In any market, it is not uncommon for buyers and sellers to spar over light fixtures, window treatments and appliances, with million-dollar deals sometimes unraveling over items that cost a few thousand. Generally, anything affixed to the walls — cabinets, sinks and toilets — is considered part of the sale, with removable items like light fixtures and mounted flat-screen televisions falling into a gray area that gets hammered out during contract negotiations. If an item goes, it is usually replaced with a contractor-grade equivalent. But ultimately, a contract can include whatever terms a buyer and seller agree to.
And this year, buyers are agreeing to some doozies.
In East Hampton, the sellers of a $2.2 million house decided they wanted to keep a pair of fruit trees, even though removing them left two gaping holes by the swimming pool.
Even the sellers’ agent was confused. “Where did that come from? The buyer freaks out, it’s going to ruin the landscaping,” said Yorgos Tsibiridis, an associate broker for Compass, who represented the sellers in the deal. The trees, about six feet tall, were a gift to the sellers’ children from a grandparent and, it turned out, a deal breaker. “She said, ‘Nope, if they don’t allow me to take them with me I’m canceling the contract,’” Mr. Tsibiridis recounted.
And so, a landscaper showed up recently and dug up the trees in time for the closing, which is expected to happen in a few days.
There are other factors at play beyond power grabs. Housing is in short supply, but so too are appliances, furnishings and building materials, as the global supply chain continues to sputter through the pandemic recovery. As sellers part with their homes, some of them look around and realize that they may not be able to replace the items they’re leaving. So, why not take them?
During the negotiations for a two-bedroom co-op in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn, the sellers insisted on keeping the kitchen appliances and the washer and dryer. If the buyers wanted them, they could pay $10,000, a premium for secondhand Samsung appliances. The buyers were livid, as the demand was not mentioned in the listing for the $430,000 apartment.
“They felt it was very petty and cheap to throw it in there at the last minute,” said Jack Chiu, an associate broker with Douglas Elliman representing the buyers. He said they would have altered their offer had they known the appliances were excluded. “It hit them from left field.”