Friday, October 10, 2008

What's A Fixture?

My broker Jay Thompson explained "what's a fixture?" on his real estate FAQ blog, which I'd like to expand on. Normally I think everything Jay does is perfect and no expanding is needed. Buuuut, I'm running a little low in the inspiration department, even lower in the time department, and I realized that I haven't written a Glossary post in a long while. Plus, some new trendy household items can cause confusion.

Briefly, fixtures are items attached to the house using screws, nails, glue or similar means. Where things get a little tricky lately is with items some of the newer must-have pseudo luxury items, such as:

  • satellite dishes

  • flat screen TVs

  • those fancy new bathroom mirrors that look like art because of their beautiful frames

  • the trendy new bathroom cabinets that look like a piece of free-standing antique furniture and often have (expensive) marble tops

Two other possibly confusing items are

  • above ground pools (OK, they're uncommon these days, but not extinct by any means)

  • heavy concrete patio benches or garden gnome type decorative items

If you follow the rule of thumb - is it attached using screws, nail or glue - all of the items in the first list are attached, are therefore are fixtures and therefore must stay with the house when it's sold. Following the rule of thumb again says all the items in the second list aren't attached and therefore go with the sellers.

If one were of the attorney persuasion, one could make an argument that the antique-look bathroom cabinets aren't technically attached, it's the plumbing that's attached, and so the plumbing stays but the cabinets don't... and [insert lawyerly babble here].

Court room arguments aside, I'd bet that most sellers with these items in their home expect to take at least some of the items when they move out. In my experience, satellite dishes have become almost disposable and most sellers expect to leave them behind, while most buyers expect them to stay.  So we generally have agreement there.

But sellers often spent lots of time and money tracking down the fancy schmancy bathroom mirrors and expect to take them with, while buyers don't want to spend said time/money tracking down a replacement and therefore expect the mirror to stay. Many buyers don't want the above ground pool... but then again many sellers don't want to take it down and take it with and are secretly hoping the buyers will just take the darn thing and spare them the misery of dealing with it. And so on.

It can put you in a pickle if you assume too much on either side of the deal. Save time and trouble up front! Sellers - it's best to specify in the listing agreement, and the MLS, and on flyers in the home whether these items go or stay. Better yet, get it out of the house and replace it with something that stays. Buyers - ask your Realtor to specify in the written purchase offer whether you expect these things to go or stay.