No new homeowner expects to walk into their new home and feel as though they’ve been robbed. But it happens. Buyers assume that what they saw in the home they purchased will still be there when they move in, with the exception, of course, of furnishings. You expected the seller to take their sofa, dining set, and dresser, but you never imagined they’d remove light covers, roll up carpets, and replace doorknobs before you got there. That’s why it’s imperative for you to understand, before you purchase, what comes with the house you buy.
You may fully understand that you’re not buying personal items from the seller such as artwork, rugs, picture frames, collectibles, or other items you know are personal. However, there are many items that look like they belong in the home that you may be surprised to learn are personal property.
Imagine that you’ve walked into the bathroom of a home and noticed immediately the unique faucet. The faucet catches your attention because it’s motion activated and hands free, elegantly designed, and seems to match the bathroom perfectly. But when you take ownership of the home, that the amazing faucet is gone and a standard silver-plated faucet is in its place. That faucet was the personal property of the seller. The seller bought and installed that faucet to match his or her own taste and never intended to leave it behind when they moved.
So how do you know what comes with the house?
Fixtures and Fittings
The first step to recognizing what stays with the home and what goes is to understand the difference between fixtures and fittings.
Fittings are items that can be removed easily from the property without the use of tools other than a screwdriver. This not only applies to furnishings, but also to things such as fancy doorknobs, curtain rods, cabinet handles, drawer pulls, and even the decorative light switch covers. In fact, even the flooring can be legally removed by the seller if its not tacked down to the floor. Fittings include above ground swimming pools, hot tubs, wood-burning stoves, kitchen appliances, or any other item the seller added after he or she purchased the house.
Fixtures are items that are permanently or completely attached to the structure. Fixtures include water heaters, furnaces, air conditioners, fireplaces, built in shelving, or items that are standard inclusions for the home’s basic operations. Other fixtures include electrical wiring, lighting (with the exception of bulbs and covers), plumbing such as bathtubs, toilets, and sinks. But even with fixtures you have to be specific. If the seller upgraded his white porcelain toilet to a black toilet and you love that black toilet, the seller has the right to remove the black toilet, replace the white toilet, and take the black toilet with him when he moves.
Items like television wall mounts are also considered fittings, or personal property. Even though they’re substantially attached to the wall, it’s an item the owner purchased and installed, and therefore has the right to remove. The same is true with television antennas or satellite dishes.
If you’re unsure if an item is a fixture or a fitting, ask. Ask the owner, ask your agent, or ask your seller’s agent. If the item is not included, you may be able to purchase that item separately from the house, if the seller is willing to part with it.
Using the faucet for example. You’d want to specifically ask the seller, “Does this faucet come with the house?” If the seller says no, you can follow that up by asking, “Is the faucet available for purchase?”
Get it in Writing
As much as you’d love to take the seller at their word, to trust they’ve got the best intentions, to believe they’d not take advantage, it’s best to get the details in writing. You should be provided with an inventory list well before the closing date. Pay particular attention to this list. Make sure any item listed is listed with details such as colors, brand names, model numbers, or other identifying factors.
If the seller agrees to sell you an item, make sure that item is documented with identifying features and a sales price.
Did You Know You Were Buying an HOA?
Some houses are in communities governed by homeowners’ associations. HOAs have certain benefits, such as protecting the integrity of the neighborhood with a set of bylaws, rules, and regulations. However, those rules and regulations can turn out to be more of a curse than a blessing, and the protection of the HOA comes at a price. Ask if the home you’re buying is part of an HOA. If so, ask for a copy of the bylaws to review before you commit, and understand what the fees are after you move in.
There may not be a warranty on the house you buy. In fact, if the seller, the seller’s agent, and your agent haven’t mentioned it, then you can bet you’re not protected from major dysfunctions with the property or structure during your first year after move in. This is another situation where it’s a good idea to ask. Ask specifically if the home has a warranty. If not, ask if the owner would consider supplying a home warranty.
What Else You Get with the House You Buy
As the buyer, you also probably get the responsibility of paying for the closing costs on the property, which could end up being thousands of dollars out of pocket at the close of the transaction. This, too, however, is negotiable. You have the right to ask the seller to pay or share the responsibility of paying the closing costs.
Remember, when you buy the house, you also have to buy homeowner’s insurance, and pay property taxes. Make sure you figure those items in to your monthly budget before you commit.
It’s fair to say that most sellers are transparent. The majority of people aren’t going to try to manipulate your perception. But it’ also fair to say that there may be a bad apple in the crop, so it’s better to protect yourself by getting all of the details in writing.
This information is provided courtesy of The Eastside Real Estate Team. Keep us in mind for all your real estate needs. Call us today at 425-200-4093.