FAQ: What is the difference between a fixture and personal property and why is it important?
FIXTURES are considered to be items attached to the structure by more permanent means than by a plug in the wall. Unless specifically excluded from a sale, they are included in the purchase price and transfer with the property. PERSONAL PROPERTY items belong to the seller and are not included automatically in a sale. Some items clearly fit into one or the other category. Other items can be construed to be either, so it's essential for buyers and sellers to clearly communicate the disposition of those items before they enter into a purchase agreement.
Some examples of each, but by no means all:
- fireplace inserts and attached fireplace equipment
- built-in appliances
- window screens, awning, shutters, coverings and hardware
- attached floor coverings
- in-ground landscaping
- free-standing fireplace screens, andirons and tools
- washers, dryers, refrigerators (usually)
- area rugs
- potted plants
Gray areas, the disposition of which should be specifically designated in the purchase contract, include:
- large potted plants
- decorative mirrors
- wall-mounted electronic equipment like flat-screen TVs, speakers, etc.
- the free-standing 8x8 garden shed
My advice to sellers: if you don't want a FIXTURE to remain, it's best to replace it before the house goes on the market. You'll be moving it anyway, so do it now. This means the family heirloom mirror, the dining room chandelier that you treasure, the draperies you want to use in your next house. You don't want them to become a negotiating point when a buyer has decided your house is perfect just as it is.