What are chattels and fixtures? Do they stay or do they go?

(May 16, 2016 , posted in Real Estate FAQ)

When you're selling your home, or buying someone else's home, the issue of what stays and what goes can become a problem at closing if not dealt with well at the time of offer and acceptance. What appliances are included in the sale price? The flooring stays right? But not the area rugs? I thought the window air-conditioner units are fixtures! 
fixture, as a legal concept, means any physical property that is permanently attached (fixed) to real property (usually land) Property not affixed to real property is considered chattel property. Fixtures are treated as a part of real property.....

The best question to live by when looking at selling your home is "What items and fixtures would I really be upset about if we didn't have with us when moving out? Take some time, make a list. You may be surprised what is actually important to you, your spouse, your teenage kids, and what may not be! If you have an antique mirror that hangs in your bathroom, and you love it, consider removing it from the wall before listing and showing your home. Otherwise, make sure your agent writes the mirror into your offer as an 'excluded item'. Some tougher negotiations will include/exclude chattels instead of money, as the deal gets closer to getting done. Your appliances may be worth hundreds, and maybe thousands of dollars.

The same goes for buyers: "What about this property would surprise and disappoint me if it wasn't there when we move in?" Sometimes sellers take a garden shed to their next home, a swing-set in the back yard. If you're buying a home with a pool, have you included the pool vacuum, diving board, toys, etc?  Buyers have arrived at their new home to find old appliances where new ones used to stand (the brand/details were not specified in the offer). Window coverings are always good to ask for, even if you don't like them. It may take you a few weeks to find what you really want, and the older coverings will keep your privacy in the meanwhile.

I had a client who's father, when moving, would remove all light bulbs from a house on closing day, because "they aren't fixtures". This isn't illegal, but it is obnoxious, and may cause unnecessary fights. I counsel clients to treat others the way they would want to be treated, and not be petty. If the important things are properly mentioned in the contract, problems are avoided. Be specific, because once it's gone, it's very difficult to get something back.

On that same note, you can include virtually anything in an offer to purchase. Make note of the excluded items in the listing(usually excluded for a reason), avoid asking for them, and then look at what else you may include.  Do you like the floor lamps in the living room? Include them in the offer.  Is there firewood, cut and piled on the property? Write the firewood into the offer! Otherwise it may end up being sold or given away by the seller. Is there a shed or gazebo in the back yard? Make sure it is included in your offer. Back-up generators, solar panels, rain barrels, garage-door openers... ask your realtor about including these in the initial offer, or wait for an appropriate time in the negotiation to add or subtract items for your advantage.

If you have any questions about this, don't hesitate to email me at dave@davemcmurray.ca