Flat Screen TV – Is it "attached"?

Ardell’s Advice:  “When in Doubt – Take it OUT” BEFORE showing your home to prospective buyers!

Over the years the thing that creates the most controversy in a real estate transaction has been something Dining Room Chandelier STAYSthat is attached to the home.  Different parts of the Country deal with these issues in local custom fashion.

When I started in real estate back in 1990, the primary cause of confusion was the dining room chandelier.  Often sellers wanted to take it to their new home, but clearly a light fixture is attached to the home and is sold with the home.

Built-in refrigerator stays with houseAfter “the chandelier” the new attachment item became the “sub-zero” refrigerator.  Up to that point, washers, dryers and refrigerators were NOT considered to be part of the real estate; dishwashers and stoves were.  Rule of thumb being If you can simply unplug an appliance and remove it without any other effort, it goes with the seller.  Refrigerators were like your alarm clock.  Unplug it and take it with you.  Then builders and kitchen remodelers started “building in” the refrigerator with panels that matched the kitchen cabinetry.  The expectation became if it is a “built-in refrigerator” it stayed.  If it was a standard plug-it-in-and-shove-it-into-an-open-space-for-it refrigerator, it went with the seller.  Washer and dryer “hook-ups” were part of the real estate.  The washer and dryer were not.

When the market weakened and became a buyer’s market, sellers of lower priced housing that fit into the category of “first time buyer” started to include the washer, dryer and refrigerator.  When there were 20 of the same type of condo on market, often the seller who listed it with “all appliances” became the most likely to sell.  Higher priced housing was not expected to include the washer, dryer and refrigerator.  “First time buyer” housing was expected to leave the washer, dryer and refrigerator.

Then there’s the curtains.  Most places where I have worked, the rod that is attached to the wall was sold Fabric covered valancewith the home.  The curtain that slipped off the rod went with the seller.  The window treatment that was attached to the wall (usually a fabric covered boxy wood valance) stayed with the house. Blinds and shutters stay with the house. At one point I said to the seller “if you have to go get a screw driver to remove it…you probably shouldn’t be removing it, so call me first.”

Here in the Seattle area, the curtains DO go with the house, unlike most of the Country where only the blinds and rods go with the house.  Here’s what the boilerplate of the contract has to say about this issue:

“Included Items.  …built in appliances, wall to wall carpeting, curtains, drapes and other window treatments, Window and door screens, awnings, storm door and windows, installed television antennas, ventilating, air conditioning and heating fixtures, trash compactor, fireplace doors, gas logs and gas log lighters, irrigation fixtures, electric garage door openers and remotes, water heaters, installed electrical fixtures, lighting fixtures, shrubs, plants and trees planted in the ground, all bathroom and other fixtures and all associated operating equipment…”

I don’t even want to tell you how many times a seller drove out of town with the garage door remote in his car by accident.  Or how many times there is a two or three car garage, but only one remote control.  Most people are surprised that curtains actually stay with the house, when they slip off of the rod quite easily. The one that defies logic is when a buyer expects to get the door knocker with the previous owner’s last name engraved in it, or the sell expects to remove that door knocker without replacing it with a similar one and leaves a hole in the front door.

Flat Screen TV mounted on wallOver time, contracts and local custom worked through these issues.  Today we have the “Wall-mounted Flat Screen TV” to deal with.  Might that now fall under the heading of “installed electrical fixtures”?   If the TV slips out of the mount and unplugs…then there’s “the mount”.  If the flyer and mls said “all appliances included…is the wall mounted TV an “appliance”?

Obviously I just had one of these situations.  The wall mounted TV was not simply “plugged in”.  The cable for the TV came up through the wall via the crawl space and attached directly to the TV.  There was no “cable plate” on the wall.  Of course we really can’t see what is behind that TV, can we?  The seller removed the TV, the Mount AND the cable that went down through the wall and over to the floor type TV connection.

It all boils down to what does this buyer need and expect.  If they don’t have a flat screen TV, well then they probably want the wall to be returned to the condition it was before the TV was there.  If they DO have a flat screen TV to be mounted on the wall…well then they want the cable there with a plate and an electrical outlet with a plate at that spot on the wall.  Do they want the wall mount?  Does their TV fit into that wall mount?

At what point does a wall mounted TV that is hard wired into the wall without outlets become “an installed electrical fixture” per the terms of the contract and included in the sale of the house?  I don’t think anyone expects to get someone else’s TV…or do they?  What about a Theater Room with a mounted projector and screen?  Do you simply remove the projector?  What about all of the wiring that makes it function?  Speakers?  Speaker wires?  Satellite dishes?

From my perspective my advice is the same as it has been for the last 18 years…”If you have to go get a screw driver to remove something (or hire someone to “de-install” something)…CALL ME FIRST!”  Then we work out a “true meeting of the minds” between the buyer and the seller, before creating a bone of contention over a $20 cable connection.

Will the wall mounted flat screen TVs and hardwired projectors in the ceiling go the way of the built-in refrigerators?  How about “under the counter appliances” where you have to unscrew the mounts in the cabinets to get your coffee pot?

Where do YOU draw the line and what exactly is YOUR interpretation of “an installed electrical fixture”?  For sellers:  “When in Doubt – Take it OUT” BEFORE you put your home on the market.  Replace it with what the buyer will actually be getting, before the first buyer steps through the front door and starts believing that “what they SEE is what they GET”.