Selling a house is a long process, and moving can be stressful and difficult. After the contracts have been signed and you’re ready for keys to change hands, the last thing you want is an eleventh-hour complication.
Understanding the guidelines around what you should take and what you should leave behind can streamline the finalisation of your house sale. The first thing your lawyer or representative may tell you is that you should keep the house ‘in the same condition that it was sold in’. Imagine arriving at your new house to find that the previous owners had dug up all the plants in the garden, or that they’d left a huge pile of rubbish behind (even if it was there when you viewed the property). Leaving behind unwanted large items such as couches and furniture may annoy the buyer and cost them money to have them removed. The last thing you want is for them to refuse to settle, or for them to sue you.
But extremes aside, what can you take and what should you leave behind? Alternatively, what should you take and what can you leave behind? Here’s a short overview of the main considerations.
Please note: As always, this is a general guide and that your specific circumstances may be different.
Portable personal items
When preparing to sell your home, you can typically take personal belongings that aren’t permanently affixed to the property. Think about the things you brought into the house with you when you moved in; chances are you can take them back out again. This includes items such as clothing, pictures and paintings, and other portable decorations. However, it’s important to note that built-in fixtures and structures, like shelving units or custom cabinets, should stay with the property.
Bear in mind that this may not be the case for things like curtains and blinds. While you may have provided them for the house, they usually stay with the house itself. If you had intended to take them with you, for example if your new house had the same sized windows, it may be worth discussing this or replacing them for the new owners.
Furniture and fixtures
Portable furniture, such as chairs, tables and couches, can be taken with you when you sell your home. However, there’s a distinction when it comes to fixtures that are considered part of the property. Built-in appliances, lighting fixtures and permanent cabinetry are typically understood to be part of the house and are expected to remain for the new owners.
If you want to take these items with you, you will need to discuss this when settling the sale. For example, if you have a chandelier that you want to take with you, it may be worth discussing it separately. It could be that they want it included, but they may also be okay with you taking it with you. Also, if there are units that are technically freestanding or that appear to be attached to the house when they aren’t, it may be worth bringing those to the buyer’s attention.
Appliances and gadgets
The general rule is that you can take your movable appliances and gadgets, including kitchen appliances and electronics, when selling your home. However, items that are part of the property’s infrastructure, such as built-in ovens and central heating systems, should be left behind. It helps to think of these more as fixtures rather than appliances. Appliances like dishwashers and hot water services have likely been factored in when calculating the value of the house, whereas things like your fridge and your washing machine likely haven’t.
Some whitegoods that are plumbed into the house may be a grey area. If there is a fridge that is connected to the household water for ice, for example, it may be worth clarifying whether that will be included in the sale. The same goes for things like dishwashers – although they are built into the kitchen space, it may be that the seller plans to take it with them. Discuss this with your buyer – they may want it to stay, they may be happy for you to replace the unit, or they may be intending to bring their own.
Landscaping and outdoor decor
While you might have invested time and effort into creating an inviting outdoor space, landscaping, including plants and trees, is generally considered part of the property. Plants in pots, however, are typically taken on to the next property. Outdoor furniture and portable decorations, on the other hand, can be taken with you. If there is a larger garden feature, such as a plumbed fountain, it may be worth discussing. Structural additions like sheds or outdoor structures that are attached to the property generally stay as well. If you have a smaller shed that you intend to take with you, it may be worth clarifying this with your buyer.
Selling your home involves careful consideration of what can be taken with you and what should remain for the new owners. In all cases, transparent communication with potential buyers is essential. Clearly stating what is included in the sale and what isn’t can help avoid disputes and ensure a smooth transition for both parties. If you’re uncertain about any specific items, consulting with a real estate professional can provide valuable guidance based on your property and situation. Remember, it’s better to have an open discussion and put it in writing than leave it to chance!