In real estate, something that is fixed to a property as an improvement is called a fixture. However, determining if something is a fixture or personal property (also called a chattel) can be a challenge and sometimes leads to contention between parties in sale transactions or rental arrangements.
Understanding what qualifies as a fixture is important for all real estate agents because conflicts over fixtures can actually end up killing a deal.
Personal property, or chattels, are items that are not attached or involve the interest of land. This could be furniture, area rugs, curtains, or anything else that is not permanently fixed to the real property.
A fixture on the other hand is an item that has been permanently fixed to real property and therefore becomes a value-adding piece of that property via appurtenance.
When deciding if something is a fixture, we typically follow a single guiding principle, being the method of attachment.
Some examples of fixtures are:
- Hot water heaters
- Central air-conditioners (but not window units)
This may seem simple enough, but there are quite a few grey areas when it comes to fixtures.
Let’s go back to curtains and other window treatments. Typically, blinds and shades are considered fixtures because they are screwed into the window frame. However, when it comes to curtains, which are hanging on a rod, these are considered personal property.
So, what do you think the curtain rod is? If you guessed a fixture, then you would be correct.
The acronym M.A.R.I.A can help in determining if an object is a fixture or not.
M is for method of attachment. If an object is physically or permanently attached to a property either by glue, screw nail or otherwise, it’s usually considered a fixture.
A is for adaptability. When an object isn’t screwed or nailed but has still become a part of the property, it is a fixture. An example of this would be laminate flooring planks.
R is for relationships of the party. When there is a dispute over a possible fixture, typically the buyer ends up having the upper hand because it is assumed that anything that the seller would have attached to the property was meant to be a permanent fixture.
I is for intention. This is similar to ‘R’ in that it takes into consideration what the property owner’s intention is with the instalment.
A is for agreement. What is written in the contract is what becomes the deciding factor. For this reason, when putting together a purchase contract it’s important to clarify any possible fixtures that are included with the purchase contract.
As a real estate agent, it will be important for you to clarify with your sellers all possible fixtures before listing a property for sale. When you’re working with a buyer, double-check with the selling agent that all fixtures have been disclosed on the purchase contract.
If you want to see some examples of questions that will be on the actual real estate exam, check out our free real estate practice exam. We have been named as the best real estate exam practice for 7 years in a row!
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