The home buying process tends to unfold in stages.
The first stage of house shopping is familiar: sort through your favourite listings provided by your REALTOR® based on your wish list. The second stage is viewing the properties, walking through the homes and getting a sense for those that may suit your lifestyle.
The third phase of home buying is the offer. Having narrowed down the search for a home, you will want to understand what is included in the price as you work with your salesperson to develop your offer.
Chattel or Fixture?
Understanding what is included when buying a home requires a grasp of two key real estate concepts: chattels and fixtures.
Chattels are generally understood to be excluded from a sale. These are items that are not fastened to the property in any permanent way. Chattels are fully removable and, while usually not fixed permanently in position, they may still be temporarily attached to the home.
A good example of a chattel is a piece of furniture, or an appliance like a fridge. The only attachment to the house is where a refrigerator is plugged into the wall. Once unplugged, this appliance is easily separated from the house.
Fixtures, on the other hand, are customarily included in a purchase. A fixture is anything built-in or fastened to the property with the connection intended as permanent. Built-in shelving and light fixtures are common examples of fixtures. Removing a fixture would typically require tools in order to do so.
The distinction starts to become blurred when you consider something like a built-in desk. This may be initially considered a chattel because it’s furniture. However, since it’s attached to the property a buyer might believe that the desk is actually a fixture and therefore stays with the house.
Another example is a wall-mounted television. Using our definition the wall mount would be a fixture, while the television is a chattel.
Further complicating matters, a seller may leave items in the house during showings that are not intended to be sold with the property. Perhaps a homebuyer is taken with an elaborate chandelier hanging in the front foyer, for example, only to find out later that this fixture is excluded from the sale.
Because of the potential confusion around chattels and fixtures, it is a good idea to clarify the status of any specific items of interest with your REALTOR® in advance of placing your offer.
You can usually find details of included chattels and excluded fixtures in the listing details provided by your REALTOR®. You may also find information included on a property’s feature sheet often found on the home’s kitchen counter during your showing.
Bear in mind that as a buyer, you may still ask for items that the seller did not initially intend to sell. It will be the seller’s decision whether or not they wish to release the item, like the antique chandelier in the foyer from our earlier example, but it never hurts to ask.
Most important, ensure that you have full clarity around what is and is not included in the home you are looking to buy. Your REALTOR® can help do the research for you in cases where specific information is not provided on a listing.
Subscribe to Monthly Newsletter
Explore More Articles
Daily Listings to Your Inbox
What's Your Home Worth?