Can sellers take the garden plants with them?

Can the owners of the house I’m buying take the garden perennials with them?

With summer right around the corner, many of us are looking forward to enjoying time outdoors, including in our backyards. So, it is understandable that having a well-landscaped garden with mature plants and trees on a property can be very appealing and a strong motivating factor when it comes to buying a home.

It sounds like that is the case for you, as well, and that the perennials are a consideration in your decision to buy the property. The question is: Are they deemed to be part of the purchase?

Typically, in-ground plants are considered part of the home and included in the sale. This is because they are a permanent part of the property and cannot be removed without damaging the landscaping. These would be included in the purchase agreement — much like any indoor fixtures, unless and until they are specified as excluded.

Having said that, I would still like to flag that there are many grey areas when it comes to what’s included in or what’s excluded from any given home sale. Unfortunately, disputes occur between buyers and sellers about the state of a home on the closing date of its sale.

To prevent this from happening to you, my advice would be to do your diligence and take steps to protect your interests. I would suggest that you communicate the importance of the plants and landscaping to your real estate agent, ask questions, and go over your expectations of what you think is part of the home.

Carefully log and document all chattels and fixtures, including any plantings that are to be included with the home, and ask that they be included in the agreement. For specific chattels even beyond garden plants, include names, model numbers or online photos to be clear what each is. It would not be helpful to include general broad statements. Be specific.

That way, your agent can ensure that the purchase agreement specifically includes the state of the garden and its contents, as well as clearly documenting all the other fixtures and chattels to be present once the sale closes.

You and your agent can also discuss ways for you to visit your new home just before closing day. This will give you an opportunity to inspect the backyard and perennials and confirm they are in the same condition as when you made the offer. This is a common practice in real estate transactions and can be addressed during negotiations. However, depending on when your closing date is, and knowing the limited growing season we have in Ontario, this may not always be a plausible option.

If you and your agent take all these steps, you should have peace of mind that the seller and you are on the same page, the perennials will be still there on closing day, and you will have them to enjoy for the years to come. All the best.

If you have a question for Joe about the home buying or selling process, please email information@reco.on.ca.


This column is for general information purposes only and is not meant as legal or professional advice on real estate transactions.

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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