Real Estate Transactions: What is a Chattel vs What is a Fixture?
Under an Agreement of Purchase and Sale (APS), the Buyer and Seller can agree to leave certain “moveable” items behind. These items are referred to as “chattels”. The most common chattels are home appliances such as fridge, stove, dishwasher, microwave, washer, dryer. Buyers and Sellers can also agree to exclude certain “unmovable” items. These items are referred to as “fixtures”. Common fixtures may include a hot water heater or water softener.
But what about items like hot tubs, custom door knockers, outdoor play structures, wall mounted TVs, and medicine cabinets? Are these chattels or are these fixtures? For many, it is a large grey area.
The test is: What is the degree of affixiation to the property? In other words, how moveable is the item? If it is very moveable, it is a chattel. What I always tell my clients is: Pretend you’ve flipped your house upside down. What would fall down? The items that do not stay in place are chattels and everything else is a fixture.
People often ask me: What are the craziest things people take when they move? You see a lot over the years... my top 5 include:
- A custom door knocker with my client’s last name engraved on it;
- A hot tub that was sunken into a deck;
- The faucet in the powder room (yes, really.);
- All of the LED light bulbs in the entire house; and
- The hood fan over the kitchen stove.
So, what are the takeaways here?
- If a particular item is important to you as the Buyer, you need to explicitly note it in the agreement as a chattel to be included. Describe the item in detail within Schedule A – especially if it is not an obvious chattel or fixture.
- If you are the Seller and you are intending on removing a fixture, note it in the MLS and ensure that the APS states that the fixture is excluded (better yet – remove it before you list the property for sale).
The bottom line is that you must communicate your intentions clearly.
Have a question? Contact our office today for guidance.