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I sold my home. Can I take the light bulbs?

Lindsay Smith

By Lindsay Smith/Columnist

Recently I have heard some banter about a Buyer who moved into a home and found that there were items missing that they felt they purchased with the home. I can imagine how disappointed and frustrated the Buyers were on moving day. Over the past 3 decades selling real estate locally I can count on one hand the amount of times I have had items removed when they were meant to stay with the property. My experience has been, when an item is removed that should stay, most times, it is taken mistakenly and is typically returned. However, that is not always the case.

There are 2 commonly viewed items in a home that need to be taken into consideration when the home is being sold. Fixtures and chattels. It may be good to start off with a basic understanding of the difference between both items.

A chattel is commonly known as a moveable possession and personal property that can be removed without injury to the property. A fixture is normally deemed to be included in the purchase unless specifically excluded. A fun way of explaining the difference would be “a chattel can be removed with fingers and a fixture you would need a screwdriver to remove”.

There are grey areas where items “blur the lines” between the fixtures and chattels such as wall hung mirrors, (hung like a picture yet appearing fixed to the walls) television wall mounts, plug in appliances, such as a microwave or a wall mounted security keypad/system. I have found that the best way to have a smooth move in date is to clearly identify all items that might be questionable. This way both the Buyer and Seller have contractually agreed to what stays and what the Seller can remove. Here is a short list of items that can be called into question:

– Garage door opener controls.
– Sheds.
– Gazebo and hot tubs.
– Window coverings, hardware and blinds.
– Pool equipment.
– Light fixtures.
– Wall mounted TV projectors.
– Smart home devices.

Properties in Ontario are sold using an Agreement of Purchase and Sale that are standard forms created by the Ontario Real Estate Association.

Disagreements can arise when items that become questionable are not clearly noted on the contract. My partner Wendy Starr is also a real estate agent in Arizona and the agreements they use, in their standard contract identify a list of all chattels that stay. This way there is little room for confusion on the move in date. Rather than left to a sales rep to include items, the onus is placed on removing items from a pre-printed list. This process leaves few grey areas.

When a Seller begins the process of selling their home, I find it a good exercise to walk through the home and create a list of what is staying with the home and what the Seller is removing. This list is kept on file for when an offer is presented all become aware of what stays and what goes. Not every Listing sales rep has a list such as this, so I find it helpful to create a list for a Buyer when walking through the home they are considering purchasing.

A side note on removing fixtures that I feel needs to be raised, is the repairs to be completed if minor damage is done upon removal. An example is when a TV wall mount is removed. Typically, there is drywall and paint damage left when the mount is taken off the wall or ceiling. Working on behalf of a Buyer I would ask that the repairs be completed prior to closing. This also goes for blinds, pictures, wall hangings and shelving.

One of the best feelings you can have, working with either a Buyer or Seller, is when the home changes hands and both parties are excited and encounter nothing unexpected.

Years ago, I had a past client call wanting to visit an older home on King Street. I was a bit curious as they had just moved into their “forever home.” We walked through the empty home and I found them giggling in the dining room. They shared with me that the Seller of the home was the owner of a home they had purchased a few years before I had met them. They mentioned that when they took possession of that home it was stripped. The found light bulbs, electrical switch plates and light switch covers missing along with door handles, kitchen cabinet knobs and many other items. We all laughed, but just under the giggles, they appreciated the list I created when they moved into their home with no surprises.

The sale of a home involves a great deal of trust; trust in both the actions of the Seller and Buyer. Contracts can be interpreted in different ways, however, the clearer the intent and integrity of the sale helps make for a smooth transaction.

If you have any questions, or given the economic changes with the pandemic if you can see a real estate emergency on the horizon, I can be reached at

Lindsay Smith
Keller Williams Energy Brokerage