Home Sale Inclusions and Exclusions: Let’s Be Clear on These 12 Items
There are so many things to consider when packing up your home to sell and move. One question we often get from our home sellers in Columbia, MO and surrounding counties is what items are required to be left with the home when you sell it and what items can be removed. These are called inclusions and exclusions, and believe it or not, these items can derail a successful home sale.
An exclusion is an item that is not included in the sale of the home. It is generally something that is affixed to the home but is not owned by the seller, such as propane tanks, water softeners, or solar panels/systems which may be leased, or it could be something that is affixed to the home that the seller wishes to remove and take with them.
An inclusion is an item that is considered part of the home sale, and there is a long list of these items noted on the Residential Sales Contract that is signed by both the seller and buyer when a contract is accepted. This list generally includes items that are affixed to the home, such as built-in appliances, garage door openers, and irrigation systems. Sellers may also write in non-affixed items and personal property that they want to include in the sale. They may choose to leave something to sweeten the deal or relieve them from having to move it (we see this a lot with garage refrigerators).
The most important thing is to be clear with all parties from the start about what is included and excluded in the sale. Our team reviews this information with our sellers before listing a home to make sure we understand the seller’s plan and can communicate that effectively to the buyers and their agent.
Here are twelve items that raise questions for sellers when listing their homes:
1. Window Treatments
In the Missouri Residential Sales Contract, blinds, shades, shutters, storm windows, door screens, awnings, and drapery hardware are all considered to be included in the sale, unless the seller has noted something to the contrary. Curtains are considered personal property and can be removed from the home. Sellers can spend thousands of dollars having custom window coverings made, so it can be surprising when they find out much of that is expected to be included in the sale. If there is an item in the above list that the seller wishes to keep…perhaps it is a special curtain rod that they really love and that will fit their new home…it is best to either remove it before listing or note that it is excluded in the contract. On the other hand, if the seller is planning to leave all or some of their curtains in the home, it is best to note that inclusion in the contract so buyers are aware that it is their responsibility to remove them, if they don’t want them.
2. Ceiling Fans and Light Fixtures
Since lighting is affixed to the home, it is assumed to be included in the sale. We had a seller who had an antique chandelier in their daughter’s bedroom that they wanted to keep. We advised them to either remove it and replace it with a basic fixture before listing or note it on the contract to avoid confusion. If the fixture is removed, it is appropriate to put something back in its place rather than leaving bare wires exposed in the ceiling.
3. Washers, Dryers, and Refrigerators
Since these appliances are not affixed to the home, they are considered personal property and are not included in the sale. Sellers may choose to exclude these appliances from the sale initially and use them as a point of negotiation with a buyer. We often advise our sellers to consider the cost of moving as opposed to leaving the appliance. If it is more painful to move…say the appliance is old or it is located in an inconvenient location, like the basement or a second floor closet…it might be worth it to just leave it for the buyers. Used appliances are generally easy to sell through online marketplaces, however, so if you don’t want to include it and don’t need to keep it, you can always sell later if your buyer doesn’t want it.
4. Flush Mounted Speakers and Home Theater Systems
Speakers that are flush mounted in the ceiling stay with the home, but think about wall-mounted speakers, ceiling projectors, movie screens, and sound systems in today’s home theaters. These are not as clearly defined, so they should be discussed with your agent before listing. A buyer could expect that all of these items are included in the sale, and a seller might be planning to remove all of them. That kind of misunderstanding can cause great pain right before closing, which is something no one wants. Clearly noting items such as this on the contract is the best way to assure everyone is of the same train of thought.
5. Television Brackets and Mounts
It is common for homes to have televisions mounted to the walls on brackets. The TV is considered personal property and is excluded from the sale, but the brackets that are connected to the wall are included. This can be a point of confusion for sellers, as the brackets are usually sized to fit the television, so sellers assume they would be of no use to the buyer unless their TV happens to be the same size. The sales contract clearly includes the brackets, so if a seller plans to remove it, it must be written into the contract and the wall damage after removal would need to be fixed before closing.
6. Mirrors, Shelving, and Closet Organizing Systems
Mirrors and floating shelves that are bolted to studs are included in the sale. Custom closet organizers are also included. Items that are hanging on the walls with nails are considered personal property and are excluded. If you have questions about any of your decorative items, please ask your listing coordinator so everyone is clear.
