What’s the Difference between a Fixture and a Chattel?

Difference types of property

Understand the difference

When buying or selling a home it is important to understand the different types of property that may affect the sale and purchase of real property. Understanding the difference between a fixture and chattel can be crucial when buying a new home or investing in a piece of real estate.

Buyers who are considering the purchase of a piece of real estate should take stock of the fixtures and chattel that they would like to be included in the property’s sale. Buyers should write down or photograph the pieces that they would like as part of the transaction. During the inventory please note that, unless stated otherwise, fixtures are included in the sale whereas chattel is not.

What is chattel?

Chattel is personal property that can easily be moved and is not permanently affixed to a piece of real estate. For instance, buyer walking into a home may anticipate that the furniture, decorations, and items that are not permanently affixed to the property will not be transferred with the ownership of the real estate. These personal items are also called chattel. The term chattel refers to personal property that is moveable.

What is a fixture?

A fixture is permanently affixed to a piece of real estate and removable only through an act of severance. A piece of chattel or personal property can become a fixture if the item is affixed in a permanent or meaningful way. For example, a bathtub is personal property until it is installed and permanently affixed into a home. Once a piece of personal property has become a fixture in a home, it can only be removed by an act of severance.

Determining if it is a fixture or chattel

Determining whether something is a fixture or chattel can be tricky. Items that are easily moveable are obviously chattel. If removing the object will damage the property, then the object is a fixture. However, there are some items that can be seen as either chattel or a fixture. For instance, a hot tub that is resting on a deck, but that is minimally attached to the home can either be seen as a fixture or chattel. In the case of items such as this, the intention of the affixer and the purpose of attachment can help establish whether the item is a fixture or chattel. Ultimately, if you are unsure if an item is chattel or a fixture and you would like it included in the sale of property, it is best that you include the item in the real estate contract.

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