Chattels and Fixtures

When Selling For Sale by Owner

A Brief Lesson About Chattels and Fixtures

Arguments about chattels and fixtures, can be one of the most aggravating problems that can arise at closing time between you the seller and a buyer, when selling for sale by owner.

Of course chattel problems also arise with those that choose to sell through a Realtor.

There is no need for you as the seller to have any glitches in this area, if you just follow some easy steps.

When I was a real estate agent, I made sure that for the most part, everything went smoothly with these chattels and fixtures debates.

Even if there was a problem, it was usually an easy fix as I covered any foreseeable issues in the offer I either wrote for the buyer, or countered for the seller.

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When I had my for sale by owner company, I explained in detail the chattels and fixtures problems with the sellers.

So what is the big deal about Chattels and Fixtures

OK, Lets set the scene.

It's 10:00 a.m. on a Friday morning and the buyer is taking their Final Walk-through the Property, before they sign the papers and take possession of your house that afternoon.

Everything is going smoothly until the buyer suddenly stops and with a puzzled look ask; "Where is the kitchen stove range hood?".

You explain that you bought the range and hood at the same time and they are a set. You explain to the buyer that the range hood belongs to you.

Wrong! Sorry, you lose. If the range hood is attached to the property by screws, it is a fixture not a chattel and becomes part of the property being purchased.

You could have saved yourself a lot of heartache and bad feelings by doing one of the following:

  • Replace the range hood with another one before any potential buyers viewed the property.

  • Put on the offer that the range hood, as viewed, was not included in the purchase price and you the seller would replace the range hood with one of the buyer's choice, at your expense, up to the amount of $XXX.

My personal choice would be to replace the range hood before the buyer was even aware it existed. I purposely used a range hood because, this used to be one of the most common areas of misunderstanding between a buyer and a seller.

Another common chattels and fixtures issue was a central vacuum system. Here is why; Are the attachments chattels or fixtures? Think about it. The attachments are part of the central vacuum but they most certainly are not attached to the property.For more information check out  Writing Agreement of Purchase and Sales Contracts

Here's the deal. Always write in the agreement of purchase and sale, exactly what is included and what isn't included.

A Visitor's Comment

I was on your FSBO site and it is very detailed and full of great information, and I was engrossed in it for the last three hours. I found the site to be very informative even though I am not a "for-sale-by-owner".

Chattels and Fixtures - Not all that hard to Define

So, when it comes to chattels and fixtures how do you decide?

Chattels: Any movable item which is neither land, nor permanently attached to the property, or any buildings.

I used to also explain to people that if something is removed and it leaves a hole which could include a hole in the ground or a screw hole in a wall, it is a fixture. Some examples of chattels would be;

A detached fridge and stove

A lawnmower

A big screen TV that is hung on a bracket attached to the wall. (The bracket would be considered a fixture, the TV a chattel. If however the TV was actually built into the wall and attached to said wall, it would actually be a fixture.

If you wanted to remove it.......that's right, put it on the agreement of purchase and sale. I have such great students. :)

A throw rug.

A mirror in the bathroom that was hung on a hook. The hook is a fixture, the mirror a chattel.

Fireplace utensils (If they are going to be left, write them in the offer).

Fixture: Attached to and forming part of the property. A simplistic explanation would be, the real property and anything attached by glue, nails, screws or other types of holding device. Some examples of fixtures would be;

A build-in oven or counter-top stove.

Wall to wall carpeting.

A build-in medicine cabinet.

Curtain rods and drapery hardware. (The actual curtains or draperies however, are not fixtures but actually chattels.

Chattels and Fixtures

Do it the Safe Way

Here is my suggestion when you are selling for sale by owner. Before you run your first ad, or have your first showing of your property;

  • Replace anything that you are going to take with you. This could include any light fixtures, or ceiling fans as an example.

  • Walk through your property inside and out and make a note of everything that could cause a misunderstanding between you and the buyer.

Write the item down and then make a note what is included and what goes with you. As an example you could write down:

Garage door remote openers (2) - Included

Central vacuum canister and all the attachments including the power brush - Included

All fireplace utensils - Not included

The door knocker on the front door saying Sam and Mary Smith - Not included.

The single rose bush at the southwest corner of the house (gift) - Not included. Yes a rose bush that is growing in the ground is a Fixture not a Chattel.

The door knocker has your name on it! Why would they want that? Well, guess what. The door knocker is a fixture, not a chattel and considered part of the property being purchased.

The rose bush? Nobody will even notice it's gone! Want to make a bet? Been there, done that and guess what?

Chattels and Fixtures

Don't Make a Mountain Out of a Mole Hill

You don't have to go all ballistic making sure that you write every little detail down. The only items you need to make note of are anything that may be in the "gray" areas.

Some of the most common ones that I'm familiar with have already been mentioned on this page.

Range hoods, central vacuum attachments, plants, name plates and door knockers, light fixtures, ceiling fans, mirrors, drapery and curtain rods.

The Unbelievable and Just Plain Silly

The items I'm about to mention may same silly to you, but these I've actually seen happen!

  • A seller removing every light bulb from their sockets in a house. Now, that's just MEAN!

  • A seller removing the downstairs toilet. (The seller had to return)

  • A seller removing all the carpet in the house (The carpet had been placed on the floor including under the baseboards, but had never been actually attached).

  • A seller removing many trees, shrubs etc. leaving big holes in the ground. (the seller had to bring back and replant every one)

There were other weird things but the idea here is to show you what can happen. Something like the above happening is extremely rare. Please don't ever do any of the above. It's tasteless and just plain nasty!

When it comes to Chattels and Fixtures

Play Nice and Everyone Will Feel Better

When it comes to the day of closing, here are a few nice thoughtful things you can do that will make the buyer feel happy and grateful to you.

  • Leave all warranties, manuals and paperwork for all items being sold with the property on the kitchen counter.

  • Leave a roll of toilet paper in each bathroom.

  • Leave a roll of paper towels on the kitchen counter.

  • Leave a note thanking the buyers and wishing them well in their new home.

  • A nice bouquet of flowers or a fruit bowel full of fruit on the kitchen counter is a nice touch. Just make sure if you choose fruit that the buyers are going to be taking immediate possession.

  • Mow the lawn or shovel the driveway.

  • In cold weather, don't turn the furnace down to 10C/50F and if extremely hot and you have air-conditioning, spend the extra nickel and make the new owners comfortable.

  • Write down your new address and phone number for the buyers. This will serve two purposes.

If the buyer receives any mail addressed to you, they have somewhere to forward that mail.

Remember: "do to others what you would like to be done to you". Good advice that has stood the test of time.

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