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Real vs Personal Property in a Real Estate Transaction

When buying or selling a home, often misunderstandings occur over the distinction between “real” and “personal” property. Real estate agents across the nation frequently end up playing referee in situations fueled by misconceptions, which can create tension and sometimes even kill a sale. Understanding the difference is important to anyone engaged in a real estate transaction.

In simple terms, “real” property is the land and anything permanently attached to it, while “personal” property are items that are moveable. In this sense, real property obviously includes the home itself, along with other structures, such as a detached garage or barn, etc. It typically includes fixtures inside the home, such as lighting, faucets, built-in appliances, garage storage or racks, even curtain rods.

“Personal” property, being moveable, would usually include everything else. A refrigerator that is not considered a built-in could be included on this list. So would a free-standing BBQ Island, or a mounted TV. As you can see, some of these items may be controversial if there is not a clear understanding about what the seller intends to take with them when they move in the contract.

The best practice is for a seller to provide a list of any item they intend to keep that could be confusing and ensure it’s spelled out on the contract. This way, both parties have a clear understanding of the sale and the buyer does not plan a family BBQ on move day and find it gone.

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