When buying a home, people typically make certain assumptions regarding the items in the house that are included with the property.
In the same vein, sellers make assumptions on what they will take with them. Of course, the seller’s sofa and dishware will go, but there are other items that are not as obvious. It’s imperative that this is all spelled out in the purchase contract. There is a default list in the contract and if this is not revised, then a seller could risk losing the chandelier that has been in the family for generations or a buyer could expect to find a center island in the kitchen only to learn that it was on wheels and not fixed, and was removed from the property. It’s best for buyers and sellers to be as thoughtful and comprehensive as possible about included and excluded items to avoid any dispute at the close of escrow. Otherwise, you could be in a lawsuit over a fountain in the driveway that the sellers wheeled away and the buyers thought was part of the purchase. (True story.)
What the Contract Says is Included & Excluded
Included items and excluded items are addressed in the Residential Purchase Agreement (RPA) in paragraphs 8B and 8C, respectively.
Paragraph 8B: Items Included In Sale
The included items are the typical fixtures that are installed or “fixed”, lending to the expectation that they will stay with the property: kitchen cabinets, bathroom sinks, lawn. There are other items included in this paragraph that are deeemed fixed that have been debated over whether they are fixtures or not including light fixtures, shutters, fountains, curtain rods, garage door openers, gas logs/grates, security systems/alarms. If a seller wants to keep any such items, he or she needs to state so explicity in paragraph 8B otherwise they are to stay with the property.
Paragraph 8C: Items Excluded From Sale
And alternatively, if a buyer wants to include anything that is personal property, he or she must list it in Paragraph B(3). Specificty is key. Identify the item, the make/model if applicable, color, the room it’s in, etc. There are easy to use checkboxes for items that are techincally personal property but are often included with the property, i.e. stoves, refrigerators, and washer/dryers.
Additional Items to Consider
In recent years another category has become more prevalent and has the potential to cause some friction between buyers and sellers if not clarified in the contract: home automation systems, i.e. security cameras and doorbells, electronics that automate lighting and air control. The “brain” of such systems has to remain with the property as well as the parts, but the controllers are only left behind if they are exclusively used for that purpose. For example, if your phone has an app that controls the automation, you do not leave your phone, but if a tablet is posted by the front door to manage the automations, then that tablet stays.
Like everything else in the purchase contract, the more explicit you are up front, the smoother the transaction will go. Leaving items up in the air to deal with while you are in escrow is never ideal and by that point you may longer have any leverage to get what you want.