The Housing Scene

When there is a dispute between buyer and seller over what stays with the house and what goes, it’s usually over a prized bathroom mirror, a beautiful sconce in the hallway or some ornate, custom curtain rods.

The rule of conveyances is fairly simple: If it is attached to the house, it is considered a fixture and it stays for the next owner. If it isn’t attached, the sellers can take it with them when they move out. In other words, you can take the curtains, but not the rods.

But what if the issue involves animals? Now it gets sticky. Obviously, the dog or cat or other critter isn’t part of the property, and normally the sellers will take their pets when they leave. But not always.

Last fall, agent Jeff Dowler of Solutions Real Estate in Carlsbad, California, asked a seller if the peacocks wandering around his spacious backyard would be part of the transaction.

“The lot was large, about one acre, and the seller met us at the property to let us in,” Dowler said in a post on real estate site ActiveRain. “The buyers were out strolling the property, and out of curiosity, I asked, ‘Do the peacocks convey?’”

The seller was adamant: “Yes, they are staying,” he said.

As it turns out, peacocks are protected in several parts of the country, allowed to roam freely. So they had to stay, whether the buyer liked it or not.

Francine Viola, an agent with Evergreen Olympic Realty in Washington, once had to write up a contract that stated the chickens in the coop would stay. If that wasn’t enough, the buyer also wanted the seller to replace any chickens that passed away prior to closing.

“Thankfully the chickens lived,” she said.

Ducks were part of a deal that New Hampshire agent Scott Godzyk once worked on. The buyer wanted the ducks in the property’s small pond to convey. Luckily, the sellers agreed. It seemed the husband, who fed them daily, didn’t want them to be disturbed from their man-made habitat.

Fish or fowl, there can be problems. Twice, Dana Cottingame of Coldwell Banker in Dallas ran into situations with koi in a pond. In Texas, she learned, koi convey just as though they were attached to the house. The moral here: If you don’t want to be bothered feeding fish, don’t buy a house with them -- at least in the Lone Star State.

In Florida, Winifred Smith of RE/MAX Advance Realty says she heard of an issue with the number of koi that would convey with a certain home. The larger koi are apparently “quite expensive, so the buyer made the seller pay to replace a couple” that had gone to the great pond in the sky.

Things don’t always work out when a pet is involved. One odd request reported by Goodson Realty in Bonne Terre, Missouri, came from a buyer who fell in love with the seller’s dog and wrote him into the contract. “My sellers did not accept” the offer, recalls the agent.

And sometimes the problem is big -- really big, as in the case of the three 400-lb. potbellied pigs that greeted Anna Kruchten of the Phoenix Property Shoppe when showing her client an upscale luxury home. The listing agent hadn’t mentioned a thing about the porkers, even when Krutchen spoke with him directly.

The seller’s agent probably thought the presence of pigs was better left unsaid. Otherwise, nobody would want to visit the place. And as you might expect, Kruchten says, “my client was aghast.”

Neither Gayle Rich-Boxman of Fishhawk Lake Real Estate in Birkenfeld, Oregon, or RE/MAX agents Pat and Ed Okenica in Lake Oconee, Georgia, have had any problems with live animals. But they have had issues with taxidermy and telephones.

Rich-Boxman had to remove a moose head on New Year’s Day a few years back, because the sellers thought it was a fixture and left it -- “and weren’t coming back” for it. The buyers didn’t want the “sad old head leering at them,” she recalls, so she hired workers to remove it.

The Okenicas, meanwhile, had buyers who insisted the sellers leave their phone, shaped like a mallard duck, or they would walk away from the deal. “There’s always something that pops up in a transaction that you least expect,” they posted.

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