What is a Fixture?
In today’s article, we are going to be talking about fixtures. Now, you are probably asking yourself “what the heck is a fixture”?!? That’s a great question so let’s jump in.
What is a Fixture?
A fixture is an improvement made to real property that is affixed or attached to the property so that it becomes part of the property. Clear as mud, right? Well, in order to understand what a fixture is, let's first look at other types of property.
When buying property everything starts with the land. Pretty simple, right? Then you have improvements placed upon the land. This is the house, garage, or any other structure you place on the land including such things as fences or even an in ground swimming pool.
Then you have Fixtures and Accessories. Before digging into them, let's quickly discuss another type of property: personal property. Personal property is anything that is not part of the house. If you are selling your home, your clothes or shoes aren’t included in the purchase because they are personal property. Your car is personal property. While occasionally these things are included in the sale of a house, they aren’t automatically included.
So that brings us to fixtures. As I said before, a fixture is an improvement to real property that is affixed or attached to the property so that it becomes part of the property. So anything that is permanently attached is a fixture. Kitchen cabinets are fixtures, wood floors are fixtures, chandeliers, window treatments, fans, mirrors etc.
Making a Determination
Sometimes there can be a debate over whether something is a fixture or personal property. The general rule of thumb is that if it is permanently attached it is a fixture. This can be a bit confusing. Take for instance TV mounts. A TV mount is permanently attached to the wall so it is a fixture and it stays with the house. The TV itself though is considered personal property. Curtains and drapes are another one that can be confusing. Since the curtain rod is mounted to the wall it is considered a fixture and in this case, the curtains themselves are considered an accessory and are supposed to stay too. More on accessories later.
Appliances are a bit fluid. Washers and dryers are not permanently attached and are therefore considered personal property. Dishwashers are bolted into the cabinet so they are a fixture. A range or stove is typically bolted to the wall with an anti tip mechanism and therefore is a fixture. Microwaves can go either way. If it is just sitting on the counter it is personal property. If it is mounted above the stove or built into the cabinets it is a fixture. Refrigerators are typically considered personal property, however some are built in and are then fixtures. Be sure to keep this in mind the next time you are looking for a home in Texas. I always have to remember to explain this to buyers especially when they are from out of state. Apparently in some states it is expected the fridge will always stay.
Then You Have Fixture Leases
We also have a thing called fixture leases. These are becoming more and more common. A fixture lease is when a fixture isn’t owned by the seller and instead is leased. Might seem a bit crazy at first glance, but two of the most common uses of these are security systems and solar panels. For instance, most people that have solar panels did not pay the $30-60,000 that the system costs. Instead they typically have a 20-30 year lease where they are paying that system off. But the panels are bolted to the roof so they are a fixture. Security systems are also often sold this way but for a much much shorter time frame. When the seller wants to sell they either have to pay off the lease or get the buyer of the home to assume the remaining loan.
What About Accessories?
Lastly we have Accessories. Accessories are things that are part of the home or fixtures but not permanently attached. As I mentioned before, curtains are one such thing. Another great example is the garage door remote. House and mailbox keys also fall under this. More and more commonly we are seeing homes with smart home features. These control devices also fall under Accessories.
Hopefully that clears up any confusion. Now, what happens if you want to keep that antique crystal chandelier that your grandmother gave you? Well there are a couple ways to go about that. In the Texas Residential Contracts there is a place for exclusions. Whatever you want to keep can be placed here. However, I don’t like doing it that way. This way is too prone to mistakes. In the heat of the moment during negotiations, this is something that can easily get overlooked. If your agent forgets or overlooks this then you could end up losing that family heirloom. So in my opinion it is best to just replace it before ever listing your home for sale. If it is gone then there is nothing to overlook. Plus, what happens if the buyer just absolutely falls in love with it and says they will only buy the home if it is included? If they never see it, that can’t happen.
So that is about it for fixtures. Now, next time you buy or sell you can have a better understanding of what is included with the house. This is one area that I have often seen disagreement between buyers and sellers because they have different ideas of what should stay.