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  • Writer's pictureNancy Bennett

Personal Property During a Home Sale: What Stays?

This is an interesting topic and one that can really jam up a home sale!

Personal property of the seller – what should stay, what needs to go and what if there is a disagreement?

In real estate, there is typically a form for EVERYTHING! I’m serious. The amount of paperwork generated by each California real estate transaction has continued to increase year by year. But that can be a topic of another newsletter.

For now, let’s talk about what stays with a home?

There are all kinds of personal items that can stay with a home, should the parties agree. What’s most important is that they are mentioned in the Residential Purchase Agreement. This purchase contract is the foundation from which the entire transaction begins. If it’s in the contract, then it stands. You can also amend a purchase contract to add, subtract, clean up, extend, cancel, or negotiate various terms along the way. (Hint: More paperwork). Here’s an example:

The buyer's agent fails to correctly note the personal property items included in the transaction, when filling out the Residential Purchase Agreement (RPA).

Just days before closing, the buyer's agent finds out that the seller has taken the $3,000 refrigerator even though it was listed on the MLS as included in the sale. Can the seller do that?!

It depends. Was the box in paragraph 3P(1) for "Refrigerator(s)" checked? If not, the seller has no obligation to leave it behind. In fact, they are obliged to remove it. (There is the possibility that the refrigerator was "built-in" and must stay on the property, but most refrigerators are not built-in.)

This outcome derives directly from the language of the RPA (Paragraph 9A), which states categorically that regardless of what the MLS, flyers, or marketing materials advertise about personal property, what matters is whether that item is specified as included in the sale under paragraph 3P or 9 of the RPA. The lesson is: The agent should always carefully check the MLS descriptions and advertising materials for items of personal property and then write those items into the RPA as included in or excluded from the sale. This will avoid any confusion, and if the seller would then like to keep any such listed item, they can request it in a Seller Counter Offer.

What happens in this case? Well, back in the day when I was a new agent and in contract with my client, there was confusion as to whether the refrigerator would stay. We didn’t have the level of detail in the purchase agreements that we have now, so it was a bit unclear. I represented the buyer, who “thought” the refrigerator should have stayed with the home. The seller stated it was not mentioned that your buyer wanted it, so I’m keeping it.

In this case, the buyers and I had a discussion about what appliances were staying. But they forgot. It happens. Buying a home can be so stressful that things can be mis-remembered or forgotten altogether.

So, here’s my buyer who just used all their funds to buy a new home along with the cost of moving with kids, and there isn’t a fridge in the house. Off to Best Buy I went and a new refrigerator was delivered the next day.

What would you do or expect in this situation?

Have a buyer purchase a home expecting the refrigerator to stay – then finding out it wasn’t? And hearing down the road that the buyer tells the story over and over about the missing refrigerator at Every. Single. BBQ? Or suck it up, buy a fridge and keep your client happy and tell THAT story at each BBQ?

It was an expensive lesson that still sticks with me today. And every time I see those clients they are so happy with their home purchase.

The point being, personal property is negotiable. Ask for what you want, and see if a seller is willing to leave it behind, or apply for a credit card at Best Buy and learn the hard way.

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