Tips and Traps When Negotiating Real Estate: How Do You Negotiate to Get Personal Property Included in the Deal?

How to Bargain for Personal Property: How Do You Negotiate to Get Personal Property Included in the Deal?

As a buyer, you may fall in love with a piece of personal property just as Rita and Peter did in our example. It could be a beautiful, bell­ shaped glass chandelier in the dining room. Maybe it’s a portable barbecue outside or a great child’s gym set with a sandbox. It could be anything, including the seller’s large-screen TV set, which fits just perfectly in the family room, or the hope chest that looks so good by the window in the master bedroom. It can even be the seller’s sil­verware or water skis!

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If you’re interested in items of a truly personal nature such as silverware, water skis, or even clothing, most of the time it’s best simply to buy these separately outside of the real estate sale. The reason is that when lenders see such items included in a sales agreement, they may devalue the real property by an amount they feel the items are worth. In other words, mortgage lenders aren’t in the business of financing personal property.

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On the other hand, items that could be considered necessary to the operation of the home, such as a built- in refrigerator, washer/dryer, and so on, usually will receive more liberal lender treatment.

If you as a buyer want certain personal property included in the deal, there are basically two approaches that you can take: subtle and direct. The subtle approach is not to let on to the seller how badly you want the item. Instead of “oohing” and “aahing” over kitchen window curtains, you can simply not mention them at all.

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Then, when you fill out the sales agreement, be sure that it states that all window coverings are included in the sale. Presumably that would take in the kitchen curtains, and when the seller agrees to the deal as written, they’re yours. (You can check for them on the final walk-through.) Thus, you’ve negotiated very subtly and not made the curtains a deal point for which the seller might want a concession.

On the other hand, sometimes sellers will point out that certain items such as a wood-burning stove insert, which are in a gray area, are personal property, are going to be taken by the seller, and are nonnegotiable. Now you’re going to have to deal directly with the issue.

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The word nonnegotiable usually means that you can get it, but it will cost you something.

If you want a piece of personal property that the seller obviously intends to take away, you automatically make it a deal point. For exam­ple, you may include a statement in your sales agreement that says the wood-burning stove insert {insert, by the way, means that the stove fits inside an existing fireplace) is to be included as part of the sale.

By drawing attention to the insert, you’ve made it a deal point. If the sellers have already said that the insert is not included in the deal, or even if they haven’t, they may refuse to let it go. They may accept your offer, but cross out and initial the paragraph that has to do with the insert. Now you’re in full-blown negotiations.

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If you’ve made the insert a deal point, it becomes a matter of, “What will it take to get you to give up that damn stove?” Maybe the sellers want to be paid more and maybe, if you really want it, you’re willing. Or maybe the sellers want more time (as was my situation earlier). Or maybe the sellers want a better interest rate on a second mortgage they are carrying back and this is just another way of trying to get it.

Your choices here are to trade off or stand firm by trying to increase the pie. We’ve already discussed trading off. Increasing the pie means that you would attempt to demonstrate to the sellers why it’s necessary to include the insert as part of the deal. Maybe the house is in a cold climate and all homes in the area come with some sort of wood-burning stove. It’s accepted as a necessary item. You might point out that not to include the insert would actually lower the value of the property. You wouldn’t buy a home that didn’t have one, and chances are that neither will anyone else. That sort of logic may prevail with a reasonable seller.