Fixture Vs Personal Property

What is considered a fixture of the home -- which stays after the sale -- and what is personal property for the seller to take? This often causes a lot of confusion for sellers and buyers alike. It is important to know what will be included in your purchase, especially if you have limited funds once the deal is done and cannot afford to run out and buy new draperies.

Hopefully this clears up this often confusing issue.

What Stays in the Home

The items that stay in the home are legally referred to as fixtures, and this includes anything that is permanently attached to the property. It also includes anything that would ruin or disfigure the lawn, walls, porch, fencing, etc. if removed. Examples of fixtures of the home include:

  • Built-in appliances (such as a dishwasher)
  • Light fixtures
  • Ceiling fans
  • Flowerbeds and landscaping
  • Plantation shutters
  • Built-in bookshelves
Fixture Vs Personal Property
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What Goes with the Seller

What goes with the seller is known as personal property, and it includes anything that can be easily disconnected or detached from the home. Never assume you will keep any personal property in the sale, but if something catches your eye, you can certainly try to reach an agreement with the seller and get it in the purchase agreement. Examples of personal property include:

  • Free-standing appliances (such as a microwave)
  • Furniture
  • Fountains
  • Potted plants

Gray Areas

While some items are clear cut, there tends to be a lot of confusion about certain types
of items and some may blur the line between personal property and fixtures. Here are some examples.


Window treatments

Window treatments, such as curtain rods, shades and blinds, are traditionally
viewed as fixtures. Some items, such as curtains or valances, which slip off the rods easily, may be considered personal property by some. To clear up any confusion, make sure you find out from the seller before making an assumption.

Accessories

Examples of accessories include pool and spa chemicals and fireplace
tools which, while necessary to clean and maintain fixtures are considered personal property. On the other hand, a wall-mounted cue stick holder is a fixture, while the pool table it goes with is personal property. Conflicts can arise when both the buyer and seller want accessories that are hard to replace or part of a set.

Buying Process Services

Conversion

What happens if personal property gets converted into a fixture?

Appliances

Most appliances that simply need to be unplugged are considered personal property. Others that require a water filtration hookup or a gas line hookup may be considered a fixture, however.

How to Determine Personal Property from Fixtures

In California, courts use the following tests to determine what is a fixture and
what is personal property, and an item does not need to meet every test. This method is called MARIA.


  • Method of attachment.
    Is the item permanently attached to the flooring, ceiling or walls with screws, nails, cement, etc.? Even if it is easy to remove, the method of attachment can make it a fixture.
  • Adaptability.
    If the item is an integral part of the home, it should not be removed. A good example of this is a floating laminate floor. While it is only snapped together, it is a fixture.
  • Relationship of the parties.
    In a dispute between a seller and a buyer, the buyer is most likely to win.
  • Intention of party when item was attached.
    When the item was installed, if the intention was to make it a permanent attachment, it is a fixture.
  • Agreement between parties.
    Your purchase agreement will most likely have a clause defining items that are included in the sale, stating "All existing fixtures and fittings that are attached to the property."
Determine Personal Property from Fixtures

When in Doubt... Ask

The most important thing to remember is you can always clear up confusion early on by asking your agent if a particular item will stay or go. While the agent may not know, he or she can ask the seller's agent and specify your interest in the purchase agreement.

If there are items you want included with the home, be specific in the purchase agreement, including models, makes and even colors in some cases. Including these specific details will avoid a bait-and-switch or showing up when you get the keys to find something missing.

Are you ready to save THOUSANDS when selling your home?