By Erik J. Martin, CTW Features
They say you can’t take it with you when you go. That’s certainly the case when you pass on from this mortal coil, but it’s also true of many things within your home for sale. Because the fact is, while your personal belongings are portable and owned by you, there are plenty of items that are intrinsically part of and fundamental to your listed property that must remain behind.
“Understanding what items you can take with you and what you must leave at the home is essential to prevent disputes or possible legal implications after the sale,” explains Philadelphia attorney Min Hwan Ahn. “Remember that a home isn’t just a structure or building – it comes with a host of other attachments that the buyer might presume are part of the deal, including major appliances. Leaving or taking the wrong items can lead to a breach of contract or even litigation.”
The general rule of thumb that Realtors, lawyers and other seller advocates will tell you is that, if it isn’t nailed or screwed down, you can likely take it with you. Everything else typically “conveys,” which means it is legally transferred to the next owner based on the terms of the sales transaction.
“The legal rules are based around the concept of a ‘fixture,’ which is anything permanently attached to the property. Generally, fixtures must stay, including major appliances like a stove, oven, or dishwasher,” Ahn adds. “An item becomes a fixture if it is affixed in a manner that presumes it was intended to be permanent, such as a built-in bookcase. If there is doubt, it’s best to talk openly about this with your agent and specify clearly in the purchase agreement or sales contract what you would like to take with you when you move.”
Josh Hudson, a licensed real estate agent in Virginia, agrees.
“If you don’t want a specific part of your property or even personal property to convey, such as your refrigerator or even that ugly chandelier your grandmother gave you, this should be communicated in writing in your sales contract,” he says.
Window treatments (including blinds, curtains and shades), light fixtures, and built-in security systems typically remain with the property, as they are considered to be fixtures.
“If it’s a floor lamp that is movable, then yes, you can take it with you,” says Peter Kim, CEO of Odigo Realty in Lynnwood, Washington. “When it comes to curtains, you could technically take them, but you cannot remove the rods that hold the curtains, as they are fixed to your home.”
Carpets cannot be hauled away to your next home, but loose rugs are fair game. Plants and flowers are generally safe to put in the moving van, too.
“If you have a swimming pool that is attached to the ground, you cannot take it. Any spa equipment that can be removed without unscrewing or unhooking nails can be taken with, too,” notes Kim.
All loose furniture, artwork, wall hangings and portable decor that isn’t permanently fixed to your home is yours to keep as well, although many sellers attempt to get the buyer to purchase some of their furnishings and adornments to cut down on moving costs or hassles.
TV antennas and satellite dishes usually remain with the home unless outlined in the contract, as does the mailbox.
Don’t try to pull a fast one on the next owner by sneaking something out that they expect to use.
“Remember that a final walk-through by the buyer will occur on the day of closing or the day before. During this inspection, the buyer will verify that the property is in good condition and that all the agreed-upon repairs are completed, as well as any fixtures or appliances are present and in working order,” Hudson explains.