Advice for Sellers: Watch What You Exclude from a Sale

Advice for Sellers: Watch What You Exclude from a Sale

Writings about residential real estate and all things home, by Cynthia Cummins of Kindred SF Homes.

Reading time: 3 minutes

This language recently popped up in the agent-only remarks for a home listed on Multiple Listing Service: "The Virgin Mary statue and 2 cherub statues in the garden are excluded from the sale."

You can picture said statues, can’t you? If you’re like me, you’re imagining their style to be decidedly little-old-ladyish from the 1940s. You’re guessing that Mary is missing her nose, and one of the cherubs is covered in moss, and the other angel’s right arm is long gone. 

If you’re like me, you’re thinking to yourself, “No problem. Not only do I not object to these statues being excluded from the sale. But I insist that they be hauled away before close of escrow.”

What I’m getting at is that we all have different ideas about the value of stuff. There’s no accounting for taste and sentimentality. So, it’s no surprise that a longtime owner’s cherished cherub may be a depressing eyesore to a prospective buyer. 

Plus, the value we place on materials things changes over time:

  • The firepit that drew you and all your friends and family into an eager circle for about six months is – six years later – rusting away in the middle of the patio.

  • The sandbox where your toddlers played merrily in fog, rain and sun is now a favorite destination for neighborhood cats.

  • The hot tub is empty and its cover faded to pinkish white.

  • The only thing bouncing on the trampoline is 12 inches of dead leaves.

  • The play structure is missing its swing and its slide.

  • The living wall pockets are all filled with dead twigs.

You get the idea.

What’s more interesting to me is how the value that sellers place on accessories and furnishings tends to change during an escrow.

For example, when listing their home for sale, the Joneses may elect to exclude the backyard fountain from the transaction. Once they’re in escrow, the Joneses will likely have a change of heart and ask their listing agent to ask the buyer agent to ask the buyers if they’d like to buy the backyard fountain for $500. 

“They paid $1,500 for it new two years ago,” the listing agent will say. 

After checking with their clients, the buyer agent will reply, “No thank you. If the buyers need a fountain, they can order a new one from Wayfair for $250 and it’ll be exactly what they want instead of that ugly Rococo-esque monstrosity you’re trying to hock.”

A couple of weeks go by and now it’s time for the pre-closing walk through. The listing agent says, casually, “Oh! Great news. The sellers have decided to leave the fountain for free.”

And the buyer agent – after glancing at their clients – will say, “I’m sorry, but our contract says that the fountain is excluded and we’re expecting it to be removed by closing.”

Oopsy!

My advice is to consider carefully – before you offer a property for sale – which unwieldy, quasi-fixture items you truly want to keep. Because you can’t count on your buyers being willing to buy them. And you can’t count on non-profits being willing to accept (much less pick up) donations. And you can’t count on simply leaving behind anything that you’ve previously said you’re excluding. 

Think hard about how much you love the piano, the armoire, the sectional, the Wolf range, the safe, the washing machine, the 36” tree container, the Peloton and the propane gas heater. If you don’t love them enough to move them, don’t bother attempting to “sell” them to your eventual buyers. Instead, make clear – in advance – that they’re staying with the property.

I’m not joking when I say it's a whole lot easier to just let that s**t go!


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