What’s Included And What’s Not When You Sell Your House

A quick primer on what stays or goes with the sale

When a homeseller sells and moves out from their property, it’s expected that certain things are taken with them, like their clothing and household decor. And some things are left behind, such as the air conditioning unit and the dishwasher.

Thankfully, the California Residential Purchase Agreement addresses what you can and can’t take with you when your house is sold. It’s worth reviewing the purchase agreement with your agent, whether you’re buying or selling; doing so can give you some helpful clarity.

With regard to what you can and can’t take with you when you sell, there are some basic rules to keep in mind. A few words of caution. If a Seller take things they’re not supposed to you may face a lawsuit after the sale.

So first and foremost, remember that you can’t take anything that’s legally considered to be part of the property. This includes shrubs and plants. You may have a favorite rose bush that you’d like to dig up and replant at the new place, but it’s actually illegal to do so unless you expressly excluded it from the sale of your listing or in your negotiations with the buyer.

Along similar lines, buyers and sellers sometimes have misunderstandings about backyard items, such as patio tables, basketball hoops, and playground equipment. The rule of thumb here is that, if it’s anchored to the ground, it’s supposed to stay with the property; if it’s not anchored, you’re free to take it. Again, if you need an exception to this rule, you have to clear it with the buyer and negotiate accordingly.

So, with regard to the basketball hoop: If it’s a kiddie-sized one with an inflatable base, you’re free to take it. But if you’ve placed it into a hole in the ground and poured concrete all around it, then it counts as part of the property, and needs to stay.

Picnic tables and outdoor furniture will usually be able to go with you… again, unless you’ve somehow anchored them to the ground.

As far as inside home decor is concerned, buyers and sellers can often get into disagreements about lighting fixtures. You may have a beloved chandelier, but the rule of thumb is that lighting fixtures are part of the home and thus can’t be taken, unless you specify in your listing that they are excluded from the sale and will be replaced prior to close or a credit to the Buyer.

Helpful Tip: Simply remove those lighting fixtures before you list and replace them with something a little less ornate. If they’re not actually installed at the time of listing, then there shouldn’t be any confusion about whether or not you’re taking them with you.)

And what about window treatments? Rods and blinds are considered to be part of the house, and you’re not supposed to remove them. Though again, if you have window fixtures you’re really attached to, you can remove them and replace them before you list and avert the problem altogether.

Flat screen wall mounted TVs are often thought to be part of the sale. In the California Purchase Agreement they are excluded from the sale, but the wall mounts remain. Now a prospective Buyer can negotiate for the Flat Screen TV to be included with the sale. Again a Seller can remove the TV and mount prior to the listing to avoid the issue. (I recommend to repair the drywall from the Flat Screen TV mount, the purchase agreement simplifies the issue by allowing the mount to remain.