What's included in a sale?
Selling your home is right up there with death and divorce in the emotions department. So when you’re placing your property on the market, be very careful about what you intend to remove and even be more specific about what you intend to leave.
In the spirit of full disclosure the inspiration and some of the facts for this column came from a recent Wall Street Journal piece about unusual contingencies sellers and buyers are putting into contracts of sale. Not only are pieces of art and furniture being included as part of sales contracts, but actual live animals and pets that sellers cannot take with them are being included. Apparently the practice of asking for unusual contingencies in sales contracts is up about 25 percent over the past five years as reported in the journal.
According to a quick review of my real estate books the sale of property includes permanent fixtures that are attached. Typically this includes doors, light fixtures, kitchen cabinets, in ground pools and landscaping. It does not include personal items like furniture, decorative pieces and appliances.
There are, of course, items that are in the gray area and can be considered permanent by the buyer but not by the seller, which is why you need to work with your real estate professional to compile a list of anything that you plan on taking that may not be clear to a buyer. Likewise, buyers should ask specifically if an item that they feel should be included in the sale actually is included before signing a contract.
That being said, it does not mean that something that is typically considered a permanent attachment can’t be removed. An heirloom chandelier can certainly be excluded from the sale as long as it is replaced with some kind of light fixture; likewise a rare shrub can be dug up as long it is replaced.
On Anna Maria, homes and condos are frequently sold with all furniture, appliances, fully outfitted kitchens and beach equipment making the home pretty much turnkey. Again the terms of this kind of sale need to be specifically spelled out in the contract so there is no misunderstanding on closing day.
But what if you as a seller would like to leave something in the house that a potential buyer may not want? I once left a piano in a house since the basement room it was in was built around the piano. Our buyers were fine with us leaving it, but if they wanted it removed we were facing a messy and costly procedure that would have included dismantling walls.
But according to the Wall Street Journal, my piano was easy compared to some things sellers want to leave. How about four chickens or three llamas or a large dog the seller wasn’t able to take to his/her new apartment. And my absolute favorite were specific pieces of furniture that the seller swore were haunted and did not want removed so as not to disturb the ghosts who lived there.
Every time you think you heard it all you realize there’s always more. The bottom line when it comes to deciding what stays and what goes is to be as unambiguous as possible, and don’t forget that everything that has to do with a home sale has a large dose of emotion attached to it.
I may not be as crazy as the chicken sellers, but I did refuse to sell a family room leather chair to buyers of another one of our homes because it was the chair my dogs always sat in. As it turned out, I was right. The chair survived the dogs, and it became an emotional touchstone for me.