Twelve Household Items That Might Kill Your Sale
One common area of confusion when selling a home is determining what items stay and what items go, what we call inclusions & exclusions.
An exclusion is an item that is not included with the sale of a home, which may be a fixture or personal property. On the other hand, an inclusion is included in the sale of the home, as it is either mentioned specifically in the contract template or written in by the REALTOR® and agreed to by all parties.
My husband and I sold our home in the mid-1990’s and moved across the state. We moved weeks before the sale closed and asked a neighbor to keep an eye on our property until the sale was final. A few days before closing, we received an interesting call from our REALTOR® asking if we had taken a globe lilac tree from our front yard landscaping. Now living 4 hours away, we knew nothing about the tree. Our agent said there was a hole in the ground where that tree used to be, and the buyer wanted that tree back before closing.
After a bit of detective work, we discovered that the “trusted” neighbor we had watching the house had grown very fond of that little tree, and thought no one would miss it if he moved it to his yard. Well, lots of people missed it, and it nearly derailed our home sale, so our local police department kindly asked him to put it back, and he did.
That little lilac tree is just one example of items that are included in a home sale. Inclusions and exclusions of items are an important part of a sale contract. When our team lists a home, we have a conversation with our sellers about the items they are leaving with the house and those they plan to take with them so all are on the same page. It is never a good idea to make assumptions about anything when it comes to selling a home, as what can seem inconsequential can become a very big deal.
How do you know what must be included?
In the Missouri Residential Sales Contract, there is a whole section dedicated to Inclusions and Exclusions. We review this information with our sellers before listing a home and make sure we communicate with all potential buyers so no one is surprised.
As a general rule, if something is affixed to your home, it is considered a fixture of the home and is included in the sale. Some of these are pretty obvious...built-in kitchen appliances, garage door openers, furnace and air conditioning systems, and the like. But some raise questions. Here are a few…
1. Window Treatments
Window blinds and shades and the hardware used to hang drapery are included in the sale. Curtains may be taken by the seller. This is often a discussion point, as sellers can spend thousands of dollars on window treatments, sometimes for custom-made items, and it can be hard to leave those behind. If sellers have a window covering or window hardware that is special to them, it is best to remove it before listing the home or note that it is excluded in the contract. To the contrary, if a seller is planning to leave behind all of the draperies in the home, it is best to note that in the contract so buyers are not surprised after closing.
2. Refrigerators, Washers, and Dryers
These appliances are personal property and are not included automatically in the home sale. We prefer to exclude refrigerators initially and then use them as negotiating points later on.
3. Light Fixtures and Ceiling Fans
Since these are affixed to the home, it is assumed that they are included in the sale. If you have an antique chandelier or a lovely pendant light that was designed by your grandmother, it is best to take it down and replace it with something neutral before listing. It is not okay to just leave bare wires after closing, unless that is clearly noted and your buyer agrees. Even if buyers understand that a special piece is not included, they will generally expect something to be put in its place.
4. TV Mounts and Brackets
Many homes have televisions mounted to the walls. While the television is considered personal property and is excluded from the sale, the brackets that are affixed to the walls are included. We often have confused sellers ask about this, as they plan to mount the same television in their new homes and would rather not have to buy a new mount. If you plan to take the mount with you, it must be written into the contract and you generally have to fix the wall damage you create when you remove it.
5. Surround Sound Speakers or Home Theater Systems
If you have speakers flush mounted to your ceiling, they would stay with the home in the sale. What about speakers mounted to walls or in the corners of a room? What about ceiling projectors and movie screens? How about the sound system that connects all of those systems? Those are all grey areas that should be thoroughly discussed before launching a listing for sale. While a seller might make the assumption that those items will be removed, if that isn’t clearly noted in the sale contract, a buyer can expect that those items that were in the home when the contract was accepted will be left behind after the sale, and it can become a legal mess for the seller if not clearly articulated.
6. Decorations, Shelving and Closet Organizers
If your mirrors and floating shelves are bolted to the studs in your home, it is assumed they are included in the sale. Your custom closet organizing system also stays. As a general rule, if you have decorative items hanging from nails on your wall, they are considered personal property and are excluded from the sale. If you are concerned about any of these items, ask questions until you understand clearly what stays and what can go.
