The Difference Between Fixtures & Chattels

Thursday Apr 19th, 2018


Many home buyers and sellers (and even REALTORS©) get confused about the difference between chattels and fixtures in a real estate purchase.

Chattels are personal property and are not included in the sale of the house unless specifically included in the purchase contract. Fixtures are part of the real estate and are included in the sale of the house unless specifically excluded in the purchase contract.

Fixtures are typically physically attached to the real estate by means of screws, nails, wiring, plumbing or ductwork. Items like a furnace, central air conditioner, built-in microwave/range hood and drapery rods are fixtures.

Free-standing refrigerators and stoves are chattels while built in appliances such as dishwashers and microwave/range hood combos are fixtures as they are attached to the real estate by screws, wiring, plumbing and/or ductwork. A central vacuum canister is a fixture but the attachments (hose, powerhead, etc.) are chattels. Curtain rods are considered fixtures while the curtains are chattels.

What about a free standing refrigerator that has been plumbed for an ice-maker? Or a free standing oven that has the new non-tip safety bracket installed that screws the oven into the wall?

Buyers and their agents should be very specific in the agreement of purchase & sale about which items they would like included in the purchase. While you may assume the seller is planning on leaving fixtures behind, it is best not to assume anything. Buyers should specifically list which items are to be included in the purchase price. Some agents go the extra step and list the manufacturer and serial number of items to be included.

When I write an agreement of purchase and sale for buyer clients, I am very specific about inclusions and typically use a variation of the following paragraph in the agreement:

Inclusions: “All existing appliances including refrigerator, stove, built-in dishwasher, built-in microwave/range hood fan, front load clothes washer and dryer; all electric light fixtures and ceiling fans; all window blinds and curtain rods; all bathroom mirrors; electric garage door opener and remotes; central vacuum and all attachments; television wall mount in the family room; and any other items not mentioned above that are attached to the property by means of screws, nails, bolts, wiring, plumbing or ductwork as was present when the property was viewed on April xx, 2018.”

Tags: Real Estate

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