When you have lived in your home for decades and perhaps raised your family there, it is understandable that the sentimental attachment to the home is real. We represented a seller who had spent years marking their children’s growth on a door frame in their home. That marked-up frame might have been an eyesore for a buyer, but for this seller, it brought a load of memories. They indicated before listing that they wanted to remove the door frame and take it with them to their new home.
We advised this seller that removing the entire frame and pre-hung door could be costly and time-consuming to repair and replace. We suggested that they take photos of the door or use a new piece of trim to duplicate the marks instead, which would be simple to move and still keep the memories alive. Thankfully, this seller agreed to a more reasonable solution and left the door frame intact. We appreciated having this conversation from the start rather than days before closing to not only smooth out the contract process but also allow the seller time to come to terms with leaving the frame in the home.
Inclusions and Exclusions don’t just apply to items inside the home, however. Exterior items also need to be considered.
Our team represented the seller of a beautiful home that had a children’s playset in the backyard. Since the set was anchored to the ground and had been landscaped, the buyers assumed it would stay with the home. Since the buyers didn’t specifically ask for it in the contract, the sellers assumed they didn’t want it and planned to sell it or move it. The sales contract doesn’t address playgrounds and swingsets, so this is an item that should be discussed from the start. In this case, the assumptions by both parties lead to a lot of conversations during a tense negotiation period that had to be managed carefully by their Realtors®. In the end, the contract closed successfully, which is the result both desired.
Here are a few more exterior items to consider:
7. Hardwired Pet Fences
The Missouri sales contract includes pet systems, collars, and controls in the sale of a home. If a seller plans to exclude these, they would need to note that in the contract.
8. Storage Sheds
It is wise to note whether sheds are included or excluded from the contract, since the Missouri sales contract does not define that in the list. Whether a shed is built on a concrete pad or sits on dirt or grass, it is important to make sure both parties understand how a shed will be handled.
9. Security, Alarm Systems, and Other Smart Home Devices
Security systems used to be wired into the walls of a home, so it was clear that they would be included. Today, those systems can range from smart doorbells to sophisticated security camera systems inside and outside a home that have no hardwiring. It is best to clearly note the seller’s intentions with systems that are not hardwired. If a smart doorbell is going to be removed, sellers would need to replace it with a basic doorbell before closing. Something as small as a Nest or Ring doorbell can create problems at closing time.
10. Garage Workbenches and Electric Car Chargers
Hobbyists can have expensive workroom or garage systems that include cabinetry, lighting, exhaust systems, and lifts, to name a few. EV’s, or electric vehicles, are becoming more common, and many homes have chargers in their garage to accommodate them. Sellers should carefully note items that are staying or being removed to avoid confusion, or perhaps be willing to negotiate with the buyer if it is something in which they have interest. Just be clear from the start with your intentions.
11. Lighting, Landscaping, and Mailbox
Any landscaping that is in the ground at the time the contract is accepted is included in the sale. If your landscaping includes statues, fountains, bird baths, or special lighting, those details should be included in the exclusions/inclusions list. Some sellers have special bushes or trees in their yard in memory of a loved one or pet. If they plan to take that with them, it must be noted before a contract is signed.
We worked with a seller who had custom cedar shutters and a custom mailbox with their last initial affixed to the front of their home. They indicated from the start that they planned to remove those items and take them with them to their next home. This is unusual for sure, so we advised the seller to prepare to replace the shutters and mailbox with something basic but attractive and we clearly stated on the listing and contract how those items were to be handled to avoid pitfalls.
If you have a propane tank in your yard that is used to heat your home, the propane in the tank is your personal property. Obviously, you can’t easily take that with you, so before your closing date, a propane supplier will come out and measure how much propane is left in the tank so you get a credit from the buyer for the current market value at closing.
We advise sellers to try to keep the contract free from personal property as much as possible. A long list of personal property exclusions can give potential buyers the impression that you are taking much of the value in the home with you, which can feel like money they will have to spend to get the home in a livable condition. When possible, it is best to remove excluded items from the home before photography and showings to minimize the possibility for confusion.
The MIssouri Residential Sales Contract clearly states, “This contract and NOT the Seller’s Disclosure Statement, MLS, or other promotional materials, provides for what is included in this sale”, so sellers and their agent must carefully review submitted contracts to make sure items are specifically included or excluded to their wishes on that document.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions and make your feelings known from the start. Assumptions are dangerous with a legal transaction. Being clear lays the groundwork for a smooth path to closing.
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