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What things are sellers expected to leave in the home for the new owners?

by | Oct 17, 2021 | Real Estate Practice

You found the home of your dreams (or at least a great one that was in your price range). The owners clearly put a lot of thought – and money — into the décor, which was a big selling point because decorating isn’t really your thing.

Then after your offer is accepted, your real estate agent learns that the seller plans to take some things you assumed came with the house, like chandeliers, sconces (decorative wall lights) and even that quaint sign affixed to the wall in the kitchen that says “Kitchen.” Can they do that?

Other items like security systems, sattelite dishes, and now even solar panels are often subject to complicated lease/purchase agreements with specific buyout terms, and are not fully owned by the sellers despite being attached to the home.

Expectations vs. requirements

Typically, the expectation is that fixtures attached to the walls, ceilings and floors remain with the house when it’s sold. Legally, sellers can take them unless it was specified in any of the sale documentation that those things were included in the sale price of the home. Of course, people will take their artwork with them, but they generally don’t pack up the chandeliers, wall lights and mirrors mounted over the hearths. Red your offer and final agreement of sale carefully on what is and is not included with the sale. 

The key is communication leading to a clear, written agreement. It’s best when sellers determine before they put their home on the market what things they plan to take that an average buyer would expect to stay. Maybe that chandelier is a family heirloom, so the seller intends to keep it. However, people looking at the house wouldn’t know that unless it is in a written disclosure.

Using negotiation to make a deal

Before you decide that this is a deal-breaker, find out if there’s anything they’d be willing to leave you to make up for this. Perhaps some of their furniture doesn’t go with their new home, but it’s more expensive than anything you’d buy. Perhaps their kids have outgrown the playhouse in the backyard, but yours are just toddlers. Some shrewd negotiation can go a long way.

Of course, if you don’t find out that these things are missing until you move in, that can be extremely jarring and even infuriating. That’s especially true if they left holes in the walls and ceilings where they removed items that will require time and money to repair.

Situations like this are just one of the reasons why it’s often wise to have a real estate attorney involved when you buy or sell a home. They can anticipate problems you’ve never considered and help you avoid unwelcome surprises – or at least help you deal with them.