Best of 2020 Title Tip: What You Can And Cannot Take With You When You Go

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Editor’s Note: This year has been a decade, right? So many things happened, lots of things were postponed, and houses continued to sell despite it all. While the team takes a hot minute this holiday season to recharge the ol’ Energizers, we’re serving up our very favorite stories from 2020. Enjoy!

Lydia: This is my favorite title tip of 2020 because it’s an issue that gets folks into trouble if they aren’t aware. The contract clearly identifies what can go and what must stay when a property sells. But intent isn’t always made clear and in the bustle of a move, people can forget or ignore small obligations. It’s an awful experience on  closing day when a buyer does their final walk through and finds that something they thought was staying with the house is gone.  Disputes arise and suddenly there is a lot of finger pointing (I won’t say which finger).  This tip can help buyers and sellers avoid some heated conflicts.

There is often confusion about what a seller can and cannot take from a house when they sell it. Things can get unpleasant and disputes can erupt when all parties are not clear.

Let’s shed a little light on what goes and what stays when a home sells in Texas.

What conveys?

Paragraph 2B of the standard Texas real estate contract lists specific items that must convey with the property unless otherwise stipulated. These are items that are permanently installed and built-in. They include appliances, window screens, mirrors, ceiling fans, mail boxes, light fixtures, and more.

Paragraph 2C of the contract lists additional accessories that must remain with the property such as fireplace screens, curtains and rods, blinds, fireplace logs, garage door controls, etc.

Whether or not an item conveys with the house can often depend on if it is considered permanently attached or built-in. For example, if a mirror is hanging on a nail in the powder bathroom, it is not permanently installed and the seller may take it. However, a mirror glued to the wall or screwed in by framing is considered attached and remains with the house. A kitchen refrigerator does not go with the house unless it is built-in. If it is built-in, then it must remain.

Mounts and brackets for televisions and speakers are listed in paragraph 2B and must stay put. However, the actual television and speakers do not go with the sale. Outdoor cooking equipment that is built-in must remain, but items like free standing grills do not. Paragraph 2C lists draperies, curtains and rods as items that must stay. All keys plus controls for gates and garage doors must also convey.

What to exclude?

Any items that the seller wants to exclude must be listed on the first page of the contract. I often see a favorite light fixture or specific window treatments listed in this space.

Personal property items belong to the seller and go with the seller. The seller may opt to gift something (like a washer and dryer) to the buyer and the buyer may agree to accept it. If the buyer does not agree to accept it, then the seller must remove all personal property prior to giving possession. A Non-Realty items addendum should be completed by both parties for any personal items transferring from seller to buyer. 

Texans may find it surprising that in some countries, the seller takes everything but the kitchen sink – literally. I’ve seen folks buy a home in Europe and discover that the seller takes all appliances, light fixtures, door knobs, etc. In other countries (particularly resort areas), the seller may leave almost everything, including the furnishings and dishes.

When in doubt, read the details in Paragraph 2 and put what you want in writing at the time you sign the contract. Then everyone will understand what you can and can’t take with you when you go.

Opinions expressed are of the individual author for informational purposes only and not legal or tax advice. Contact an attorney or accountant to obtain advice for any issue or problem.

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Lydia Blair

Lydia Blair (formerly Lydia Player) was a successful Realtor for 10 years before jumping to the title side of the business in 2015. Prior to selling real estate, she bought, remodeled and sold homes (before house flipping was an expression). She’s been through the real estate closing process countless times as either a buyer, a seller, a Realtor, and an Escrow Officer. As an Escrow Officer for Allegiance Title at Preston Center, she likes solving problems and cutting through red tape. The most fun part of her job is handing people keys or a check.

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