Let’s pretend you just bought your dream home: all the bells and whistles you want, the specs you want, in your budget and ready for move-in. But when you show up for the walk-through, it looks ... different. All of the window treatments are gone. So are the lighting fixtures. There are no doorknobs on the doors, and in some cases no doors on the doorframes. The stainless steel appliances from the showing have been replaced with an old microwave and a dorm fridge, and there are giant holes in the yard where trees used to be.
Yikes, right? Well the good (if annoying) news is that that kind of switcheroo is illegal, and you’d most likely get to sue your seller for the value of all that stuff. Because when it comes to fixtures, you can’t take it with you when you sell your house. Of course, you can take almost anything you want with you (and you can try to leave anything you want!) – provided that you disclose your plans way up front to any potential buyers.
A fixture, when it comes to real estate, is anything fixed to a house or the grounds of its property. And a fixture stays with the house. Hung up like a painting? Not a fixture. Bolted to the studs? That’s a fixture. Plugged into the wall? Nah, probably not. Wired in with gas or plumbing? Fixture.
To start off simple, here’s a quick list of things that are usually assumed to be fixtures:
Another way of thinking about fixtures: will it be a pain in the neck to remove a thing in your house? Then that thing is probably a fixture.
Just as in life, home fixtures have some gray areas. These are some of the most common items that you’ll want to note, whether you’re buying or selling, just so everyone involved knows what to expect. And if you’re working with a realtor, you can always rely on them for expert advice and local expertise on these:
So what’s a home seller or buyer to do about these gray areas, or about the handcrafted drawer pulls it took eight months to source from Albania for your artisanal kitchen, or about the bay tree your late grandfather planted in your yard for you?
The answer: Be transparent
When it comes to making exceptions with your fixtures, there is a wide and blurry line between reasonable expectations and being petty AF. There are a few relatively easy ways you can notify potential buyers about any fixtures you want to either take with you or negotiate leaving in place:
A few more tips
If you’re the seller, don’t be a jerk! It is helpful and polite to leave:
And if you’re the buyer, don’t be shy! You’ll never get something you don’t ask for – that piano, that entrance hall mirror, that vintage encyclopedia set taking up a whole shelf. And the worst they can say is no.
Everything’s for sale
In the end, someone might walk into your house, love your style and offer to buy your furniture and art and books and thimble collection. It happens! Or they might have plans to trash all of your sconces and window treatments the day you close. What matters as you approach your home sale is that you know what’s the norm for fixtures and what you want to leave or keep, and that your realtor knows, too. It’s amazing what open communication and reasonable expectations can do!