We recently helped a married couple purchase a home in Chandler.

They were very excited! The home was everything they had dreamed of!

As we typically do, we performed a final walk-through several days prior to their close of escrow date to make sure that the home was in substantially the same condition as when the buyers wrote their offer, that all debris and personal property not included in the sale was out, and that all repairs agreed to during the inspection period had been completed.

At this point, everything was in order…or so we thought.

Instead, when the big day came to deliver the keys to the buyers after closing escrow, we were shocked.

To start, the seller of the property had removed a mirror that was screwed into the back of one of the doors, removed clothes hooks that were screwed into the backs of doors, and removed a white board that was screwed into the back of the kitchen pantry door.

So what, you say?

Although the items removed were originally personal property items, once the seller affixed them to doors, they were no longer personal property – they were fixtures. Had the seller removed these items prior to putting the home on the market, or countered them out of the Purchase Contract during negotiations, this would not have been a problem. Now, there were large holes in the backs of hollow core doors, which made them difficult, if not impossible, to put back into “substantially the same condition” as the Arizona Residential Resale Real Estate Purchase Contract requires.

But wait, there’s more.

Then, when one of the buyers went to set the timer for the yard sprinkling system, he found the box that housed the timer, but the timer system inside of it was missing. Again, if the buyer and seller had agreed to allow the seller to take the landscaping timer system with him, everything would have been fine. However, per the Purchase Contract, it was supposed to remain with the property.

Next, our clients noticed that some of the drapes and curtain rods, that had been present during the final walk-through, were now also missing. And they were nice, too!

Lastly, adding insult to injury, the seller refused to give the buyers the code needed to operate the security system in the home – even though per the Purchase Contract, “Seller shall deliver possession, occupancy, existing keys and/or means to operate all locks, mailbox, security system/alarms, and all common area facilities to buyer at Close of Escrow.”

At this point, enough was enough.

After the seller refused to replace the damaged doors, reimburse the buyers for the dismantled landscaping timer system, replace the missing curtain rods and drapes, or hand over the code to the security system, the buyers took the seller to Small Claims Court.

And can you guess what happened?

The buyers won their case on all counts!

But despite how relieved our clients were to win their case, I’m sure all parties would have been better served if the seller had followed these simple instructions from the beginning.

First, review each line of the Purchase Contract you’re signing and learn the differences between a fixture and personal property. Here below is a list of the fixtures and personal property, which if existing, the Arizona Residential Resale Real Estate Purchase Contract requires the seller to include in the sale. Second, prior to placing your home on the market, remove any of these items you have but want to keep, or counter them out of the Purchase Contract during negotiations.

26 Things That Stay When You Leave

1. Free-standing range/oven
2. Ceiling fans
3. Attached floor coverings
4. Window and door screens, sun screens
5. Garage door openers and controls
6. Outdoor landscaping, fountains and lighting
7. Pellet, wood-burning or gas-log stoves
8. Storage sheds
9. Light fixtures
10. Towel, curtain and drapery rods
11. Flush-mounted speakers
12. Storm windows and doors
13. Attached media antennas/satellite dishes
14. Attached fireplace equipment
15. Timers
16. Draperies and other window coverings
17. Shutters and awnings
18. Water-misting systems
19. Solar systems
20. Mailbox
21. Central vacuum, hose and attachments
22. Built-in appliances

And if owned, the following items, too:

23. Pool and spa equipment (including any mechanical or other cleaning systems)
24. Security and/or fire systems and/or alarms
25. Water softeners
26. Water purification systems

How to Avoid Being Sued

In the case above, it’s also important to note that the seller had hired a “limited service, limited fee” agent to assist him. If you want to avoid being sued like the seller in this story, our advice to you is to select a full-time, full-service real estate agent who can help protect you from the many pitfalls that come with buying and selling residential real estate.

**DISCLAIMER: None of the statements on this website should be considered legal advice. If you are interested in receiving legal advice and/or representation, please contact an attorney.**

Image Credit: bradywahl on Flickr. CC Licensed.