When Real Property Gets Personal
A common question when house hunting is “does this come with house?” While I agree that it would be awesome if the bright red sports car in the garage came with it, unfortunately it does not. So what does come with it? What doesn’t come with it?
Only the real property will convey in the sale unless specific personal property is included in the contract. Real Property and personal property are very different things but are easily confused. Real property is the land, house, garage—anything that is permanently attached to the property. Personal property is all the “stuff” on the property, such as furniture, clothes, artwork, etc. Usually, personal property does not come with the house. However, sometimes it does; and to make it seem even more confusing—personal property can become real property too.
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!). Refrigerators are a great example. Fridges are personal property (as are washers and dryers) and they do not come with the house unless it is specifically written into the contract. The takeaway—if it is not bolted or nailed into the house, it may not stay. Always check with your REALTOR® when in doubt, don’t just assume it will come with the house.
Contract language spells out in detail what is considered real property. Real property doesn’t only include the land and buildings themselves, but also fixtures of the property. Many items are automatically included (an exception if they are explicitly excluded) in Texas Real Estate Commission’s One to Four Family Residential Contract (Resale) form, such as: stoves, HVAC units, chandeliers, garage door openers and mailboxes. There are many other things that are included, but you get the gist—the contract is specific and lengthy. While this may seem like a ridiculously obvious list, there is a reason (or possibly a past lawsuit—eek!) why it is included in the REALTOR® standardized forms. A purchase contract should list it all. What may seem like a “DUH!” to you may be an item of dispute to another.
The key takeaway here is if it is attached to the house, it goes with the house. For example, if there is a pile of loose stone pavers on the property, they are not included in the sale. If, however, those pavers are in the ground to create a sidewalk, they become a fixture of the property and are included. If there is a new faucet in a box in the garage, it is not included; but once that faucet is installed, it stays with the house. If there is a flat screen TV on the wall—the wall mount itself is included, but the TV is not! Landscaping that is in the ground (unless it’s a crop) is included, but if it’s a potted plant, the pot moves with the sellers. If you aren’t sure if it stays, consult a professional—do not assume either way because it will not end pretty.
Everything that is included with the sale should always be in writing so that all everyone can refer to the contract if there is any confusion. There is sometimes a fine line between real and personal property and moving day is not a good day to find out that something that you fell in love with wasn’t even included. Your best advocate is your Realtor®, who can guide you through it all. Shopping for a house is not an open invitation to “shop” from someone’s stuff, but there are circumstances when it is necessary. My best advice is when buying real estate is to remember that you are buying the real property, not the “stuff.” If personal property is involved—always, always, always make sure everyone is literally signing on the same page.
Lisa E. Priest really loves real property and is a Texas Real Estate Broker/REALTOR® with Picket Fence Realty, Inc. You can reach her via phone or text at 903-948-3343 or read more at BuyPalestine.com.
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