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Marty and Max: Should it stay or should it go now?

by MARTY WALKER
| January 26, 2024 1:00 AM

In the 1979 classic, “10” starring Bo Derek, a dime is a reference to the top of the scale from one to 10 where ten is obviously the best. Cooper Kupp is a local from Eastern Washington University and a Super Bowl MVP. Matt Stafford threw every pass that Cooper Kupp caught, but Kupp was the dime. Ironically, Matt Stafford’s number is 9 and Kupp’s is 10, hence the term NINE TO DIME!“ 

In real estate, we commonly use the expression, “Don’t step over a dollar to pick up a dime.” This is commonly used when a buyer or seller becomes emotional over a trinket when they are selling a treasure. In a million-dollar transaction often a battle of wills ensues over a bookcase, light fixture, or appliance. “It’s a matter of principle.”

Wink Wink. 

Pop quiz! Which of the following are commonly referred to as personal property whereby the seller may take: 1) Garage door remotes; 2) Light bulbs; 3) Refrigerator, or 4) Wall-mounted TV?

Real property is all things that appear to be permanently attached or annexed to the land, both by nature and by humans. Personal property is all the property that can be owned and that does not fit the definition of real property. A fixture is personal property that has been attached to land or a building and becomes part of the real property. Examples include kitchen cabinets, light fixtures, heating systems, and plumbing. A good rule of thumb is if it is screwed in, bolted in or has a wire nut on it and attached to your electrical it stays. Fixtures are expected to stay with the property unless explicitly excluded in the purchase and sale agreement.

Ultimately, the question of whether an item stays or goes comes down to how it is attached to the home, or how it is itemized in the paperwork.

Built-in appliances, such as stoves, ovens, and dishwashers, are considered fixtures and typically stay with the home while standalone appliances such as refrigerators, non-built-in microwaves, washers, and dryers are all negotiable. 

Garage door remotes and TV wall mounts (not the TV itself) are listed in the Purchase and Sale Agreement in Section 6 as included in the sale, however, this paragraph also includes an additional “Included” and “Excluded.” This is the game changer. If nothing is added to one of these, then the standard agreement prevails. If a Ring doorbell has been mounted to the exterior of the home and it has been hardwired into the home it is considered a fixture. The answer to our above quiz: the only items that could reasonably be considered personal property are lightbulbs and refrigerators. Garage door remotes and TV wall mounts (not the TV itself) are specifically referenced in the Purchase and Sale Agreement as included in the sale.

Sellers should document all items to be included and working on the RE-25 Property Condition Disclosure and this is normally found in the documents section of the MLS listing.  

Do not leave anything to interpretation or assumption. Is the seller leaving the refrigerator? If yes, which one?  The one in the kitchen or the back porch? Include the make and model number of all appliances documented in the contracts, especially if there are multiple appliances.

As a seller, it is a best practice to remove items not included in the sale BEFORE photographs are taken. If the chandelier in your dining room is a family heirloom, remove it and replace it. If buyers can’t see the item in the photos or while viewing the home, they can’t assume it goes with the house.

Never assume that something is staying or going. Be specific and thorough. Although real estate transactions are often inherently emotional, you must step back, remain calm, assume nothing, document everything and keep your eyes on the prize.  

If you become emotional over a fixture or appliance you do so at your own peril. When you fail to do your due diligence and document, you will step over that dollar, lose the dime and be left with only a handful of wooden nickels and regret. Jim Rohn said it best, “We must all suffer one of two pains. The pain of discipline or the pain of regret. Discipline weighs ounces while regret weighs tons.” Choose Wisely.

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