A "sold" sign sits on a photo of a residential property in a real estate agent’s window display in London. In Europe, it’s practically unheard-of to move into a place with a fully outfitted kitchen. (Simon Dawson / Bloomberg)
It’s not unusual that a favorite light fixture does not remain in the house when it is sold. And every once in a while, a house will be listed with the special notation that certain outside plantings don’t transfer.
Yes, according to a listing that caught Cindy Jones’ eye recently. It was probably an error. Surely the listing agent meant that the seller would take certain kitchen appliances when they moved out, not the entire kitchen.
Maybe the sellers were from Europe, where it’s practically unheard-of to move into a place with a fully outfitted kitchen. That’s why people from England, France, Italy and Germany buying a house in this country are pleasantly surprised when the kitchen is included.
In Germany, by law, sellers have to provide a stove and a sink, but nothing else. In France, all you need to leave is the sink. And in Italy, everything goes, nothing stays.
But that is there. This is here, which is why Jones, an independent real estate broker in Woodbridge, Va., found it so unusual. Especially since it is probably impossible to appraise a house without a kitchen. Or persuade a lender to give you a mortgage.
"How do you explain to the underwriter that the kitchen doesn’t come with the house and expect to get a loan that includes the value of a kitchen?" she wrote in a recent post on ActiveRain.com, a social network where real estate professionals hash over numerous topics.
Lenn Harley, another broker who serves the Washington area at Homefinders.com, reports that she had a sale once in which the seller took down a crystal chandelier before closing. Fortunately, her buyers noticed the switch during their pre-closing walk-through and asked for — and received — a $2,500 credit for the missing fixture.
Tom White of the TW Realty Group in Franklin, Tenn., had a similar experience recently, in which there was "quite a big deal over a sentimental light fixture." The seller told the buyer that he would replace it with a new fixture. No problem — "until my buyer saw it was a $79 fixture from Home Depot replacing the $600 fixture that had been there," Alexander said.
Many of the ActiveRainers commented that they have been involved in deals in which sellers wanted to take certain plants with them when they moved out.
Joan Whitebook of Better Homes and Gardens’ Masiello Group in Nashua, N.H., had one in which the sellers wanted to keep a Japanese maple — but it could be removed only during a certain time of the year. And Inna Ivchenko of the Mannis Real Estate Group in Calabasas is selling a place for someone who intends to dig up some plants, trees and a backyard brick walkway because "it has some sentimental memories for her."
Chris Griffith of Downing-Frye Realty in Bonita Springs, Fla., has a listing with a "raggedy old" grapefruit tree that will be removed because it was planted by the seller’s grandchildren. And Michael O’Connor of Diamond Ridge Realty in Corona listed a house for a seller who intended to take "some select rosebushes" from the front of the house that were a gift from her grandmother.
Sonsie Conroy of Century 21 Hometown Realty in San Luis Obispo once bought a fixer-upper in which the contract allowed the seller to return to harvest his strawberry patch. Also, Conroy was required to guard the seller’s piano until he could find someone to move it.
Mark Arlow of Keller Williams in Savannah, Ga., had a client who wanted to take the front door. Turns out it was the door to the family farm where they grew up. "When they sold the farm, they kept the front door as a reminder of the farm, and now the door goes with them wherever they go," Arlow said.
Mark Neighbor, a home inspector in Mcdonough, Ga., had a seller who waltzed into his former house a month after closing to remove a shower head. And Terry McCarley of Right Choice Realty in Cape Coral, Fla., knows of a fellow who doesn’t cook, so he ripped out the kitchen after he moved in and turned it into a recreation room with a pool table.
"The only appliance he put in was a refrigerator for his cold drinks," McCarley said. The lack of a kitchen will surely be a shock to potential buyers down the line, but at least they’ll know what they’re getting — or not getting — upfront.
"Some of the greatest counteroffers are when a loved — or sometimes hated — animal is used as a negotiating point," commented Brad Thomsen of Century 21 Real Estate Center in Lynnwood, Wash. Some sellers think that moving will be too disruptive for their furry or feathered friends and try to dictate that the pet stays with the house. "Nothing gets things moving faster than to counter with a demand about a favorite pet," Thomsen said.
Or how about the deal that almost wasn’t because of a flagpole? "When the buyers did the final walk-through and saw it was missing from out front, they asked, ‘Where the hell is my flagpole?"’ wrote Paul David Hiebing of Grampp Realty in Bettendorf, Iowa. "It may sound funny, but the deal almost fell apart at closing over a $500 flagpole."
Buyers don’t miss much — not when it’s their money on the line. If you want to take something with you, it’s always best to take it down, replace it and pack it away before you even put your place on the market. "It saves time and possibly a misunderstanding later on," said Jones, the Virginia broker who started this conversation.
Actually, it’s just good business. The rule of thumb regarding fixtures is that if it is attached to the house or property, it stays. So curtains can go, for example, but curtain rods stay.