If I buy a house, how do I know if the appliances are included?

When you walk through an open house, you don’t just see the walls and ceiling. The furniture, the appliances and light fixtures all make a difference to a home’s appeal. That’s why so many sellers hire home stagers to make the space more attractive. So, it’s important to remember that the seller might plan on taking these items with them when they move out or return it if it was borrowed or rented.

Most buyers don’t expect to keep the sofa, but what about the built-in dishwasher, the wall unit, the water heater, or the alarm system?  It can be surprising when things that you assumed to be part of the house aren’t actually included.

When I bought my home ten years ago, the seller chose to keep all the light fixtures on the walls. We didn’t think much about it at the time, but it turned out there were a lot more of them than we realized at first glance.  Filling all those empty electrical boxes was a major to-do when we moved in. In that case, we had agreed for the seller to take them.

It’s a common mistake for buyers to overlook issues like this when they’re excited about buying a home. But by taking a few simple steps, you can avoid these sorts of surprises.

A registered real estate professional can offer expertise and guidance. When you’re making an offer, ask your representative to include written terms that clearly identify what is included with the purchase of the property. Be specific in describing the items in question – even noting the make and model number, where possible. I have heard about buyer complaints where the seller took their high end appliances and replaced them with lesser models, which is an issue between the buyer and seller.

It’s also important to note that you can often negotiate what’s included. It never hurts to ask.

If the seller insists on excluding an item from the sale, you might consider asking them to include a replacement item with the sale. That’s what I wish I’d done with my light fixtures.

You’ll also want to confirm whether the water heater, furnace, alarm system, or other items are owned, or under a rental or lease agreement. You should ask your salesperson or broker to find out the monthly cost, the term left on the lease, and the cost to terminate or buy out the agreement. In your offer, include a clause that specifically states whether or not you will assume these contracts. Otherwise, you could end up being locked into costly and inflexible contracts, and making monthly rental payments for services you don’t want or items that you’d prefer to own.

Buying a home is a major commitment, so minimizing unexpected surprises can take a lot of stress out of the process. Communicating your needs to your real estate representative will make a big difference. If buying new appliances is a deal-breaker, let them know up-front.

And if you are considering a property that doesn’t include key items you want or need, crunch the numbers so you have a full understanding of what they’ll cost to buy separately. We loved the number of windows in our home, until we had to buy the window coverings. New light fixtures, window coverings, appliances—it can all add up quickly.

By carefully considering what you’ll need to buy, you can factor in the additional cost, as well as the additional effort.

Joseph Richer is Registrar of the Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO). He is in charge of the administration and enforcement of all rules that govern real estate professionals in Ontario. You can find more tips at reco.on.ca, follow on Twitter @RECOhelps or on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/RECOhelps.

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