Ask any realtor and they will tell you, few things can come between buyers and sellers faster in a real estate transaction than the issue of inclusions and exclusions. Of course, normally the parties to the transaction are not experts in the real estate field and therefore are not well versed in what constitutes a fixture in a home. Which, in the simplest terms, is anything attached to your home which requires tools to remove. When it comes to buying or selling a home these fixtures have one thing in common, unless otherwise stated, they are included in the sale. This includes items like light fixtures, chandeliers, curtain rods, TV wall mounts and even the TV's attached to them. These things have become such an issue in past years that any experienced agent knows to have a conversation with their sellers and to properly write these things into contracts. Only recently though has something new come to this table which has been throwing all parties for a loop... their thermostat!
Only in very recent years can you find high priced models which offer ever increasing new features. One of the most iconic high end thermostats is the Nest Learning Thermostat. This wonderfully intuitive thermostat is able to recognize user input and build a schedule. The design offers a modern take on the classic round dial thermostat. For many people with these classic thermostats, a staple of their day may be setting the dial when leaving in the morning or coming home at night. And just as you did with those thermostats, you will have to do with the nest, though you will only have to do it a few times. After which the nest thermostat will automatically adjust the temperature in your home. Saving you money on your energy bill each month by reducing heating/cooling when not used. So how can something so easy and intuitive, not to mention cost saving, turn ugly? When the ownership of said wonderful device comes into dispute during or after a real estate transaction.
As we talked about earlier, fixtures in a home are innately included in a transaction. Meaning, if you don’t specifically list it as an exclusion, it is included. The average person would never consider removing their furnace and taking it with them when selling their house., but their thermostat may be a completely different story. Especially when considering the price of these new thermostats. Unlike the $10 thermostats of the past the Nest Learning Thermostat may set you back $250. And given all the expenses included in selling, buying and moving, the last thing you may want to have to do is to shell out another $250 for something you already purchased. The problem is that we do not think of a thermostat in the same way we think of a furnace. Yet, both are fixtures in a home and when installing either you are essentially adding an improvement to the home. You very well may end up having to leave your Nest thermostat right where it is, whether you like it or not.
Bottom Line. If you want to take your nest thermostat with you, make 100% sure you add that as an exclusion on your listing contract. Even more importantly, make sure any offer you receive also has it listed under exclusions. Remember the offer to purchase is what binds you. Even if you said it was not included and the offer makes no mention of it under either inclusion or exclusion, then it is still included in the sale. This goes for anything in your home which may be remotely categorized as a fixture. If you aren’t sure, ask your agent. If there is any question it is better to be safe than sorry and list it as an exclusion. If you receive an offer which does not reflect that list, even if the buyer verbally acknowledges they agree with it, still have your agent draft a counter or amendment to include your list of exclusions. After all, any offer is a legal document and is fully binding.
This all goes double if you’re a buyer. It is still far safer to list something you want as included rather than hope the seller plays by the rules. Consider the day of closing on your dream home, you do your final walk through only to find the thermostat has been changed out. What if the seller says they won’t give it back to you? Are you really prepared to walk away from the transaction? Furthermore, are you going to want to have to go to court or spend time and money fighting for a $250 thermostat after the transaction is over? At the end of the day, whether your agent says that something is included or not, being clear with your intentions and wants is your absolute best bet. If you want something included make sure that is clearly stated in your offer. More than likely, if your offer is the strongest, asking for a thermostat is not going to throw you out of first place.
I did want to take this final time to make mention of something I often hear. That is, that Nest Learning Thermostats are the only game in town if you’re looking for a Wi-Fi thermostat. This simply isn’t true. And while they have many amazing features, most can be found on thermostats at over half the price. For me, I have this Honeywell Wi-Fi Thermostat, installed at my home and my family's cabin. It has Wi-Fi connectivity and while it may not automatically learn and set a schedule, it is easy to program. Either at the thermostat itself, a computer or the Honeywell mobile app, you can program up to 4 temperature settings for all 7 days of the week. In just seconds you have a money saving schedule and never have to worry again. If the need arises you can set the temperature on a temporary hold that will revert back to your program at the next interval. Or a permanent hold for longer periods. This has been a god send to our family as on the way to our cabin we are able to turn the heat up meaning we never have to spend the first few hours there cold again. You can also set alarms to alert you in case the temperature falls above or below a certain temperature and Honeywell will alert you if the power has gone out. All in all, you can get all the features you will ever need at the fraction of the price of the Nest. If you are looking for something a bit more modern looking that includes a few more features be sure to take a look at Honeywell’s new Lyric thermostats. These even have a function which can tell when you leave your home or when you are coming home and will automatically adjust the temperature!
*Buyer's Edge Home Inspections is not endorsed by or affiliated with any companies or products mentioned. All statements are its own and do not reflect any other company.