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Understanding the Difference Between Chattels and Fixtures: Avoiding Surprises on Closing Day

Buying or selling a property can be an exciting yet complex process. One aspect that often causes confusion is differentiating between chattels and fixtures. Understanding this distinction is crucial to avoid disappointment and ensure a smooth closing process. In this blog post, we will discuss the difference between chattels and fixtures, their subjective values, and provide practical advice to both buyers and sellers. At Maxwell Signature Realty, we are committed to helping you navigate the real estate landscape with confidence and peace of mind.


Furniture representing chattels

Chattels vs. Fixtures: Unveiling the Difference:

To start, it's essential to grasp the fundamental difference between chattels and fixtures. Chattels are tangible, movable personal property, such as furniture, appliances, or decor items. On the other hand, fixtures refer to physical property that is permanently attached or affixed to the land or the property itself. For instance, built-in cabinets, light fixtures, or even a heating system are considered fixtures.


Lights representing fixtures

Subjective Valuations: The Challenge of Individual Perspectives 

 When it comes to chattels and fixtures, their value can be highly subjective to both buyers and sellers. For example, many cottages are sold "turn-key," meaning they come fully furnished. This can add complexity to the situation, as buyers may have different expectations regarding what should be included in the sale. It is crucial for both parties to have clear communication and understanding of which items are considered chattels and which are fixtures.


The Importance of Detailed Inclusion Lists  

To avoid misunderstandings and disappointment, it is advisable to include a comprehensive and detailed list of items you want to ensure are included in the sale agreement. This list should be clear, concise, and leave no room for ambiguity. If certain items, such as a television, hold significant importance to you, ensure they are explicitly mentioned as "inclusions" in the agreement. Remember, if it is not mentioned as an inclusion, it is considered excluded by default.


Pre-Closing Visits: Ensuring Transparency and Completeness 

Buyers can further protect themselves by including a clause in the offer that allows for a pre-closing visit to the property. This final walkthrough serves two purposes: verifying that all items that should be left with the property are still in place and ensuring that any items not included in the sale have been removed. This gives buyers the opportunity to address any discrepancies before the closing day, minimizing the chances of last-minute surprises.


The Bigger Picture: Focusing on the Property and Its Value 

While chattels and fixtures can add to the overall appeal of a property, it is important to remember that the primary value lies in the property itself. Whether it's a waterfront cottage or a suburban home, the main attraction is the place where you can relax and create memories. It is understandable to have preferences and expectations, but it's vital not to get too caught up in minor details. Ultimately, the value of what you are purchasing is the property itself, not the "things."

Understanding the distinction between chattels and fixtures is crucial for both buyers and sellers to avoid surprises and ensure a smooth closing process. By clearly communicating expectations, including comprehensive lists, and conducting pre-closing visits, you can minimize the chances of disappointment or disputes. At Maxwell Signature Realty, we are committed to guiding you through the buying process and ensuring your real estate journey is as seamless and stress-free as possible. Remember, focus on the bigger picture and the value of the property you are acquiring. Contact us today, and let us help you navigate the real estate market with confidence.


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*Melanie Maxwell-Hevesi is the McGillivray Trusted Agent for Haliburton County

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