Bottle Openers & Grand Pianos

[Note to Readers: The views expressed here are solely those of Ross Kaplan, and do not represent Edina Realty, Berkshire Hathaway, or any other entity referenced. If you need legal advice, please consult an attorney.]

If fixtures were a function of size, the grand piano would stay with the home while the wall-mounted bottle opener would go.

But they’re not (a function of size).

Rather, whether or not something’s a fixture depends on whether it’s permanently attached to the home.

Even then, Buyers’ and Sellers’ notion of what constitutes “permanently” can vary.

My test (and most Realtors’): you need tools to remove the item.

In addition to that rather straightforward test, here are two others: 1) Is substantial or costly repair needed once the item has been removed? (beyond a little spackle and paint, that is); and 2) Is a permit required to remove/install the item? (true of gas-powered stoves and dryers).

Minnesota Boilerplate

Fortunately, at least in Minnesota, the boilerplate language in the standard purchase agreement helpfully itemizes all the things that qualify as fixtures.

The long (and growing) list includes: window treatments; water softeners; built-in Kitchen appliances such as dishwashers and refrigerators; attached mirrors; wall and ceiling speaker mounts; fireplace screens; smoke detectors; doorbells; thermostats; and even “all integrated phone and home automation systems, including necessary components such as intranet and Internet connected hardware of devices.”

If you think that last item was added to preclude myriad Buyer-Seller disputes . . . you’d be right. 

Exceptions (“Exclusions”)

Just because something does (or doesn’t) qualify as a “fixture” doesn’t mean that the parties to a deal can’t contractually agree otherwise.

Most commonly added to the list of things that convey with the home?

Anything especially large or custom-made, such as sectional furniture, entertainment centers, or an especially well-sized Kitchen or Dining Room table (and yes, weighty items such as a piano — especially if it would cost more to remove than it’s worth).

Meanwhile, Sellers who wish to take fixtures with them ” for example, a crystal chandelier in the Dining Room ” are best advised to remove and replace the item prior to listing their home.

See also, “How to Tell if Something is a Fixture“; “And Repeat: “Never Negotiate Furniture,” “Never Negotiate Furniture. . .”; and “Hey! Where’d That Nest Thermostat Go?!?”.

About the author

Ross Kaplan has 19+ years experience selling real estate all over the Twin Cities. He is also a 12-time consecutive "Super Real Estate Agent," as determined by Mpls. - St. Paul Magazine and Twin Cities Business Magazine. Prior to becoming a Realtor, Ross was an attorney (corporate law), CPA, and entrepreneur. He holds an economics degree from Stanford.

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