“But this can happen all too easily without a well-written sale agreement,” says Hano Jacobs, CEO of the Realty 1 International Property Group. “In fact we recently came across an instance where a seller tried to remove the wooden cottage-pane windows and doors before the buyer moved in, and claimed that he was entitled to take them because they were not part of the original structure of the house but a later addition.
“Of course this is an extreme example, but the issue of what is a fixture and what is not has always been a thorny one, and carries the potential for serious disputes between buyers and sellers that can easily cause a sale to be cancelled or at the least really sour the buyer’s enthusiasm about his new property.”
In general, he notes, prospective buyers viewing homes for sale will simply assume that anything that appears permanently fixed in place - including mirrors, ceiling fans, eye-level ovens and air conditioners – is included in the sale.
Sellers, on the other hand, may quite genuinely believe they have a right to remove such non-structural items to their new homes, as well as “loose” items such as water features, pot plants, curtains, bar stools, pool cleaners, TV aerials and even swimming pool and borehole pumps.
However, says Jacobs, it is obviously unfair to put a property on show complete with all the trimmings only to remove these after the sale, or to replace quality items with cheap alternatives. “What is more, this could have major implications in terms of the new Consumer Protection Act, which entitles buyers to withdraw from any transaction they believe has been based on false advertising or misrepresentation.”
“Consequently, our advice to sellers is to go through their homes before putting them on show and remove any and all items they do not want to include in the sale. In addition, we advise buyers who are viewing homes for sale to ask whether specific items they really like are included in the sale or not – and to ensure that these are individually written into the sale agreement.
“This way, both parties are far more likely to end up with a deal they feel is transparent and satisfactory.”