What Comes With the House? Negotiating ‘Fixtures’
By John Voket
After receiving a piece of furniture as a last-minute gift from a friend who was selling and moving, the buyer became upset assuming they would inherit the item even though it had not been agreed upon.
Something that should be assumed to come with the house is known as a ‘fixture.’ But what counts as a fixture is the basis for many real estate disputes, according to Elizabeth Weintraub at thealance.com – even when that feature or fixture is outside the building.
Generally speaking, she says, a fixture is not required to exist inside the house. Landscaping, or any type of plant with roots firmly ensconced in the ground, is considered a fixture, Weintraub says.
Connecticut REALTOR® Kathy Hamilton says determining what will stay with the home and what will go with the previous owner will vary by seller and contract. She first suggests checking the listing, however, because a seller may have already specified any such items included in their asking price.
When it comes to any questions about which items will stay, Hamilton advises both sellers and buyers to know the “screwdriver rule.”
For the most part, she says, if it takes a screwdriver to remove, it’s considered part of the home – this includes shelves, light fixtures and even curtain rods. But, if it’s hung on a nail, or is a piece of movable furniture – even a grand piano – it’s likely not included in the sale.
Devon Thorsby at U.S. News & World Report says states have different standards regarding what things are included in a home sale, but light fixtures and major appliances are typically included unless otherwise noted in the contract.
One luxury property specialist she spoke with in Fort Lauderdale on the subject said, as a rule, a fixture is something that’s bolted down – if it’s not, you can take it.
Thorsby reminds buyers that the negotiation also works the opposite way. If you don’t want the seller’s old washer and dryer, you may be able to stipulate they remove the appliances in your contract.