PERSONAL PROPERTY AND THE REAL ESTATE CONTRACT

A Funny Hollywood Story.

In the 1988 movie, Moving, Arlo Pear (played by Richard Pyor) and his family buy a house and proceed to drive across the country where comedic adventures ensue.
At the beginning of the movie, Arlo toured and contracted to buy his soon to be new home. “We’re taking that with us” the seller said in jest as Arlo complimented the sinks, the drapes and the swimming pool.
Arlo later arrives at his new home to find all the fixtures removed including the swimming pool. Shocked, Arlo calls the seller who says, “I distinctly told you we were taking the pool with us” and then references a transcript documenting the conversation.
This is a comedic look at a very possible scenario that could turn an otherwise wonderful occasion into an absolute nightmare.

Personal Property and the Florida Real Estate Contract.

Under the Florida “AS IS” Residential Contract for Sale, Personal Property existing on the seller’s property on the date of the offer is to be included in the purchase. But what is personal property? Personal Property is defined as range(s)/oven(s), refrigerator(s), dishwasher(s), disposal, ceiling fan(s), intercom, light fixture(s), drapery rods and draperies, blinds, window treatments, smoke detector(s), garage door opener(s), security gate and other access devices, and storm shutters/panels. Section 1(e) permits either party to exclude items from the purchase.
Buyers, sellers and realtors should pay careful attention to make certain to fully complete Section 1(e) as certain items are NOT Personal Property under the contract. Some of these items include:

  • smart home devices (including smart light switches and smart thermostats);
  • home networking equipment including network wiring;
  • built-in kitchen appliances such as a built-in microwave;
  • furniture that may look built-in but is not; and
  • artwork, vanity mirrors and other decorative items that may resemble a fixture.

The definition of Personal Property implies the inclusion of multiple Personal Items where they exist in a house. For instance, if a Seller has a refrigerator in the kitchen and also has a small wine refrigerator in the garage. Did the seller intend to include both refrigerators? This example can easily be applied to curtains, drapes and ceiling fans as well.
Answering these questions before the closing ensures a smooth closing and avoids the risk of a default, lost deposit, delayed closing and, worst of all, hurt feelings.

Best Practices for Buyers and Sellers.

The best advice is simply to openly communicate during the negotiation process. If you are a seller, or seller’s agent, walk through the house and specifically identify those items in the house that should not be sold with the house. If necessary attach a separate writing to the real estate contract should the list of excluded items become long. If you are a buyer, or buyer’s agent, be clear about what you want to buy. Much in the same way, add language to the agreement specifying the items that you would like included with the house even if they already may be defined as Personal Property.
Establishing an open dialogue throughout the negotiation process pays dividends. Understanding exactly what is to be bought and sold along with the sale of the house ensures a conflict free closing where both the buyer and the seller get exactly what they want.

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