May 19, 2011

Fighting Over Fixtures: Not Just a U.S. Syndrome

The United States practically invented litigiousness, so you might think that the frequent arguments between home buyers and sellers about what stays and what goes was a uniquely U.S. phenomenon.

Disputes regularly crop up about curtains, light fixtures, appliances, plants in the garden, cabinet knobs, and more. Sometimes the seller leaves the buyer a rude surprise and strips the house of favorite features just before departing. 

So, we can take some small comfort in discovering similar behavior goes on right across the pond (albeit with more charming vocabulary, for those of us with Anglophiliac tendencies). It's all revealed by Country Life magazine from the U.K., in a December 2010 article called, "Fighting over fixtures and fittings."

Here, we learn about:
  • the seller who demanded money for each of the "loo-roll holders" in the bathrooms
  • the seller who counted up all the lightbulbs he was leaving in the house (mansion, really) and asked to be compensated for those
  • the sale that nearly fell through over the sit-down lawnmower (the real estate agent saved the day by purchasing it for the buyers out of his own pocket)
  • the seller who insisted on removing both the integrated dishwasher and the "bespoke panel" that topped it (I had to look up "bespoke" -- it means custom-made)
  • the seller who removed the mahogany loo seats without replacing them
  • and more!
lightbulb-735969.jpgDo these disputes become more understandable when we realize that Country Life focuses on high-end properties, as in multi-room manors or country houses? Those lightbulbs and loo-paper rolls can really add up.

But the human tendency to get bogged down on small details seems to transcend country or price.

As one agent quoted in the article aptly put it, the two parties tend to develop "stiff-legged terrier syndrome. . . . even with houses worth several million pounds."

For a reminder of what a home seller is expected to leave behind in a U.S. property -- although the buyer and seller can always negotiate differently -- see the first question in Nolo's "Selling Your House FAQ."