Tips and Traps When Negotiating Real Estate: How Do You Keep Personal Property Out of the Deal?

How Do You Keep Personal Property Out of the Deal?

There’s another perspective here, and that’s the view of the seller. Thus far we’ve been seeing how a buyer can get a seller to throw in a piece of personal property. But how does a seller keep a buyer from demanding this?

The answer is really quite simple. Remove it before the property is put up for sale.

For example, not too long ago I sold a property in which I had installed a lovely and expensive porcelain and brass light fixture in the dining room. My wife and I had purchased the fixture on a vaca­tion and it was a memento of our trip. We really wanted to keep it. Of course, we didn’t want it enough to lose a sale.

The real problem, however, was how to keep the light fixture from becoming a deal point, since I suspected any buyer coming through would likewise want it and would insist upon it, even if we said it was our personal property and was “nonnegotiable.”

The answer was simple. I went to a hardware store and bought another attractive, but inexpensive, light fixture and replaced the one we wanted to keep. Then I packed up the memento and put it out of sight.

Thus, when a buyer came to the house, there was only the new light fixture there. There could be no issue raised over the old fix­ture—it simply was no longer there.

Similarly, a friend of mine had a rather nice swing set installed in concrete in holes in his backyard. When it came time to sell, he wanted to take it with him to his next house. However, he had no place to store it in the meantime.

READ:  Tips and Traps When Negotiating Real Estate: Control Time

So, he dug out the swing set, filled the holes, and then laid it down on the ground in the backyard. He didn’t go out of his way to mention it to buyers. But, because it was laying on top of the ground, not buried in it, it was obviously personal property and not real. After the house sold, he took it with him. The buyer actually did comment on the “missing swing set,” but when it was pointed out that it was obviously personal property, the buyer did not pursue the matter.


Sometimes the best way to negotiate an issue is to remove it from the bargaining table before negotia­tions begin.

The Bottom Line

Anything, including personal property, is negotiable. As a buyer, you can often get an item of personal property included in a deal simply by asking for it or by trading for it. As a seller, you may be able to keep a personal item by simply removing it from sight.

Negotiating for personal property is very often a part of buying and selling a home. Just be sure that when you negotiate for it, you know what’s at stake as well as what you have to win . . . and lose.