Should it stay or should it go?

Private Property South Africa
Lea Jacobs

Selling a home is pretty exciting, making it easy to get caught up in the moment and forget to discuss - and clarify - important issues with the buyer. Before cussing becomes the order of the day.

One particularly prickly issue that arises fairly frequently is what the seller will be taking with him when he vacates the home. People tend to make assumptions and for this reason it is vital for the seller to make it absolutely clear what he will be taking with him after the sale and what will remain.

“Sellers and buyers quite often have widely different views on what is included in the ‘sales list’ when the property is handed over – and for this reason it is essential to list every item in the house, clearly defining whether it is part of the property or will be taken away when the seller moves out,” says Bill Rawson, Chairman of the Rawson Property Group. “This list should be attached to and referred to in the Deed of Sale and should in fact form a recognised part of it.”

Put it in writing

He adds that an efficient agent will inform the buyer what items are not part of the property. However, Rawson notes that in his experience it is essential to put this in writing in order to avoid future difficulties.

He makes a very valid point as it is often the small things that irritate the most. Learning that the bar you assumed would become a feature in your new home was exactly the item the buyer assumed would remain in situ could quickly sour relations.

Rawson notes that he experienced two cases early in his career that showed just how important it was for the seller to specify what formed part of the sale.

Don’t just go with the flow

“In one case a marble fountain at the bottom of the garden was very definitely not included in the sale. This information was passed on to the wife of the buyer, but she forgot to tell her husband, who was then extremely upset on taking occupation to find that the fountain was no longer there.”

In another case, says Rawson, the sale of the home included all the furniture but not the paintings, some of which were valuable. The buyer, however, had assumed that the phrase ‘all the furniture, fittings and fixtures’ had included the paintings and was annoyed to find that this was not the case.

Fixed fittings

“Generally speaking blinds, awnings and overhead tarpaulins are always considered part of the property and it is therefore essential to list them as exceptions if the owner plans to take them with him. Similarly, any fixed furniture, e.g. a bar, a bar counter or a chandelier can be kept apart from a sale but this should be made clear at the outset.”

Believe it or not, Rawson says, it is not at all unusual for a seller to want to take certain light fittings or fixtures, e.g. door knobs, with him. Again, however, this should be specified at the outset.

The most common disagreements seem to arise over appliances. Dishwashers, washing machines, microwave ovens, and in fact anything else that is portable, even certain cupboards which, although built-in, are detachable, will be assumed to be part of the property unless the seller specifies that he plans to take them with him.

“The old legal maxim ‘silence gives consent’ can be especially valid here,” notes Rawson. “If the seller has not specified in writing the items he plans to remove, the buyer has the right to assume that they will become his. The compiling of a full list of everything the seller plans to take with him is, therefore, an essential element of the compilation of any Deed of Sale.”

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