‘Real’ Property vs ‘Personal’ Property


When purchasing a property there is often confusion regarding what’s being sold along with the property. To answer this question there needs be a distinction between personal property and real property. The legal definition can sometimes be unclear and this can lead to potential difficulties during the sale of a property.

The purchase contract is normally written to include all real property, that is, all aspects of the property that are fastened down or an integral part of the structure or land. For example, this includes light fixtures, drapery rods, attached mirrors, flat screen TV brackets, chandeliers, water heaters, stoves, trees and shrubs in the ground. It does not include potted plants, free-standing refrigerators, washer and dryers, free-standing microwaves, free-standing bookcases, lamps, etc. Notice I specifically mention free-standing. If the microwave is physically attached to the wall or structure, it’s considered real property and not personal property. This means that if you sell the house, the microwave is part of the house and will convey with the sale.

Of course, everything is negotiable and if the sellers wish to take certain items, they need to clearly identify that to the buyer prior to accepting the buyer’s offer. This way there is no confusion about what is included. A real estate attorney once told me about a sale where the seller took the chandelier in the main entryway of the home without telling their agent or the buyers. After escrow closed, the buyer found the chandelier missing, sued the seller and won. The seller was required to return a $25,000 chandelier to the buyer. This is a very costly mistake. 

My recommendation to sellers and buyers with regards to real estate transactions is that they clearly identify what is part of the transaction and disclose everything. This way, even if there is an issue, it can always be negotiated and a mutual agreement can be reached. It’s the responsibility of the real estate agents to help their buyers and sellers identify what needs to considered. When you are unsure, ask a lot of questions!

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Scott Cheng - Real Estate Broker




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