How to determine if an object in a home is a fixture or personal property.
Who gets to keep the appliances, drapes, or the $10,000 water feature in the front yard when buying or selling a home? Unfortunately, buyers and sellers don’t always agree about what stays and what goes during move-out. It’s a familiar story that happens more often than you think.
Here’s a good real estate tip and rule of thumb so you have more clarity during the buying or selling process: Legally, anything bolted, nailed, wired, cemented, or permanently glued to the property becomes a fixture – and fixtures stay behind when the seller leaves. Let me give you a few examples of how this plays out during a sale…
A washing machine is considered personal property because it can easily be unplumbed and unplugged, so the sellers are entitled to take it with them. Likewise, while less mobile, a stove or refrigerator can still technically be moved, so the seller has a right to take it with them. This is why most contracts specifically include ovens, stoves, and refrigerators.
2. Window Dressings
Drapes can easily be unhooked, so they remain the seller’s personal property. The drapery rods and cornices are bolted to the wall, so they must be left behind. However, most drapes are purchased to fit the home’s design and rarely look good in the seller’s new home – which is why most sellers leave their drapes behind, even though they’re entitled to take them.
A rug laying on the floor will go with the seller, but any flooring that is tacked, nailed, fitted, or glued down, stays.
4. Hardware + Fixtures
Generally, all doorknobs, mailboxes, light switches, hardware, mirrors, swag lights, and water features transfer to the new owner. If there is something specific you absolutely can’t leave behind in the move, consider replacing it before placing your home on the market. There are a few exceptions to this rule, so speak with a good real estate agent before you write your contract.
Technically, mounted TVs aren’t fixed to the home. They’re fixed to the mount, which is fixed to the home. So the general rule of thumb is that the TV goes, and the mount stays.
Never assume anything you see on the property comes with the house. If you’re unsure, speak to your agent for clarity and always have them write everything you want into the contract because everything is negotiable!
In real estate, San Diego Realtors often use the MARIA method to determine if something in a home is a fixture or personal property. The M stands for method of attachment i.e. is it screwed down or built in? The A is for adaptability. The object may be technically, easily moveable, but is considered a fixture, like an island on wheels that matches the rest of the cabinets. The R is for the relationship of the parties i.e. buyer or seller. The I indicates the intention. Did the seller intend for the object to become a permanent fixture. Lastly, A stands for agreement. If there is any question about what stays and what does, always refer back to the purchase agreement.
Again, always ask your agent to verify if something stays or goes. If you want the seller to include something in the sale, you ask for it in the purchase agreement.
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