Our team had a seller who had marked their children’s growth on a door frame in their home. We’re not talking about a piece of trim around the door, but the actual door frame. They wanted that entire door frame to come with them to their new home. We made sure the seller understood that they would need to have the frame removed before listing and replaced with a new, painted frame and pre-hung door, with all damage repaired.
It is natural for emotions to run high during a home sale, especially when a seller has spent decades in their home and raised a family. Separation anxiety is a very real thing. While we completely understood the reasons behind this seller having a hard time detaching emotions from this growth chart, removing the frame and door was not very practical and would be pretty costly. We offered suggestions that would be far less expensive for them to consider. They could take a photo of the door frame, print it as large as they wanted and hang it in their new home, or copy the height marks on another piece of wood that could move with them to their new home.
Thankfully, this seller accepted our suggestion of copying the growth marks so the door wouldn’t have to be removed. If this discussion hadn’t happened until the day before closing, imagine how many angry and distressing conversations could have ensued. Talking about this early in the process allowed the seller some time to get used to the idea and move on without the emotions of leaving those memories behind.
Our team once had a children’s backyard playset almost overturn a $350,000 home sale. The buyers assumed the playset stayed with the home, since it was anchored to the ground. The sellers assumed the buyers didn’t want it, since they didn’t specifically ask for it in the contract. Assumptions are so dangerous. In this case, while simultaneously negotiating inspection repairs, both parties dug in their heels and were reluctant to budge. It took careful back-and-forth conversations managed by their REALTORS® to get both parties to the closing table, which is the end result they both really wanted.
So what else should sellers consider on the exterior of their home before listing? Here are a few examples:
7. Storage Sheds
Some outdoor storage sheds are built on a concrete pad, making them difficult to remove without damaging. Some are metal sheds sitting on dirt or grass. Regardless, both are assumed to be included with the home in the sale, unless the seller notes they are excluded.
8. Electronic Pet Fences
These are built into the ground and are included in the sale, along with any remotes or collars that are part of the system.
As mentioned above with the globe lilac tree debacle, all landscaping in the ground at the time the contract was accepted is included. If a seller has a bush that they planted in memory of a loved one that they plan to take with them, they need to note that before listing. If sellers have added bird baths, fountains, landscaping boulders, or statues to enhance their yard, they should detail which items are included and which are excluded, as the assumption is that all items stay with the home. The same goes for landscape lighting.
10. Exterior Security Systems
This could range from something as simple as a Ring or Nest doorbell to an elaborate system of security cameras that surround your property. The assumption is that all of that is included with the home sale, unless noted that it is excluded. If a seller excludes their smart doorbell, they will be asked to replace it with a basic doorbell before closing.
11. Electric Car Chargers or Garage Workbenches
If working on cars or creating with wood are your thing, you may have elaborate cabinetry, workbenches, lighting, and lifts in your garage. Sellers should carefully note items that are not remaining with the home, as many of these items are expensive. “When in doubt, write it out!”
If your home is heated with propane gas, the propane that is in your tank is your personal property. And yet it isn’t feasible to take the propane with you. When you get close to your close date, we will have you contact your propane supplier and let them know you are moving. A representative will go to your home and read the meter to determine the amount of propane in the tank. They will provide a written estimate of the amount of propane in the tank and the current market value. Our team will forward this documentation to the title company, and you will get a credit from the buyer at closing.
As a general rule, we try to keep the contract free from personal property matters. However, if there are items (perhaps items with sentimental value) that you strongly feel should remain with you after the sale, please notify us of those items that should be specifically excluded/included. For your excluded items, please call attention to them during home showings by using signs on or near them. Or better yet, consider removing these items before showings.
Of note, the sale contract is the document that determines if an item is included or excluded. It isn’t enough for these items to be detailed on the seller’s disclosure, in the agent remarks on the MLS, or other places outside the contract. When a contract is received, please review to make sure that these items are specifically excluded/included, or ask us to specifically exclude/include them on our counteroffer.
With a little advanced planning and conversation, buyers and sellers can lay a smooth path to closing when it comes to inclusions and exclusions. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and make your feelings known from the start. That clarity can go a long way toward a successful sale.
Thinking about selling a home? The Chad Wilson Group is an award winning team of real estate consultants, ready to serve you! All you have to do is fill out the contact form below and a member of our team will be in contact to discuss how we can help you.