When buyers put in an Offer to Purchase after viewing a property, a mistake is often made where they do not check in detail what it is they’re actually signing for. Buyers will have seen the property, possibly walked through it a few times, but it would most likely have been fully furnished with the seller’s belongings. It could be that some features of the home might not be left behind or are not permanent fittings or fixtures in the house, so the buyer must ask if there are any items that will be removed or mention items of interest before signing the OTP, says sales manager of SAProperty.com, Cornel Haskins.
The definition of a fixture is any physical item that is permanently attached (fixed) to real property. While there is no legal definition of what constitutes a fitting, however, it is generally considered that ‘fittings’ are items that are freestanding or are easily removed.
However, as an example of something that could typically happen, the seller might have a chandelier that is a family heirloom, which is not to remain, and they will be replacing it with an alternative when they move. The buyer might assume it comes with the house, which would cause a dispute later.
A typical example of what might be deemed as a fixture in a home and part of the kitchen, is a preparation island in the middle of a kitchen but on closer inspection it might be found that it is on castor wheels and is designed to be moved. The current owner has possibly commissioned this for himself and might not leave it in the home when he vacates it, as he might see it as an item of furniture and not part of the property, said Haskins.
Other items that one might assume remains in the purchased home could be things such as the burglar alarm, solar heating system, air-conditioning units, Wendy house, shelving (which might not be fixed to the walls but seem so), pool equipment, or safe, to name a few.
If the seller of a home chooses to remove items that seem to be part of the permanent structure, he needs to specify this in the purchase agreement and should replace it with a suitable alternative. Ideally, the home should not go on show where there are items that the seller will be removing when he moves out, she said.
Buyers should inspect the home room by room, and any item that might be removable, but they would like to remain should be included in the purchase agreement in a checklist. If items are ticked off as ‘included’ or ‘excluded’ misunderstandings between the buyer and seller are avoided. The transaction will be straightforward as all the parties know exactly what they have signed for, said Haskins.