You arrive at the home and discover that the bookcases in the great room, the microwave in the kitchen and the gas grill are not there. What happened?
To answer this all-too-common issue, you need to be aware of what is personal and what is real property. There is a difference.
Real property is permanently affixed to the home and designed that way. Personal property, on the other hand can be easily removed by simply unplugging the item and unscrewing the water line to the ice maker on the refrigerator.
Items considered personal property are not generally included in the sale while real property is.
Let’s look at the following items and identify which is personal and which is real property
Real Personal Real Personal
The top grill is likely personal property as demonstrated by the wheels which imply that it can be easily moved as well as its’ connection to a portable propane tank.
If, however, this grill is permanently connected to a gas line which was installed by a plumber, it would be considered real property which would remain with the home.
The bottom grill is likely real property as it is in the ground and does not contain any reasonable ability to move. Having a portable gas supply would not alter the real property status of the grill as it’s intent was to be a permanent installation as evidenced by the attachment to the ground.
Clarify, in writing, that this grill is or is not included in the sale which should be stated in the purchase agreement.
How About These Microwaves?
Real Personal Real Personal
The top microwave is likely personal property as it sits on the countertop and is movable and is powered by a standard wall outlet.
The microwave at the bottom could be either real or personal property. It appears to be permanently installed making it real property which would convey with the home.
However, be cautious if there is trim at the bottom of the unit. If this is the case, it may be part of the cabinetry designed to accommodate a standard microwave powered by a standard 110-volt outlet, making it personal property.
In the case of the bottom microwave, clarify, in writing, that this wall unit is or is not included in the sale and should be stated in the purchase agreement.
Is this Flat Screen Personal or Real Property?
What About the Sound Bar?
If the flat screen is “hard wired” into the wall and is permanently attached to the mounting bracket, the wide screen would be considered real property and would have to remain.
If the TV is secured to the bracket by a designed attachment from the wide screen and is plugged into a standard wall, the flat screen would be considered personal property which would not remain when the property closes.
The same would hold true for the sound bar
From this photo, it appears that the television and sound bar are costumed wired to each other making both items real property that would remain with the home.
It is essential that there is a clear written understanding as to whether the widescreen and sound bar are included with the sale of the home. This is one of the newest area of disputes between buyers and sellers as to who has the right of possession.
Is this Mounting Bracket Personal or Real Property?
Since the bracket is mounted to the wall, it is real property and would remain after closing. It is not uncommon for a buyer to request the removal of the bracket and wiring as well as related repairs.
Having a clear written understanding as to who is responsible for this work is essential. Better yet, if practicable, remove the bracket and make repairs before placing the home on the market.
Is this Wall Unit Personal Property?
Can it be easily removed without any damage to the wall?
If it can, it is personal property as it is not attached to the wall assuming that the flat screen TV can be easily moved. If not, this could represent a "gray" area, so put the possession agreement in writing.
Is it bolted or otherwise mounted to the wall?
If it is mounted to the wall, this Wall Unit is considered part of the home and is real property
Clarify, in writing, that this wall unit is or is not included in the sale and should be stated in the purchase agreement.
Some other thoughts
In all my Best Guidance comments, I have stated that all agreements be reduced to writing. In most states and provinces, under what is known as the Statute of Frauds, all agreements related to real estate must be in writing to be enforceable in a court of law. Even if you can produce 5 people that witnessed the agreement to include the "refrigerator", a court would not be able to enforce this valid and legal agreement because it was not in writing.
Relating to the included refrigerator, lawn mower, etc., you need to clearly identify these and other included personal property by specifying the make, model and serial number for each personal item that conveys with the home.
One of my earliest career “lessons” involved an agreement stating that “the lawn mower in the tool shed would be included in the sale of the home”. The one that was visible was a 1-year-old, 48” zero radius lawn mower. Allegedly, a second mower, a 12-year-old, 22” push type unit, was also in the shed, but was covered. Since details of the lawn mower were not reduced to writing, the seller got away with this unethical substitution. So don’t forget the details..
When it comes to included security systems and water softeners, verify that the seller actually owns this and similar equipment and is free of any contractual monitoring, maintenance and other obligations. It is common practice for these suppliers to require a 5-year monitoring and/or maintenance contract in exchange for the installed systems. So, protect yourself and verify that you are not obligated or bound by such contracts.
Last, but not least, drapes, curtains, plantation shutters and blinds. Drapes and curtains are easily removable and are generally considered personal property. If you must have these, then specify this when making an offer and make sure it is included in the purchase agreement.
Blinds and plantation shutters are intended to be permanent and are usually custom made for the home. The same goes for shades, whether standard or custom. Therefore, these items are considered real property that remains after closing.
Many state approved purchase contracts have stipulations incorporated in their purchase contract regarding these items. If not, especially with plantation shutters, blinds and custom shades, which can be very pricey, specify whether these are included in the sale.
Being diligent and precise regarding what’s included in the sale and what is not, will save you a lot of stress and frustration.