What Are Fixtures In Real Estate?
A critical part of any real estate transaction is the actual fixtures within the home that are required to stay with the home after closing. There have been many lawsuits filed on the basis of a homebuyer seeing something in a home prior to making an offer or prior to closing and then not finding that specific item or finding a cheap knockoff after closing. Home sellers should understand what a fixture is when selling a home and be ready to disclose up front if certain fixtures will not be remaining with the home. Homebuyers as well should understand what items are considered fixtures and what items are not so that in the case something is not really considered a fixture the buyer requests that item stay as part of the sale or is aware the item may not be there after closing.
Simply stated a fixture is something that is physically attached to a part of the home that is supposed to stay with the home after the sale has been completed. For example a chandelier attached to the ceiling in a dining room or foyer area is considered a fixture and should stay with the home after the sale. Bookshelves that are physically attached to walls is another example of a fixture that will generally stay with the home. Everything else that is not affixed is considered personal property of the seller and generally does not stay with the home unless specifically requested in the purchase contract.
When it comes to wall mounted TVs the TV itself is not considered a fixture but the actual wall mount that holds the TV to the wall is considered a fixture. Same goes for mounted speakers unless they are physically mounted into a wall, the mounts should stay whereas the speakers belong to the home seller. The brackets that hold curtain rods stay as a fixture whereas the curtains themselves would not.
While that kitchen island may look like it is firmly affixed to the kitchen floor homebuyers should be sure to double check that it is in fact secured and does not move. Sometimes with time those islands have a tendency to get stuck in place but is not technically fixed to the floor and thus could be very well taken out of the home by the seller before closing. A kitchen island that is not fixed to the floor is not a fixture that would stay with the home and the home seller could reasonably take it with them when they move out.
Just because something is a fixture does not mean it absolutely has to stay with the home. In fact a home seller can specifically exclude a fixture from being part of the deal by including the proper language in the purchase contract. If the purchase contract states a particular fixture will not stay the buyer should have no expectation that it will stay. The purchase contract will ultimately control what happens with a fixture. In the event the contract is silent as to the fixture then the fixture is presumed to stay with the home after the sale has been completed.
HOW TO AVOID CONFUSION OVER FIXTURES
Tips For Sellers
One of the easiest ways home sellers can avoid confusion over fixtures issues is to take the fixture down and not have it be seen or be mounted anywhere. For example a family heirloom chandelier that has moved with the sellers to whichever home they lived in would be best dealt with by taking down the chandelier. Once taken down a new chandelier should be put into its place and any buyers would not chandelier as fixtureeven know about the heirloom chandelier.
The next best way to deal with a fixture that will not stay with the home is to let all potential buyers know that a particular fixture will not stay with the home in marketing remarks and to make sure that there is language in the purchase contract to state the same. So long as the buyers are made aware that a fixture will not stay and the purchase contract also makes note of that fact there should be no issue after the fixture is removed. Often times in this situation the seller can offer to replace the fixture with something else or let the buyer replace it with something they prefer.
Another area for concern with fixtures is the home seller replacing existing fixtures with cheap equivalents without making any mention of a plan for doing so in marketing remarks and in the purchase contract. There have been cases where home sellers have replaced premium sink fixtures with low price fixtures prior to a sale closing and the buyer noticing after they have moved in decides to sue. In these scenarios buyers have the right to sue and will usually prevail in the lawsuit. Home sellers should know that homebuyers do pay attention to details such as fixtures and replacing current fixtures with cheap alternatives is a quick way to end up in court since the buyer has a right to rely on what they see in the home and expect those fixtures to be the same when they move in.
Tips For Buyers
Buyers should have an expectation that the fixtures they see in the home now are the ones that will be there after they move in. Buyers do need to clarify whether items like kitchen islands, bookcases, fireplace inserts, water filters and more are actual fixtures and will stay with the home. It is better for a homebuyer to clarify that an item stays and make sure it is written into the purchase offer so as to avoid any confusion. If an item is not a real fixture and is not written into the purchase agreement then the chances it is not there when the buyers move in should not come as a surprise.
For items that are clearly fixtures like faucets, light fixtures screwed into the walls, attached chandeliers, built in desks and more there should be an expectation those items will stay and will be same brand/make that is currently in place. There may be a situation where the seller has to replace an itemunique sink fixture due to a defect, so long as the replacement item is considered equal to what was there in the past then that should suffice. If you as the homebuyer have some doubt as to what was there in the past and now something inferior is in its place take a look at pictures, descriptions, left over manuals and more to try and determine if in fact something was changed. Prior to seeking an attorney it might be helpful to engage with the sellers by asking your real estate agent to inquire about the fixtures you believe may be missing or have been downgraded. It may be as simple as misunderstanding between the parties. If you are certain things have been changed then depending on the costs involved getting an attorney involved may or may not be worthwhile.
Fixtures are items that are attached to the home and must be transferred with the home. Sometimes the item itself while it may appear as a fixture, may in fact not be a fixture. It is always wise for homebuyers to check and clarify if something is indeed a fixture and if not will the seller leave it after the sale. If it is important to the homebuyers that an item remain then it should be written into the purchase contract to make sure it stays.