Selling Your Home: The Difference Between Real Property and Personal Property

Selling Your Home: The Difference Between Real Property and Personal Property


When it’s time to sell a home, sellers are often unsure of the line separating personal and real property. Items like beds and tables go with you, but what about appliances, ceiling fans, or light fixtures? Your real estate agent will draw up a contract that identifies these, but it is helpful to understand what belongs to you and what belongs to the buyer.

Real Property

Think of real property and fixtures as anything that is pretty immovable – like the plot of land where your home is placed and whatever is permanently attached to it, including the house itself, trees, decks, or other structures. When it comes to fixtures like fireplaces, cabinetry, or built-in shelving, that typically stays, though there’s more on that below.

Personal Property

Personal property refers to possessions that are easily movable like furniture, rugs, pictures, artwork workout equipment, potted plants, etc. Back to fixtures. Are free-standing appliances, such as refrigerators, stoves, washers, and dryers considered fixtures? What if you do want to take decorative lighting or window coverings with you?

The Gray Area

Many closings have been disrupted by loose definitions of fixtures. Let’s clarify them once and for all! If an attached item can be removed without causing property damage, it is identified as personal property. However, if it’s firmly attached using nails, cement, or bolts, and removing it would cause damage, then it’s most likely a fixture.

Avoid Disputes

Be a proactive seller so the closing goes smoothly. Work with your real estate agent and attorney to clearly identify what is included in the sale and what is not. If you don’t want to part ways with your favorite light fixture, the curtains that have sentimental value, or even the washer and dryer, make sure it is stated as such in your contract.


Distinguishing between real and personal property is critical before coming to the table on closing day. As the Clash once iconically wrote, “Should I stay, or should I go?”!

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