What conveys? More on fixtures, personal property, and those little contractual gray areas.

What comes with the house?

This benign little question is raised at some point during nearly every transaction. Usually, a discussion of “personal property” versus “fixtures” ensues, but many items fall into a gray area. Fortunately, our California Residential Purchase Agreement (RPA) has attempted to address these.

Paragraph 8 is titled “Items Included and Excluded;” it is a zinger, and at both the listing stage where we are representing the seller and at the contract stage, we have the talk. If you want to take the whimsical cherub wall sconces when you leave, because they are cherished heirlooms that have been passed down for generations, most recently at your son’s Bar Mitzvah, then they need to be written into the contract as exclusions. If you are looking forward to lazing in the seller’s hammock after you have finished unpacking the FiestaWare, then you need to write the hammock in as personal property to convey. Memories tend to fade, however, and where our stuff is concerned, a food fight can easily break out.

Here is a little visual of the section of the RPA that speaks to who gets the goods. (Go find that magnifying glass — or a teenager whose eyes aren’t yet trashed.)

Screen shot 2010-02-25 at 7.39.37 PM

The first part deals with fixtures and fittings, and everyone seems to be pretty clear on the idea that those come with the home. It generally boils down to method of attachment; if an item is bolted in and can reasonably be considered an integral part of the home, then a fixture it is. Even here, though, disputes tend to arise. When in doubt, write it in.

The second part of Paragraph 8 deals with a lot of little nits, those gray areas that over the years have been most often the subject of wars being waged. Garage door openers, pool equipment, and gas log inserts, for instance, are all listed. This list is dynamic, and our new RPA contract coming to a transaction near you in April clarifies that wall-mounted televisions are purposely not listed, as they are exclusions.

The single biggest whose-stuff-is-it-anyway point of contention in the transaction is always related to the window coverings. Note here that I said “coverings,” because that is how our contract reads.

According to our contract, window coverings convey unless they are excluded per contract. Once, we had a seller argue that she got the whole part about the drapes being goners, but the contract didn’t apply to her decorative valances, because they didn’t really “cover” anything. Our attorneys said otherwise. Decorative or not, fabric or wood or a sheet of butcher paper cut to size, window coverings – window treatments – are included in the sale.

This may not be the case in all states, but it is so in ours. With that, I will add the disclaimer that my “former” friend Jay neglected to include when he wrote that post four years ago (a post I was recently whopped upside the head with, by the way):

Laws and contracts vary by state. If you are confused about the practices in your area, consult your contract and your agent.

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