From a legal standpoint, when equipment, decorations, or appliances become affixed or fastened to the real estate, it becomes a fixture and is supposed to be transferred as part of the sale, unless there is an agreement providing otherwise. What are some of the factors determining whether something is a fixture?
Method of attachment. Is the item permanently affixed to the wall, ceiling or flooring by using nails, glue, cement, pipes, or screws? Even if you can easily remove it, the method used to attach it might make it a fixture. Examples include built-in surround sound wiring, lighting fixtures, built-in speakers into the wall, custom built-in cabinetry.
Adaptability. If the item becomes an integral part of the home, it cannot be removed. For example, a floating laminate floor is a fixture, even though it is snapped together. Built-in appliances are properly considered fixtures, especially custom items. That includes your Sub Zero refrigerator and Viking Range/Oven specially selected for a gourmet kitchen. Free standing appliances, however, are generally not considered fixtures.
There are, of course, plenty of gray areas with fixtures. Wall mounted flat screen TV’s, surround sound speaker systems, electronic dog fences and collars, and decorative mirrors are a few coming to mind. These gray areas are the cause of most disputes surrounding fixtures.
Disclose All Exclusions/Inclusions in Listing
The opportunity to address fixtures, inclusions and exclusions starts when the home is listed. Agents should identify all potential fixture issues ahead of time, and disclose them on MLS either as included or excluded in the sale. If the sellers want to take their new Bosch dishwasher with them to their new home, they had better disclose it ahead of time so the buyer knows ahead of time.
If items are left unaddressed in the agreements, you’ll have a situation similar to mine with the removal of surround sound speakers and a stressful walk-through.
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