Be Safe - Be Sure - Be Relaxed
Is it a chattel, or a fixture? One of the most aggravating problems that can arise at closing time is the interpretation by buyers and sellers of which is which.
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 this chattel problem.
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.
When I had my for sale by owner company, I explained in detail the chattel and fixture problem with the sellers.
By the way, some people spell it chattle, but chattel is the correct spelling as far as I know.:)
So, What's the Big Deal?
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:
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 was one of the
most common areas of misunderstanding between a buyer and a seller.
Another common chattel vs. fixture was a central vacuum system. Here is
Are the attachments a chattel 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 concerning 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.
Not that Hard to Determine
So, what is a chattel and how do you decide.
A chattel is 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 a chattel would be;
A detached fridge and stove
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: A fixture is just that. 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
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 a chattel).
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;
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?
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!
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!
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.
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.
For More Information about Offers and Clauses
This website is written and maintained
by Douglas F. Cameron
An Unsolicited Testimony
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".