Your buyers are getting ready to move in after a seller post-settlement occupancy, and you get a panicked call. The sellers removed the attached bookshelves in the living room and a few other built-ins that were scattered around the house. They also took the riding mower out of the backyard shed. What happens next?
First, the resulting confusion could have been prevented if the sellers had been adequately advised before they moved out. Sharon Ferguson, a CENTURY 21 Redwood Realty agent from Fredericksburg, says she’s never had a scenario like this happen in her 10 years of real estate. “That’s due, in part, to my advice to sellers to remove and/or replace items that the sellers wish to take with them BEFORE the house goes Active. If they can’t do that for any reason, I advise them to hang tags on the items that read “Does Not Convey.” If the item is large, such as a tractor or riding lawnmower, I put in the remarks section of the listing that it either conveys, or does not, or is negotiable…whatever the case may be. Doing things this way heads off a lot of potential problems.” Locust Grove agent Ruthan O’Toole agrees that it’s best to have any replacement for a fixture, like a light fixture, visually in place before the home goes on the market: “It is smart to have the replacement fixture visually apparent for buyer to see what will be in the place of the chandelier or personal fixture not conveying.”
Next, there’s the question of what is considered a fixture, and what’s deemed to be personal property. Traditionally, a fixture is physical property that’s attached to the land or, in this case, to the property. Personal property, on the other hand, is movable (not attached). Since there are different legal interpretations, most states have real estate contracts that spell out for both sellers and buyers what’s expected to stay with the home and what isn’t going to convey. If the contract isn’t read through or understood completely, it can be up to the sellers to remedy the situation.
Ruthan has experienced circumstances where sellers removed curtains (window treatments) and, consequently, were given the choice of either returning them or giving monetary compensation to the buyer for the missing curtains. She also handles furnishings or big-ticket items (tractors, speakers, lawn equipment, boats, etc.) by listing them on a separate Bill of Sale, where their value is such that it’s not included in the property valuation for long-term lender financing, but is created, so it’s explicitly clear to the buyer what’s being received at the close of settlement. Furthermore, some properties in our areas in and around Northern Virginia, Washington, D.C., and Maryland still have oil tanks or propane tanks. Ruthan makes it clear, within the contract before final signatures, how her sellers are to be reimbursed for any remaining fuel in those tanks.
Finally, when faced with a possible grey area or conflict in interpretation, the best resource you have is a trusted resource within your office. Our agents rely on their EVP’s experience and expertise in understanding the terms of the contract and the other resources they have at their fingertips for being able to remedy the situation to a client’s satisfaction. If you’re looking for a brokerage that supports you through every aspect of a sale – even the bumpy ones, then we’d love to talk to you: