so can strengthen the o;er, it can also
be an unwise move, because you have
no protection if unforeseen defects
Make sure to prepare buyers about
the inventory status in the market,
especially where supply is tight and
buyer demand is high. Buyers should
understand if they’re likely to face bidding wars and a longer wait for more
options to hit the market. Sometimes,
Lesses says, you have to let yourbuy-ers see it for themselves. “I can say
that the market is strong, but some
buyers won’t truly believe it in their
bones until they go to an open house
and there are 40 people there—and all
of them want the house,” he says.
If you find few homes that fulfill a
buyer’s desires, look for alternative
properties that are as close to what
they’re looking for as possible. For
example, a buyer who says he or she
wants a half-acre property can get
the same benefit from a quarter-acre
home on a cul-de-sac, says Holly
Weatherwax, ABR, GRI, an associate
broker with Momentum Realty in
Potomac Falls, Va.
Sometimes the timing just isn’t
right, and you have to be prepared
to tell them that they should wait for
more homes to come onto the market.
In the fall, Weatherwax might advise
her clients to put o; their search until
spring in the hopes that more attractive options will appear.
Even with preparation and education, some buyers have to learn the
hard way. “They may have to lose the
first house that they think they want,”
Weatherwax say, “because they’re not
willing to think creatively or o;er full
price in a competitive situation.”
By Lynn Olson
38 REALTOR® MAY/JUNE 2015 REALTORMAG.REALTOR.ORG
The Pain of Fixture Feuds
Make sure that buyers and sellers agree on what
items stay—or go—well before closing.
Could an entire sale hinge on a bathroom
fixture? That’s a question buyer’s agent
Valerie Hartman with RE/MAX Action
Realty in Maple Glen, Pa., found herself
pondering hours before a scheduled
closing. After all the terms had been negotiated for a $375,000 home purchase,
the sellers ripped out the bidet and the
kitchen’s water filtration system. Hartman’s buyers were upset.
Hartman contacted the Pennsylvania
Association of REALTORS®’ free legal hotline. She learned that because the sellers
never excluded the bidet or filtration system in the sales contract and both items
are considered fixtures—features that are
permanent and attached to the home—
they should be part of the sale. Ultimately,
the buyers didn’t pursue negotiations for
the bidet, but the sellers paid the $1,000
for the filtration system.
While there’s a broad understanding
that fixtures are automatically conveyed
in a sale, disputes frequently arise over
how to define them, says Janet Grayson,
an attorney in Portland, Ore., who also
serves as counsel to the Oregon Association of REALTORS®. Perceptions can vary
about which features are “securely” attached to a home. Clear communication
between both sides is necessary to avoid
problems. A disagreement over something as small as a bathroom mirror can
lead to closing delays, end up in arbitration or court, or even scuttle a deal. One
scenario that causes problems: A buyer’s
agent may assume an item is a fixture
and not bother to include it in the o;er.
But the seller’s agent may look at the
exact same item—say, custom window
treatments or a bar in a basement held
in by three screws—and consider it the
seller’s personal property, says attorney
Matt Johnson of Manchester, N.H., who
also represents the New Hampshire As-
sociation of REALTORS®. “The last thing
you want is for a client to ask you why you
didn’t include a specific item in the sales
contract,” Grayson adds.
Standard residential purchase forms
often contain language about fixtures.
Typically, there’s a section for buyers to
list other items they want to include in the
conveyance. Still, even the most careful
agent can be caught o; guard. Two years
ago, a seller uprooted a 15-year-old apple
tree and planted a small tree in its place,
says buyer’s agent Isela DeLeon, with
Target Realty in Houston. The seller also
removed an attached front porch swing.
DeLeon’s buyers said the tree and the
swing were the home’s main attractions;
the seller explained the tree held sentimental value—her son’s ashes were
buried around it, and she always intended
to take it, though she didn’t tell her agent.
In the end, the closing was delayed by a
week, and the seller agreed to pay $1,200
toward the purchase of a new tree and
$150 to replace the swing.
“I’ve seen sellers replace appliances
for cheaper ones. I now photograph and
write serial numbers of appliances and
double-check at the final walk-through
that there have been no swaps. I don’t
assume anything anymore.”
By Melissa Dittmann Tracey
Find more tips for avoiding fixture dis-
putes at realtorm.ag/fixtures.