A fixture is any personal property that is attached or fixed to a real property. A fixture is associated with the use and/or enjoyment of the property; therefore, it will transfer from the buyer to the seller in a real estate transaction when buying a home. While a fixture is assumed to be part of the transfer of ownership, assumptions can lead to problems in a real estate transaction. Let's take a look at why it's so important buyers and sellers are in agreement on which fixtures are included in a property purchase.
Why the fixation on fixtures?
Getting clear on what items of personal property are considered fixtures is important. Both buyers and sellers want to avoid conflicts and disappointment regarding what stays in a home and what gets packed up.
Here are some fixtures that typically stay with a home when it's sold:
Fixtures need not only be indoors, though. A pool cover could be considered a fixture in that it's intended for use with an existing pool and expected to stay at the home when the original owners move.
Other outdoor fixtures expected to stay with the home include trees and perennial bushes and plants. However, sometimes this might not be the case. For example, an avid gardener loath to leave behind prized rosebushes may uproot them in the move and replant them at the next property. However, this must be stipulated in the purchase contract, and something must be planted in its place.
One outdoor fixture an owner can certainly keep without discussion? Any part of a vegetable garden, as crops are considered personal property.
Who is MARIA?
There is an important acronym (it's on the real estate agent licensing exam) to help determine what is a fixture in a home: MARIA. Here's what it stands for:
This refers to how the personal property was affixed to the property. It might be as simple as a screw and a screwdriver. In fact, if a tool was used, the item in question is most likely a fixture.
This definition means the object has become such a part of the home that to remove it would cause damage, like a built-in appliance.
A fixture can be determined by the relationship of the two parties in the real estate transaction, be it a property sale or rental. When there's a dispute over whether an object is a fixture, it's usually the buyer who has the upper hand in a sale transaction, though in a rental lease, it's usually the tenant.
What's the purpose behind making the personal property a fixture? If built-in bookshelves are added to a room or custom shelving is hung in a walk-in closet, the installation was intended to be permanent in the space and is therefore considered a fixture.
Last but not least is the mutual understanding of what a fixture is for the purpose of a real estate contract. Buyers can request certain fixtures they want to keep -- or at least inquire about keeping -- to avoid confusion and disappointment. On the other hand, sellers must also be clear on what fixtures will be removed from the home and whether they'll replace them for the new owner. As long as the buyer and seller agree on the definition of an object as a fixture and it's listed as such in the purchase agreement, all other fixture definitions are superseded.
The bottom line
Even if personal property is defined as a fixture by MARIA standards, it can't hurt to put it in writing. Removing uncertainty and clearly defining fixtures in the purchase contract will make for a smoother real estate transaction.