One of my favorite stories from closing (I honestly still twitch thinking about it) is the day I had to mediate a fight between buyers and sellers over a blueberry bush. This was not any blueberry bush, it was a sentimental blueberry bush. The sellers wanted to take the bush with them, but the buyers also loved blueberries and only put an offer in on the home because it was so beautiful. Sentiment won the fight, but low and behold, it was not the proper rehoming season for blueberry bushes. I then got to use my amazing lawyer skills and draft an addendum that survives closing allowing the sellers to come back to the property to take the sentimental blueberry bush months later. I think I was the true winner in all of this though because one of the Realtors for the closing appreciated my blueberry bush patience and bought me blueberry vodka on closing day!
I tell you this story because it begs the question, what’s the difference between a fixture, and personal property? What conveys with the property, and what does the seller have the right to take with them? When buying or selling a home it is important to know what items must stay with the home as a seller, and what items you’d be getting along with your purchase as the buyer. I think one of the most common questions a Realtor receives is “Are the appliances included?” That is because it’s not always clear what is considered personal property and does not convey with the home, and what is a fixture and does.
A fixture is something permanently affixed to the property. Think along the lines it being bolted to the walls or the ground. It would take a lot of effort to remove and with that removal you’d have to patch up the walls or leave a big hole in the ground. That is different than basic personal property that you move out like your furniture, or even a refrigerator, that you can just pick up and move and not need tools to detach.
There are certain items that are automatically, per the standard North Carolina Offer to Purchase and Contract, included as part of the sale and purchase price, free of liens, unless specifically excluded and written into the contract in subsequent subparagraphs. When reading the list below, you may think, “How in the world did someone not think that the water supply equipment, doorbell, outdoor trees, mailbox, or cabinets not convey?!” Well, read my blueberry bush story again and you’ll understand.
ITEMS THAT ARE CONSIDERED FIXTURES AND MUST CONVEY
- Alarm and security systems (attached) for security, fire, smoke, carbon monoxide or other toxins with all related access codes, sensors, cameras, dedicated monitors, hard drives, video recorders, power supplies and cables; doorbells/chimes · All stoves/ranges/ovens; built-in appliances; attached microwave oven; vent hood · Antennas; satellite dishes and receivers · Basketball goals and play equipment (permanently attached or in-ground) · Ceiling and wall-attached fans; light fixtures (including existing bulbs) · Fireplace insert; gas logs or starters; attached fireplace screens; wood or coal stoves · Floor coverings (attached) · Garage door openers · Generators that are permanently wired · Invisible fencing with power supply · Landscape and outdoor trees and plants (except in moveable containers); raised garden; landscape and foundation lighting; outdoor sound systems; permanent irrigation systems; rain barrels; landscape water features; address markers · Mailboxes; mounted package and newspaper receptacles · Mirrors attached to walls, ceilings, cabinets or doors; all bathroom wall mirrors · Storage shed; utility building · Swimming pools; spas; hot tubs (excluding inflatable pools, spas, and hot tubs)
- Solar electric and solar water heating systems · Sump-pumps, radon fans and crawlspace ventilators; dehumidifiers that are permanently wired · Surface-mounting brackets for television and speakers; recess-mounted speakers; mounted intercom system · Thermostats · Water supply equipment, including filters, conditioning and softener systems; re-circulating pumps; well pumps and tanks · Window/Door blinds and shades, curtain/drapery rods and brackets, door and window screens and combination doors, awnings and storm windows
All in all, it’s best to ask your Realtor if you’re concerned about a piece of property in your home that is sentimental. Prior to listing your home, you can remove that item, even if bolted to the wall, and just patch it up and (poof!) it’s no longer a fixture. Or you can put in the listing that the “kids playset in the backyard does not convey.” There are a number of things you can do as long as it’s preemptive, communicated, and then memorialized into the contract to assure that even items that are considered fixtures do not convey. The same goes for the buyer side. If you’re unsure if the hot tub in the backyard conveys or not as part of the purchase, specifically write it into your contract to avoid any discrepancy later. And with that information, you can REST EASY, and eat your blueberries.