When dealing with property from a legal point of view, you may come across two terms: real property and personal property. What do these mean exactly? Let's talk about each in more detail:

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Real Property

Real property refers to land, anything built on that land, growing on that land, and/or anything existing under the face of that land. Basically, real property refers to anything that is immovable. Examples:

  • Barns
  • Garages
  • Crops
  • Mineral Rights
  • Sheds
  • Buildings
  • Fences
  • Roads
  • Landscaping
  • Ponds
  • Pools

Personal Property

Personal property refers to tangible (physical) and intangible (non-physical) items not permanently affixed to the land. Basically, personal property refers to anything that is movable. Examples:

  • Furniture
  • Stocks
  • Bonds
  • Intellectual Property
  • Money
  • Vehicles
  • Boats
  • RVs
  • Fixtures
  • Tools
  • Machinery


Typically, things are easily classified as either real or personal property. Sometimes, however, there are times where categorization can be difficult. For example, let's say you buy a few loads of lumber, a hammer, a saw and nails. At this moment in time, all of these items are personal property. They belong to you, and they can move with you. Then, let's say you decide to utilize your supplies and build a nice, big shed on your property. Your creation is now real property. Your shed is attached to, and now part of, your land. Any leftover/unused lumber and nails are still considered personal property, since they're not permanently attached in any way to that shed.

If that example wasn't enough, there's an old, general rule of thumb you can remember when it comes to the hard-to-classify items: "If it's screwed in, it's personal. If it's nailed in, it's real." 

Importance in Real Estate

It's important that everything is put into writing. This includes real and personal property. For sellers, making a complete list of their personal property is the easiest way to avoid any misunderstandings - especially if there are items that end up being difficult to categorize. Once you've made that list, what items stay and which items go with you should be noted in sale documents. It's also a good idea to give a list of all personal property items that will remain in the home to your agent. This is common for sellers to leave for buyers, for a few different reasons. Examples can include include kitchen appliances, bookshelves, chandeliers/large light fixtures and laundry appliances.

Remember, both buyers and sellers can negotiate these kinds of items on property transfer. A seller could be more than willing to leave a washer and dryer behind for the buyers if they've purchased new appliances to go into their new home. A buyer with their heart set on a fancy chandelier can request it to stay by working it in to asking price, their offer, and/or as part of a conditional sale. 

Posted by Admin Staff on


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