and if you do, your agent should specifically list them in the Chattels Included section of your offer.
Built-in dishwasher, exhaust fan, faucet and hardware are all fixtures. They're expected to stay unless the seller has specifically listed them in the Fixtures Excluded section of the offer.
So it's safe to assume that if a fixture is not listed as an exclusion, then it's automatically included with the property. Let me explain why that may not always be the case.
As mentioned earlier we have all been seeing a lot of wall mount TVs lately. My wife and I have recently made the move to an LCD and purchased a wall mount bracket to hang it on.
Lets say my home were for sale, some buyers came through, loved it and we accepted an offer. They're very excited about having my LCD all ready for them when they move in. These buyers have never owned a flat panel TV or mounting bracket and have no idea how they're hung. All they know is that if an item is permanently attached to the home, it's assumed to be included. Looking at the TV, it sure does appear to be permanently attached.
Technically, my wall mount is attached to the home and considered a fixture. My TV is attached to 2 simple hooks that hang from the mounting bracket, thus making it a chattel. Very similar to the example used earlier about the mirror. Both items appear to be fixtures but the TV is not.
We can only imagine the day the buyers move in and see my TV is gone but the bracket is still there. They're on the horn with their lawyer and the legal fees for both parties start to rack up quickly.
I'm sure after a lengthy explanation, a few photographs and probably a lot of added stress, the buyer's would realize that the TV was not included and the deal would close anyway.
As a seller I'm left with a larger legal bill and an upset buyer. The buyer's left with having to go out an buy their own TV they thought they had already bought with the house.
The point is that if you want something, include it. If you're not sure, include it. If there's any doubt, include it. The inclusion portion of the offer is there for a reason. It may sound funny to put a storage shed, central air or even a garage door opener as inclusions, but full disclosure for both parties will ensure everyone knows what stays and what goes.
The end result should be a smooth transaction where both buyer and seller get what they expect.