Keepin’ It Real: Does that Come with the House?
It’s a common question when house hunting—what stays with the house? The answer: only the real property unless personal property is included. Real Property and personal property are two very different things but can also be easily confused. Real property is the land, house, garage—anything that is permanently attached to the land itself. Personal property is, generally speaking, the stuff that is inside the house that can be easily moved (furniture, clothes, artwork, etc.) Usually, personal property does not come with the house. However, sometimes it does; and to add an element of mass confusion to the mix, personal property can become real property too.
So…what items are definitely Real Property fixtures?! Many items, in addition to the house and garage (duh!), are automatically included (unless explicitly excluded) in Texas Real Estate Commission’s One to Four Family Residential Contract (Resale) form. The contract says: “including without limitation, the following permanently installed and built-in items, if any: all equipment and appliances, valances, screens, shutters, awnings, wall-to-wall carpeting, mirrors, ceiling fans, attic fans, mail boxes, television antennas, mounts and brackets for televisions and speakers, heating and air-conditioning units, security and fire detection equipment, wiring, plumbing and lighting fixtures, chandeliers, water softener system, kitchen equipment, garage door openers, cleaning equipment, shrubbery, landscaping, outdoor cooking equipment, and all other property owned by Seller and attached to the above described real property.”
BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE! The TREC contract also includes: “The following described related accessories, if any: window air conditioning units, stove, fireplace screens, curtains and rods, blinds, window shades, draperies and rods, door keys, mailbox keys, above ground pool, swimming pool equipment and maintenance accessories, artificial fireplace logs, and controls for: (i) garage doors, (ii) entry gates, and (iii) other improvements and accessories.”
While this may seem like an exhaustive yet obvious list, there is a reason (or a lawsuit, yikes!) that it is included in the standardized forms. A purchase contract should list it all, whether it seems obvious or not. What may seem like a “DUH!” to you may be an item of dispute to another.
Personal property items are not included unless expressly agreed upon in writing by both parties. There are two options for including personal property with a sale: a contract addendum or a bill of sale. Everything in a home purchase is negotiable, yes, even personal property (but please don’t ask for Fido or Fluffy to be included with the sale!). Although commonly thought to be included, a refrigerator is not—it is personal property. I’ll leave the debate of it being “easily” moveable to you, but it is not permanently attached and therefore does not come with the house unless explicitly listed in the contract.
The key takeaway from this is permanently installed and attached to the property. So…what makes it permanently installed or a built-in? For example, if there is a pile of loose bricks in the backyard, they are not included in the sale. However, if those bricks are used to create a sidewalk, they become a fixture of the property and are included. If there is a chandelier in a box in the garage, it is not included; but once that chandelier is installed, it stays with the house. What about a flat screen TV mounted above the fireplace? The TV wall mount is included but the TV is not! Landscaping that is in the ground (unless it’s a crop, but that’s another story) is included—if its in a pot on the porch, it does not stay with the house. If you have questions on what stays and what goes, always consult a professional—do not assume!
Everything that is included with the sale should always be in writing so that all parties can refer back to the contract if there are any questions. You can see that the lines between Real and personal property are easily blurred. Your best advocate is your Realtor®, who can guide you through the common ins and outs of what does and doesn’t stay with the house. Shopping for a house is not an open invitation to “shop” from someone’s possessions (especially when taken to an extreme), but there are certain circumstances when it is advisable. My best advice is to “keep it real” when purchasing real estate, keep your eyes on the prize—the property, not the personal property.
Lisa E. Priest loves the smell of a contract in the morning and is a Texas REALTOR® with Picket Fence Realty, Inc. You can reach her via phone or text at 903-948-3343 or read more at BuyPalestine.com.