What Is The Difference Between Chattel And A Fixture?

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If you want to buy a house, you may hear someone talk about the chattel or tangible personal property and the fixture. You need to understand these differences since it will help you know what is included in your purchase agreement and your purchase and sale documents.

A chattel is a tangible personal asset in real estate that can be moved. A fixture is a property fixed to the house and is usually sold together with the property. A fixture can also be known as an appurtenance.

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What Is Chattel Property In Real Estate?

Chattel property is known as a tangible personal asset. It is a property that can be moved from location to location.

Some tangible personal properties or chattel could be a car, furniture, table lamp, floor lamp, or area rug. These things could be moved out of the home and considered chattel or tangible personal property.

Under the law, a home as a mobile or manufactured home on leased land that can be moved is treated as a chattel and not real property or property as land or building.

What Is Fixture In Real Estate?

The fixture in real estate is any object permanently attached to a property by a bolt, screw, now, glue, cement, or other means. Items like chandeliers, ceiling fans, and window treatments are generally fixtures. They will stay with the house in a real estate transaction. A fixture can also be known as an appurtenance.

When you move out of a house, those pieces of property will need to stay behind with the house for a new owner. Those pieces of the property also become part of the sale of the house.

Fixtures are usually relatively easy to identify since they’re often attached to the house itself. But sometimes there could be some grey areas, such as refrigerators. In some instances, appliances are not always considered fixtures and are not always left with the house.

The reason is that a refrigerator is not attached with a bolt, screw, nail cement, or other means.

Other appliances could include washers and dryers, and even a stove. Even though they are large and heavy and can be challenging to move, as long as they are not permanently affixed to the property, they are not fixtures, and they can be moved when the property is sold.

Chattel Property And Fixtures In Real Estate

It could sometimes become quite challenging to understand what comes with the house when you buy it and what does not or, in other words, what is considered a chattel and a tangible personal property and what is considered a fixture that is part of the house.

5 Things Not Mandatory To Go With Sale Of Home

Here are five things that are usually not included when you purchase a home as they are considered a chattel or tangible personal property and not a fixture:

Refrigerators, stoves, fridges, washers, and dryers.

Although it may be customary for many sellers to leave a refrigerator or stove in the kitchen, it is not required, even though these appliances are large, heavy, and difficult to move. These appliances are not permanently affixed to the property. They are not considered fixtures or part of the property; this could even include automatic icemakers and other things that can be easily moved and unplugged.

Fish in a pond

If you purchase a house with a pond or water feature, the water feature would be considered a fixture and nonremovable, but the fish in the pond would be considered personal property. Many people who raise fish, especially Koi fish, consider the fish their pets and will not leave them in the pond.

Above-ground hot tub or swimming pool

Anything freestanding, such as a hot tub or swimming pool that can be easily disconnected and moved and is located in the yard and not inside the house is usually not a fixture. Still, it is considered chattel or tangible personal property. The seller might include it as part of the property in some instances.

Window Treatments

Blinds and shades attached to the window are typically fixtures. However, drapes and curtains that can easily slide off a rod are considered personal property; this confusion can also often begin in the main suite with a bedspread and a duvet cover that matches the window treatments.

The previous owners may want to take the window treatments with them. It is good to fully understand what window treatments are included in the sale of the house and which ones are not.

Home theater systems.

A home theater system, including exterior speakers and television, is considered personal property in most properties. The brackets and mounds could be considered fixtures unless they are also explicitly excluded from the purchase contract.

8 Items That Usually Go With The Sell Of A Home

All items above are considered chattel or tangible personal property, but here are some fixtures that typically stay with the house when a house is sold.

Ceiling Fans And Air Conditioning Units

Ceiling fans and air conditioning units are considered part of the home and a fixture that would still be sold together with the home.

Chandelier And Other Lighting Attached To The Wall

Chandeliers and sconces are permanently attached to the wall. They are usually considered fixtures and should be left with the house when sold. 

Blinds, Shades, And Curtain Rods

Things such as blinds, shades, and curtain rods are considered fixtures and should be sold together with the home. The reason is that these items are screwed into the wall, and because they are screwed into the wall, they are considered a fixture and part of the property.

Built-in Shelving

Any built-in shelving is considered a fixture and part of the property; this includes any shelving in a bedroom, kitchen, or anywhere in the house where a shelf is screwed into the wall will be considered a fixture of the house.

Garage Door Openers

As the garage door openers are fixed to the house, they and any portable units that go with them are considered fixtures and part of the house.

Smoke And Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors fixed to a ceiling or wall are considered fixtures and part of the house.

Pool Covers

If the house has an underground pool, the pool cover, even though it is not fixed to the house or the land, is considered a fixture intended to be used with an existing swimming pool and is expected to stay with the home when the original owners move.

Trees, Perennial Bushes, And Plants

Usually, the trees, the perennial bushes, and plants should stay together with the house and other landscaping. If someone is an avid gardener and does not want to leave their prize rose bushes behind, this must be stipulated in the contract of sale. Usually, something else would need to be planted in their place in a case like this.

It can be confusing as to precisely what is considered a chattel and what is considered a fixture. When you are looking to purchase property, the most important thing is that you completely understand what you are buying, what will be left with the house, and what will not be left.

A good real estate agent will point all of this out to you and help you understand what you will be purchasing with the house and what the owner will be taking away.

In simple terms, a chattel is a tangible removal property that is not attached or fixed to the land or the house and can be removed. A fixture has been nailed, screwed, or bolted and fixed to the house that remained with the house when the house was sold. A fixture can also be known as an appurtenance.

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Anita Hummel
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