05 September, 2013

Disputes Over Fixtures Can Derail a Closing

Real estate transactions are emotionally charged. Sellers cherish their homes and worry about selling them too cheaply. Buyers can be traumatized by high purchase prices and the financial implications of buying a home. This sets the stage for a transaction to suddenly unravel when the parties squabble over who gets custody of something as inconsequential as a chandelier light or some custom built-in cabinetry.

From a distance these disputes may seem silly but in the heat of the moment the parties often view it differently.

After representing buyers and sellers in our local market for nearly 20 years, I know that the issues are not that significant and often can be easily resolved through good will. But squabbles over fixtures after ratifying a contract are far from uncommon.

Big issues arise when things are not clear up front. You can avoid these issues before they arise with due diligence. It is the real estate agent's job to explain to the seller the difference between fixtures and personal property and what will be included and excluded in the sale of the home. If a seller does not want a fixture to be included in the sale simply remove it. Alternatively the agent can specifically exclude certain fixtures from the contract in an addendum that will be part of the disclosure package.

The purchase contract states clearly that buyer’s purchase of the property includes all existing fixtures and fittings attached to the property and devotes two sections to fixtures and personal properties that are included and excluded in the contract. Make sure that the contract states clearly what is included and excluded from the property to avoid any misunderstanding.

Despite best efforts, arguments may still break out. Remember to keep the issues in perspective and make sure your agent is a skilled negotiator.

For more details, please consult a local real estate attorney.

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