You haven’t even moved into your new house yet, but you already feel like you’ve been robbed. Before you bring in the first box, you notice upon entry that many of the features that made you decide to buy the house are now missing. The top-notch appliances have been swapped out for cheesy substitutes. The beautiful light covers that added so much charm are gone, and in their place, generic glass bulbs. And the worst part of it is that there’s nothing you can do about it unless those items were detailed in the contract as being sold with the house.
When Sellers and Agents Throw Shade
By and large, real estate agents and home sellers are good, honest people. But as with any situation, there are a few bad apples. Although there are certain disclosure laws when purchasing real estate, there are also many loopholes in the way properties are marketed.
For example, a buyer sees an ad online for a home for sale complete with appliances. The buyer, when visiting the house, comments on how spectacular the stainless steel looks, how high-end the brand is, and how happy they are with the aesthetic of the kitchen. But when that buyer gets the keys and excitedly enters their new home, all of those stainless steel appliances have been replaced with dated, old, sad looking appliances.
That agent probably knew that those weren’t the appliances that were going to be included with the property, but chose to keep quiet about it. Why? Because “includes appliances” does not specify which appliances. As long as there are an oven and a dishwasher, if that’s what the advertisement said, then it doesn’t matter whether or not they’re the same oven and dishwasher that were in the home when it was purchased.
Chances are, the agent and seller you’re working with have a good moral compass and wouldn’t manipulate the transaction that way. However, to make sure you’re within your legal rights, you must detail in writing in the contract the specifics such as color, brand name, etc. of the appliances you believe you’re buying with the house.
It’s Not All About the Appliances
Those stained glass light fixtures you fell in love with were removed and replaced with glass bulbs before you moved in. Although it’s reasonable to assume that light fixtures are part of the house, they’re not. Here is another place you must be stringently detailed. When you’re touring a home, and you’re not sure if an item comes with the property, ask, “Does this come with the house?”
Often, the answer is no. However, sellers are sometimes more than happy to include items for a separate charge.
There’s wiggle room in the term “personal belongings.” Personal belongs are considered the property of the seller and do not have to remain in the home after the sale. But there are also ways to define, separate, and understand what are personal belongings and what belongs to the house.
What is a Fixture?
A fixture in a home is an item that is permanently attached to the structure. Examples of fixtures include water heaters, light fittings, plug sockets, sinks, toilets, showers, bathtubs, or other items that built in or not easily removed.
Fixtures come with the house.
What is a Fitting?
Fittings are items that can be easily removed from the property without the use of tools other than, perhaps, a screwdriver. Examples of fittings include furniture, curtains, rugs, carpets that aren’t tacked down (even if it looks like they are!), freestanding appliances, artwork, and even television antennas. That stained-glass light cover is a fitting – an item the seller purchased separately from the house as an upgrade to fit his or her style. The seller is within their right to take that item with them, provided another light cover is in its place.
Other significant fittings that buyers misconstrued as inclusions with the property are things like above-ground swimming pools or hot tubs.
Fittings do not come with the house.
Get it in Writing
Whether or not you bargain for inclusions, every fixture and fitting included in the home should be documented in an inventory of possessions. If you do not receive an inventory list, ask for one. Review that list carefully for misconceptions.
In situations where you can haggle to get some add-on items, such as custom curtains or television wall mounts, get that in writing, too. The devil is in the details – including brand names, colors, size, and other defining characteristics as well as the agreed upon price.
More than the Stuff
There are other things first-time buyers overlook when buying their starter house. They may be aware of things like mortgage payments, but may not be aware of the requirement for homeowners insurance, property taxes, or HOA fees and regulations. Before you sign on the line to purchase a property, ask about what’s included regarding financial obligations. The difference in financial responsibilities can be devastating to buyers who budgeted themselves into a corner without room for unexpected bills.
Another item buyers tend to miss is the closing costs. Closing costs are not included in the home mortgage loan and are usually the responsibility of the buyer to pay at closing. Closing costs can range anywhere from one percent to eight percent of the value of the property you purchase, so we’re talking about thousands of dollars, not chump change. However, if you’re submitting an offer on a home where there’s not much competition, and you’ve got room to negotiate, you can ask that the seller pays closing costs – if not in full, then at least in part.
Don’t assume that what you see is what you get when you’re buying a home. You may be unpleasantly surprised on moving day to discover that the house you swooned over has been stripped down and left in a condition far less than what you’d anticipated. When in doubt, ask. If an item isn’t included in the sale, offer to purchase it at additional cost. Write every detail in the inventory list and contract, so nothing is left to question.
Call The Wright Choice Team today at 804-307-2589 to tour available homes for sale in the Chesterfield County area.