Disputes often arise in home sales when buyers and sellers go into a deal with different understandings about what property will be included in the sale. While the law provides some guidelines, it isn’t always clear and there’s no guarantee that the other side will be aware of it or follow it. The best course of action is to include each specific item you care about in writing — anything can be bought or sold even if it might not legally be part of the home purchase to begin with. Below are the general practices with regard to various items to use as a starting point in negotiations.
Generally, the rule is that permanently attached appliances stay and freestanding appliances go. Permanently attached means built into the home such as a range, cabinet-mounted microwave, or dishwasher. Freestanding items include refrigerators, washers, and dryers no matter how conveniently they fit into a space specially designed for that type of appliance. If you are impressed by a home with high-quality appliances, be sure that they are specifically included to avoid them being switched with cheaper appliances. On the other hand, if you want something out, have that included to avoid the time and expense of having to dispose of it yourself.
Air Conditioning and Heating Systems
Air conditioning and heating systems follow the general rule of other appliances. Permanently installed central or ductless systems stay with the house, but window-mounted units go. In addition to the usual precautions with appliances, be sure to determine the age of the system. Older systems may need to be replaced or need new ductwork that can be very expensive. Newer systems may still be under a transferrable warranty that may cover repairs for years.
Lights and Ceiling Fans
What is and isn’t permanently attached becomes a grayer area with lights and ceiling fans. They may be attached overhead, but they can and often are quickly removed. This is especially true of chandeliers, other decorative lighting, or top-of-the-line ceiling fans. While they probably should be included along with the light bulbs inside, be sure to include them in the contract to avoid unpleasant surprises.
Window coverings usually seem like they should be included, at least to buyers, because they are almost always custom-fitted to that home’s windows. However, blinds, curtains, and curtain rods are commonly removed by sellers. Curtains might be reasonably removed because they can often fit various sized windows and are bought to match the furniture. The removal of curtain rods or blinds, however, leaves empty holes in the wall, so they are more commonly included.
Decorations and Furniture
Decorations and furniture are almost never included no matter how well they might fit the space. This includes mirrors, bookshelves, and mounted art. If a buyer sees an item that they think just makes the room, they can always ask the seller. The seller might want to leave it because it is hard to move or won’t fit their new home, or might be willing to part with it for a price.
Traditionally, electronics were never included in a home sale unless specifically added as a bargaining chip. With wall-mounted TVs, built-in stereo systems, and more complex home entertainment systems becoming more common, buyers have increasingly argued that they should have been left when the seller took them. Electronics might be bargained for, but they should never be assumed to be automatically included in the contract.
Homes with large yards often have play equipment, above-ground pools, sheds, dog houses, or other structures that aren’t part of the home. The fact that they are usually prefabricated and dropped off with a truck often makes them seem like they are removable no matter how well they are attached into the ground. In some cases, a buyer might want an item removed while the seller was planning to leave it behind. These items are usually large enough that whether they will remain should be included in the listing, but never make any assumptions if the listing doesn’t explicitly say yes or no.