When you buy your first home, the last thing you expect is for some if its most charming features to be removed from the property before you even take ownership. You fell in love with particular elements of the house when you decided to make it your home, and when those features go missing, it can be devastating, especially if you have no recourse. You can also be unpleasantly surprised to find yourself paying for items you hadn’t worked into your budget. Here’s what you should know about what comes with the house you buy.
You know you’ll be accepting a mortgage payment for the home you’re buying – that, you’d planned for in advance. But as a homeowner, you’ll also have to obtain homeowners insurance, property taxes, and HOA fees if a homeowners’ association governs the property. Make sure you’re prepared financially to cover the added costs of homeownership.
About the HOA
Not all neighborhoods have HOAs, but many newer communities belong to a homeowners association. Homeowners Associations have some benefits. They are designed to protect the integrity of the neighborhood. The rules and bylaws keep the community looking clean and well manicured, but also preserve home values by maintaining the quality of the neighborhood. You’ll be accepting responsibility for the monthly HOA fees, but you’ll also be bound by the bylaws, rules, and regulations of the HOA if the home you’re buying is in a community under the rule of a homeowners’ association. Before you agree to purchase the house, request a copy of the bylaws and investigate the board of the HOA. In some HOAs, it’s required that each homeowner take a turn on the board – and some HOAs are poorly managed. Make sure you can live with the HOA that comes with the house you buy.
You will not get a warranty with the house you’re buying unless the owner states that one is available to you. You can, however, request that a home warranty is included with the purchase. The owner doesn’t have to agree, but it doesn’t hurt to ask. The home warranty will protect you for the first year after purchase in case anything significant happens with the property warranting repairs.
You may not realize it when you’re touring homes, but many of the features you see do not come with the house because they’re considered personal property. Some items considered personal property are evident. For example, you know you’re not buying the seller’s couch, clothing, or toiletries. However, some personal property is less noticeable and more confusing. To get a grasp what is included and what might go missing before move-in day, you’ve got to know the difference between fixtures and fittings.
Fixtures include items that are permanently attached to the house or the property. An in-ground swimming pool is a fixture because it’s embedded into the property. The hot-water heater, the air-conditioning unit, radiators, and other attached items belong to the house and stay a part of the home when you take ownership. Anything that is nailed, glued, cemented, screwed, or attached by pipes to the house is considered a fixture. Attached items include laminate flooring, even though it snaps together rather than being fixed to the flooring with hardware. However, if the carpet is not nailed down and simply covers the floor, it’s not considered a fixture. That carpet might go missing before you move in.
Fittings are items that can be removed from the property (such as carpet that’s not secured to the floor), or that didn’t belong to the property when the seller moved in. For example, lighting elements are fixtures – they’re a part of the home, but the light covers are considered fittings. Where an in-ground swimming pool is a fixture, an above ground swimming pool is a fitting and the owner has the right to take it when he or she moves out. Other examples of fittings include curtains, hot tubs, decorative light switch covers, cabinet handles, drawer pulls, doorknobs, television wall mounts, etc.
Unless advertised as including appliances, the home you’re buying may not come with an oven, stove, dishwasher, refrigerator, washing machine, or dryer. And, when advertised with appliances included, you are not guaranteed the same appliances that occupied the home when you had your tour.
When a home is marketed as including a stove, the seller is within their right to remove the high-end, state-of-the-art stove and replace it with a low-end substitute. For this reason, it’s important that you ask specifically if that stove is included.
When in Doubt, Ask
If you’re not certain if an item is a fixture or fitting, ask your real estate agent. When you’re unsure if an item is included, ask the seller. You can also offer to purchase any fitting that’s not included with the sale of the house. For example, you may offer to buy the window coverings or, when they’re not included, the appliances. The seller has the right to decline to sell the items, but you never know unless you try.
Get it In Writing
You should receive a detailed inventory list before you go to closing. If you don’t receive one, ask. When you receive your inventory list, check every item thoroughly. For example, if a kitchen inventory list includes “stove,” that stove should be described with identifying features such as color, brand, model, etc. Also, if you’ve bartered to buy personal items from the seller, those items should also be detailed with identifying factors as well as the price.
Don’t set yourself up for disappointment. Your move-in day should be an exciting celebration of accomplishment, not a devastating reality check. Understand what comes with your house in financial terms, and what physical property does or does not come with the home you buy.
Talk with your real estate agent before you begin touring homes so the agent has the opportunity to educate and advise you. Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to ask questions. You have the right to know exactly what you’re buying.
Call the The Laura Castillo Group at 432-701-0506 to discuss buying or selling your Midland home.