Buying a Home: 5 Things You Need to Ask About Your New Property

Tips For Buyers

What's Included With the Property? 5 Questions to Ask

As a home buyer, you may already know that the furniture and any personal items in the home will go with the seller once the sale is complete. However, there may be other items in the home, or attached to the home, that may be less clear as to weather they should be included in the sale or not.

This checklist will help you determine which items you may expect to keep, as well as your rights and responsibilities concerning landscaping and water features running along the property line.

1. Which Appliances Are Included?

Determining which appliances will stay in the home and which ones will be taken by the current owner is a matter of distinction. Appliances that may be easily removed and replaced, such as a washer, dryer or refrigerator, are often removed after the sale is complete. However, some appliances are often sold with the home to enhance the homes desirability. Appliances that are considered a fixture of the home, that would require extensive work to remove them and would leave a noticeable gap in their absence, usually stay with the home. These include ranges, built-in microwaves and dishwashers. Your real estate agent should be able to tell you which appliances stay and which ones the seller is taking with them.

However, if you really like the refrigerator or laundry setup, ask your agent to include them with your offer to purchase.

2. Can I Keep the Fixtures?

Unlike appliances, it is usually pretty clear which fixtures should remain with the home. Fixtures are more permanent aspects of the structure, such as the window blinds, light fixtures, flooring and faucets, and are often updated by motivated sellers in competitive areas before listing. Even ceiling fans are typically considered fixtures, and left with the home.

Anything that might be considered personal property, such as curtains, bookcases not attached to the wall or movable storage units, may be taken by the seller and not included in the home sale. Though it never hurts to ask if they might leave the items and include them in the sale. 

3. Which Outbuildings Will Remain?

Although many properties only have one building with a garage included, other properties may have one or several outbuildings. These might include a detached garage, a studio, guest house or storage shed. Permanent structures are almost always included in the purchase contract, as they cannot easily be removed from the property without causing damage to the unit itself or the property where it stands.

However, some storage sheds can be in a gray area. If in doubt, ask your agent or investigate the tax records of the property which are usually online. If the building is not included, then you may have to ask for it to be included with the purchase.

4. Who Owns the Fences and Trees?

If the property has a fence running along the property line but does not adjoin with fences of your prospective neighbors, it is fairly obvious who owns the fence. A fence that would be used exclusively by you, as the owner, would be completely owned by you in most cases. However, fences that are built to be used by owners on both sides of the fence may be owned by both, depending on the laws of the city and state you live in.

Regulations are similar for trees growing on the property line. If the tree grows on both properties, both owners may have access to and responsibility for the tree.

5. What About Public Waterways on or Next to the Property?

At first, the idea of purchasing a property with a creek running through it seems terribly romantic. However, if the waterway is large enough, you may have to deal with the public running through it as well. If the stream running through the land is considered navigable (often defined as an average width of 30 feet or more), in many states, you may have to allow the public to pass through on it.

Water rights, beach access and water frontage rights are all very state-specific. For example, in many locations, property owners on the water’s edge may not obstruct public access to the water, although they may not be required to permit people access to their land. Many states are eager to protect the rights of private property owners, even when that property runs adjacent to a public waterway. Questions regarding water rights, beach and shore access should be directed to your real estate agent or broker or an attorney.

There are standards sellers follow when they sell a home, and you should know what they are. With the answers to these five questions, you can understand what you get to keep, and what items go with the sale of the property.