"Strings Attached" (or, what items are included in a home's sale?)
Updated: Jul 10, 2020
What items are included in a home's sale?
We answer this question a lot from our clients, both buyers and sellers. The short answer is that if it’s attached to the house, it’s included. That said, there are times when a seller doesn’t follow the “Strings Attached” rule. I’m thinking about these scenarios today, and I will clarify how both sellers and buyers can approach this potentially contentious situation and come out happy with the transaction.
Many homes for sale are staged with furniture and decor that show how the home’s rooms could be laid out. Most buyers understand that once the sale is finalized, the staging items are removed and the buyer will bring in their own furnishings. However, many home buyers don’t realize that some other items they see in a home may also disappear before the keys are in their hands. It’s best to understand the special circumstances when this may happen, and to clarify expectations as thoroughly as possible. This heads off any conflicts regarding items an owner doesn't want to include in a home's sale.
What’s the rule about which things are included in a sale?
As I said above, it is generally understood that anything physically attached to the home—such as fixtures, appliances, and hardware— is considered part of the house. That being said, in my sixteen years in this profession, I have seen the whole spectrum of items that sellers wish to take with them when they move:
Window treatments such as draperies, rods, and blinds
99% of the time these stay in the home; but some sellers love their curtain rods, or they hand-sewed the drapes, and want to bring them to their new home.
Plantings in the yard, whether potted or in the soil
Yes, some folks love their plants as much as they do their pets and children! It’s
important to know if the landscaping will look the same after the sale, or if the buyer will
need to invest in another azalea bush or window box.
Similar to window treatments, lighting nearly always stays in the house. However, an heirloom chandelier or a child’s favorite lamp shade might not stay in the home.
Washer and dryer
Many listings will specify whether the washer/dryer hookup is gas or electric, but may not say if the washer and dryer are included in the sale. Buyers can feel misled if the owners plan to take these appliances with them: the hookup will remain, but all the buyer will see at their walkthrough is an empty space. This may lead to a delayed closing, additional costs for the seller, and headaches all around.
How do we proceed when a seller wants to take an “attached” item out of the home?
If we’re advising a seller, we ask them very specifically if they would like to hold on to any of the above-mentioned items. If a seller just can’t part with their washer and dryer, for example, we explain the risk of excluding it from the sale—usually it means a lower price in the case of washers and dryers — then, we ask them if they still wish to take the item(s) with them. If the answer is still yes, we clearly state in the listing sheet that these appliances are not included in the sale. Transparency at this stage prevents speed bumps later on in the process.
If we’re working with a buyer, we look for any red flags coming from the seller: Is the listing sheet vague in other areas? If our buyer’s offer is accepted, is the seller trying to change the terms? These red flags tell us that the seller may not be as transparent as they should be. We will work with their agent and attorney, we’ll ask lots of questions, and we’ll get everything in writing. That way you, as the buyer, will know exactly what to expect when you do your final walkthrough before the closing.
What if the home is brand new?
Many buyers are thrilled to purchase a newly-constructed or renovated home. They know they’ll be the first occupants, and feel like everything will be move-in ready. However, a buyer may be disappointed if they don’t understand the way new construction works. In my experience, most contractors do not install items such as shower rods, towel rods and toilet paper holders. The last thing an exhausted home buyer wants to do is suddenly have to choose hardware after moving into their home. To sidestep this hassle, we clarify with the developer what will be provided in terms of fixtures and hardware before the buyer makes an offer. We ask a lot of questions and use the answers to build a great offer. Once the offer is accepted and the sale moves forward, we make sure to give a buyer lots of access to the home so that they can make sure their choices fit into the design scheme of the home.
Liz and I conduct all of our business with communication and transparency first and foremost, whether we’re advising buyers or sellers. Better to know first and plan accordingly than to feel blindsided and play catch-up.
Ready to buy or sell with full transparency? Contact us. We’re here to help.