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Define Chattel in Real Estate


"Chattel" is a fancy word that means movable property. It's something that can be moved around and isn't attached to the ground like a building or a tree. Examples of chattel include furniture, electronics, and clothing.


Working example #1: Imagine you're selling your house. You'll take your personal property, like your TV, sofa, and kitchen appliances, with you when you move. The buyer gets the house and land (the real property), but not your personal belongings.

Working example #2: Suppose a tenant farmer leases a piece of land and plants corn on it. The corn, as emblements, is considered the tenant's personal property or chattel. If the tenant's lease ends before the corn is ready to harvest, the tenant typically retains the right to return and harvest the crop, even after they have vacated the property.

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"A Deep Dive for Real Estate Agents and Appraisers"

"Chattel" is another term for personal property, which includes movable items like furniture, vehicles, and other possessions. While personal property and chattel refer to the same concept, "chattel" is more commonly used in legal contexts, especially when discussing loans or mortgages that use personal property as collateral.

"Emblements," on the other hand, are crops planted by a tenant on a leased property. These crops are considered personal property or chattel because they can be removed from the land. Since the tenant put in the labor and resources to grow the crops, they have the right to harvest and take them when the lease ends, even if the land and its permanent fixtures belong to the landlord.

It can be challenging to determine whether an item is chattel or a fixture in real estate, as it often depends on the specific circumstances and how the item is attached or integrated into the property. Here's a list of some commonly encountered items and their general classification as either chattel or a fixture:

Chattel (Personal Property):

Furniture (e.g., sofas, chairs, tables)
Small appliances (e.g., microwave, toaster, coffee maker)
Electronics (e.g., TVs, sound systems, computers)
Decorative items (e.g., paintings, sculptures, rugs)
Portable air conditioning units
Garden tools and equipment

Fixture (Real Property):

Built-in appliances (e.g., built-in oven, dishwasher)
Central heating and air conditioning systems
Light fixtures and ceiling fans
Plumbing fixtures (e.g., faucets, showerheads)
Window coverings (e.g., blinds, shutters, curtain rods)
Built-in shelving and cabinetry
Security systems and alarms
Wall-to-wall carpeting
Garage door openers

It's important to note that some items can be more ambiguous. Whether an item is considered chattel or a fixture can depend on how it's installed and the intent of the parties involved. For example, a gas stove that is freestanding and easily removable is likely chattel, while a built-in gas stove that is integrated into the cabinetry might be considered a fixture.

When buying or selling a property, it's crucial to clarify which items are included in the sale and whether they are considered chattel or fixtures. This can help avoid confusion and disputes later on. To prevent misunderstandings, a real estate agent should ensure that the contract explicitly lists any items that the buyer and seller have agreed will stay or go with the property.
Illustration of Dumb Ox mascot.

"Wit & Whimsy with the Dumb Ox: Unlocking Knowledge with Rhyme:"

Oh, "chattel" is a word so neat
It means movable things that you can eat
No, not eat, that's a mistake
It's stuff that you can move or take!

Like chairs, and tables, and your old bike
They're chattel, not things that you might
Think are stuck in the ground or can't move
They're movable things, that's chattel, true!

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