Can I Take Shelves When I Sell My House?

shelves in room

After successfully escaping all the potential pitfalls of a house sale, you finally managed to close on it. Moving is now proving difficult, especially because of your sentimental attachment to what you have called home for a long time.

You are especially torn about leaving that expensive scaffold board shelving you had custom installed the other day as you suspect the new owner won’t even appreciate the uniqueness.

In the same way it is no longer your house, some items in it are no longer yours. You are wondering if the shelves technically belong to the new owner or if you can take them with you.

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What Are You Allowed to Take When You Sell Your House?

The general rule is that permanent fixtures—items that are recessed, nailed, glued or screwed to any of the house’s walls—should stay behind. It is assumed that such fixtures were sold with the house unless explicitly stated otherwise.

This is where you apply the fixtures and fittings list. If the shelves are listed here, they ideally come with the home purchase and are the homeowner’s property.

Taking something from the house that the home buyer has a claim to is not only frustrating to the buyer who probably left its equivalent at their old home, but it also has the potential to tank the sale or even results in a lawsuit post-closing if they are truly livid.

You should be careful about taking fixtures unless you sell to investment buyers who typically don’t fuss over trivial details. They buy houses in cash, intending to flip them for a profit. A cash home buying company will give you a good offer and buy your house as-is.

If you want to avoid the hassle of staging the house, haggling over the sales contract or even going through a real estate agent, consider asking for such no-obligation cash offers.

If you feel you must take your shelves with you because you put in work customizing them or the sentimental value is priceless, but you are still targeting the regular buyer, you need to do it right.

wall to wall book shelves

How to Take Shelves When You Sell Your House Legally

Take the Shelves Out of the Equation

If you feel the shelves are your personal property and you will have trouble leaving them behind, you can remove them before listing the house. If the buyers haven’t seen them, they won’t expect the shelves to be a part of the sale.

Unfortunately, their absence might leave a glaring eyesore that will require a paint job or another type of fix for a successful home staging.

The other alternative is to replace the shelves with a new set. Replacement is not mandatory, but sometimes the design of the house requires the shelves to be there, or their absence limits storage space.

There is a risk that buyers will be less intrigued with the house without the shelves. As a result, they will be selective about repairs and predisposed to drive hard bargains.

Don’t use cheap imitations to replace the original shelves after potential buyers have seen them during the open house. If they are part of the inventory, let the buyer find what they bargained for; alternatively, exclude them from the purchase contract.

Using an Exclusion Clause

Because they are typically left behind, if you plan on taking them with you, you should put it in writing at the beginning of the listing process and have your realtor convey the information, so that prospective buyers are aware.

The shelves might be one of the reasons your buyers fell in love with the house in the first place, so you will lose some potential buyers.

You can also put it in writing by amending the contract before closing so that you are on the same page with the buyer. They might anticipate that the shelves will stay and feel shortchanged if they don’t find them.

Include an inclusions and exclusions rider in your purchase and sale agreement that clearly highlights that the shelves are not included in the sale.

Using Shelves for Staging Purposes

Sometimes leaving the shelves in place is the better option. It will help to optimize returns from the sale.

The buyer’s agent might inform you that their client has fallen in love with your shelving units even after you had indicated that you are moving with them. You should convert them into a great negotiation tool by including them in the house’s catalog.

It will provide leverage when negotiating the buyer’s offer; you can even replicate the design in your new home with the extra cash.

You will save on moving costs and avoid moving with excess furniture to your new house. The new house probably has its own uniquely appealing design, and the shelves will be out of place.

Home sellers leave even more personal items like custom curtain rails and appliances as a selling tactic to boost the selling price.

Our Take

The term permanent fixture is grey regarding shelves as they come in all shapes and sizes. They range from floating shelves, bookshelves, and kitchen shelves to shelves that occupy entire walls. It is safer to cover your bases if you want to take them with you.

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