According to the ‘Lectric Law Library, Real Property is “Land and all the things that are attached to it. Anything that is not Real Property is Personal Property:  anything that isn’t nailed down, dug into or built onto the land.”  Pretty straight forward, right? Not necessarily…

Typically, all parties consider items like furniture and appliances “personal” property.  When you buy a home, you’re buying the family room, not the flat screen television or the leather sofa.  While some jurisdictions have specific interpretations of “real” vs. “personal” property, when buying and selling real estate, there can be substantial grey areas.

If you’re talking about light fixtures and drapes, one person’s real property can be another’s personal property.  Even if the chandelier in the entryway wasn’t meant to be moved once it was installed, its value – whether in dollars or in sentiment – could make a difference when it comes time to sell.  It can also lead to confusion and/or dispute between buyers and sellers.

The best way to avoid conflict is to identify items like this at the outset.  If you’re selling a home and know the appliances are staying or the drapes are going, mention it to potential buyers.  Once a purchase agreement is drawn up, be sure that any items like this are clearly identified.  Built-in bookshelves, window air conditioners, and radiators are examples of other items that could cause dispute.  The list of property items should be given to the closing agent to be included in escrow docs so it’s clear to all parties what items stay and what items go.