Real Property vs. Personal Property - What is Included in a Home Purchase?

Real Estate Agent with The Buyers' Counsel

appliances in a homeYou have found the home of your dreams and you are ready to put an offer on it.  Before you sign the contract make sure you know which items will convey with the house and which will be excluded.  There can be some confusion about this, particularly if the listing is vague on the matter.

 Real Property vs. Personal Property

For the purpose of selling real estate, property is divided into two categories:

Real Property is the land and everything that is attached to it, including the ground to the core of the Earth and up to the sky.  This would encompass the building, landscaping, trees and anything which is appurtenant to land or which is considered immovable by law.  

Another way to think of it is what realtors call fixtures.  Examples of fixtures are:  wall-to-wall carpeting, attached lighting, built-in ovens, stoves, microwaves and ceiling fans.  That is to say every item that is physically attached to the property, including, but not limited to the furnace and the kitchen sink.  All of these items will be included in the purchase unless they are mentioned as exclusions in the listing.

Personal Property is that which is not attached, such as furnishing, scatter rugs, free-standing lamps, refrigerators, washers, dryers and the grand piano.  These are all considered personal to the owner and can sometimes be used as bargaining chips when negotiating a price on a house. 

On the listing sheet there often be inclusions and exclusions.  If the refrigerator, washer and dryer are not mentioned, they are not included in the purchase price.  If a chandelier is mentioned as an exclusion, the sellers are taking it with them even though it is attached to the property.

Some sellers may even be attached to a particular tree or shrub in their yard and want to bring it to their new home.  In that case, the tree would be an exclusion in the listing and the seller would dig it up and remove it prior to the closing.  In this situation, be sure to have your attorney put wording in the purchase and sale agreement to specify that the landscaping will be back in good order after the tree is removed and not be left with a gaping hole.  Likewise, a chandelier should be replaced with a standard chandelier, lighting fixture, or, at the very least, an electrical cover to hide the exposed wiring. 

Window treatments can present as an interesting opportunity in the sale of a home because:

  1. They are often custom-made or tailored to the specific decor of the home and, therefore, have limited value to the seller, and,
  2. Since custom-made window treatments can be an expensive undertaking, they can be a good value for the buyer.

If window treatments are to be left this needs to be spelled out in the offer to purchase. 

The best way to avoid confusion on any of these items is make a list of all personal property that will be included in the sale, attach it to the offer and make certain that it is included in the final purchase and sale agreement.  This will help to ensure that you have a smooth transfer of ownership of the home and everything that goes with it.

Related Posts:

Home Warranties, Are They Worthwhile?

Assessing the Value of a Home

Property Disclosure - Who Has the Burden of Proof?

 Copyright 2009 - Claudette Millette, President, TheBuyersCounsel -  800-392-1446, E-mail    

Learn More about Massachusetts Home Buyer Representation - Greater Boston and MetroWest Massachusetts -  Serving Massachusetts Home Buyers Since 1992 

  Ashland, Holliston, Hopkinton, Natick, Newton, Northborough, Framingham, Sherborn, Southborough, Sudbury, Wayland, Westborough 


Posted by


Comments (4)

Jim Mushinsky
Centsable Inspection - Framingham, MA

Very good advice.  Ensuring that you get all the items you want is important.  Additionally getting rid of the trash you don't want may also be important.  How many times has the old water heater or other appliance been left behind and the new owner left with the cost of disposal?  Recently I have been seeing more old TV sets and computer monitors in the attics.  I guess this is because many towns now require an extra fee for the disposal of these items.

Feb 03, 2009 03:41 AM
Claudette Millette
The Buyers' Counsel - Ashland, MA
Buyer, Broker - Metrowest Mass


I'm not sure what you are getting at but thanks for reading the post. 

Sep 01, 2009 12:49 AM
Inna Ivchenko
Barcode Properties - Encino, CA
Realtor® • Green • GRI • HAFA • PSC Calabasas CA

I usually ask the listing agent what items are excluded, but if we forget something, we can add it later via Addendum.

Yet, I had situation when seller forgot that they must leave some staff and took more than they promised. That's why it is so important to have a final walk through:)

Aug 31, 2013 06:42 PM
Michael Mahoney
Century 21 - Boston, MA
Boston Realtor with Century 21

Claudette thanks for your well written blog post on fixtures, personal and real property. I cannot for the life of me understand why some folks will want to blow a deal over an appliance. I referenced you in a post I did on Google Plus.  You can see it here

Thanks again for a great post. 

Sep 04, 2014 08:16 PM