Jim Valentine: The personal property factor
Real estate is just that, real property. Residential real estate, however, often involves personal property. There are the obvious options of refrigerator, washer/dryer, yard ornamentation, etc. Sometimes the bookcase was custom made and it fits/looks just right and should be included in the sale. Some property features dictate the need for items that the seller won’t be needing any more such as snow blower, riding mower, tractor, etc.
Estate sales often want to leave a lot of furniture to simplify the closure of the estate and to minimize the labor of cleaning out the house for the beneficiaries. It is easier to sell a house full of furniture than to piecemeal the chairs, couches, tables, etc., out to individual buyers or assorted donor recipients. Let the buyer sort it out.
Hot tubs are easier to leave than to move and are usually included as more of an afterthought. If you find yourself getting a “free” hot tub, make sure you understand what comes with it. Does the gazebo stay or did they give that to a friend? The same goes for chemicals and other maintenance items that might be around but not included. Gardens can have the same ambiguous position where there are tools that might or not be left. Be clear about what is being left so you know if you are to expect it or if you don’t want it so it is removed.
If a refrigerator is being left, be sure to specify if it is the kitchen fridge when the property was viewed or the garage fridge. Sellers going for a long move often find it easier to buy new when they get where they are going than to move the bulky items like freezers, refrigerators, washer/dryer, etc. If you don’t want it as a buyer, you might help them and your community by accepting them and donating them to a local church or needy family.
Things get interesting when there is a lot of “lawn art.” Some of the collectibles strewn about can be of value and add to the aesthetic enhancement of the property … or not. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. We’ve seen wonderful collections be considered junk by a new owner, so don’t assume the buyer will want your stuff. As a buyer, don’t assume that the lawn items will stay. Even something as heavy as an ore cart could be taken unless you address it specifically in the offer.
Personal property in a real estate transaction is usually referenced in general terms, but it would be safer and assure better accuracy if you detail an inventory, or took photos to memorialize the included items. Once in a while, the personal property is a tipping point in the negotiations, but most often it is included as an afterthought. Make the real estate deal and then see what you can achieve afterward. With warm/fuzzy negotiations, sellers often just give items to the buyers to continue the good faith and relieve them of the responsibility of moving some items. It becomes a win/win just as the purchase/sell negotiations were.
Whether you buy a house full of personal property or your transaction is void of personal items, the situations are always circumstantial and work to the benefit of both parties. If there isn’t a benefit to all then the transaction might not go together or, if there is a hiccup, might fall apart quicker than if the burden of personal property were not involved. Personal property is a people issue that needs to be handled with sensitivity.
Our advice: Be sure to separate the real estate from the personal property. Some offers overreach with personal property and the seller chooses another offer that isn’t as personally intrusive. If you are getting a new loan, it is important that there is language specifying that the personal property is included at no value and without warranty. Too much personal property will alert an underwriter so be careful how your offer is written so you don’t have an unexpected obstacle to clear due to a non-real estate matter.
Be clear about what is included, if there is a cost, and when it transfers. If you don’t close, you don’t buy the personal property.
When it comes to choosing professionals to assist you with your real estate needs… Experience is Priceless! Jim Valentine, RE/MAX Realty Affiliates, 775-781-3704. firstname.lastname@example.org