How to Handle Appliances When Selling a House: Follow Market Norms

When you sell your home, it’s a given that you’ll pack family portraits, decorations, and furniture into the moving truck, but what about your appliances? Should you take the refrigerator and oven with you to your new home? How about the washer and dryer?

Technically, sellers can walk out with anything that’s not permanently attached to the property. But beware, excluding certain appliances in the home sale could turn off potential buyers, not to mention, add a layer of difficulty when moving.

When weighing up whether to take or leave your appliances, you should consider what’s considered the “norm” for your market, as well as how your appliances may impact your home’s marketability. To help you decide, we’ll break down the role appliances play in selling a house based on market conditions, price point, and property condition. We’ll also cover how to move your appliances safely to your next home once the sale closes.

A washing machine that will be removed from the house when selling..
Source: (Emily Chung / Unsplash)

Generally, kitchen appliances stay, while laundry appliances are up for grabs

With nearly 25 years of experience selling real estate in the Boston area, top agent David Shorey shares that there’s a general pattern when it comes to appliances: the kitchen appliances nearly always stay, while the laundry appliances only stay half of the time.

Typically, the seller includes all kitchen appliances in the home sale, including the refrigerator, oven, dishwasher, and microwave if it’s built-in. This is likely the status quo since it’s more convenient for buyers and sellers to leave these appliances than move them between properties.

Moreover, the more appliances moved, the greater the risk of damage to the home’s walls and floors from improper lifting, packing, and moving techniques. If significant damage occurs during the move, the seller may need to cover repair costs, depending on the terms of the purchase agreement,

Shorey shares that appliances are up for grabs in the laundry room, commenting that buyers care less about these appliances than those in the kitchen. When deciding whether or not to take the washer and dryer, sellers should ask their real estate agent what is customary in their market, as well as gauge prospective buyers’ interest in the inclusion of these appliances.

For instance, if the seller typically leaves the washer and dryer in your market, then your buyer may push for these appliances to remain. On the other hand, if you’ve received multiple bids on your home, it’s unlikely a buyer will back out of the deal if you elect to keep the laundry machines.

FHA loans require all included appliances to function properly

If the buyer is purchasing the home with an FHA loan, then all included appliances must meet the Federal Housing Administration’s guidelines for the loan to close:

  • All appliances included in the sale that contribute to the home’s market value must be operational.
  • If the utilities are shut off during the home appraisal, the appraiser must “complete the appraisal under the extraordinary assumption that utilities and mechanical systems, and appliances are in working order.”
  • The home’s electrical system must adequately support all appliances included in the sale.

The FHA specifies that the term “appliances” includes refrigerators, ranges/ovens, dishwashers, disposals, microwaves, washers, and dryers, so sellers are off the hook for other home systems such as trash compactors and spas.

Regardless of tradition, sellers still choose which appliances to keep

Even where cultural norms exist, it’s still up to the seller to decide if they want to take their appliances with them or not. Nearly everything is negotiable in real estate, and appliances are no exception.

For example, a seller may want to keep their beloved, high-end Sub-Zero fridge since it’s unlikely they will see a significant return on the purchase if they were to lump the appliance in with the sale.  While taking all of your appliances with you “is a hassle” for the buyer, Shorey shares that it’s unlikely this move will stop someone from buying a property.

In other scenarios, a seller may want to include the appliances to attract buyers or move forward negotiation. For instance, if the difference between the buyer’s offer and the asking price is near or equal to the value of the washer/dryer, the seller could offer the appliances as a concession.

To avoid confusion, Shorey recommends that sellers clarify their intentions to keep or leave the appliances in the listing when possible.

“If they don’t and a buyer makes an offer including the appliance, the seller has to make a choice at that point,” Shorey adds, clarifying that the seller and buyer must finalize the matter before signing the purchase agreement.

Appliances can add (or subtract) value from your home

When it comes to adding value and marketability to your home, not all appliances are equal. Follow these best practices when upgrading your appliances for the best return on investment:

Purchase matching kitchen appliances

According to HomeLight’s recent Top Agent Insights Report, buyers prioritize style over everything else when it comes to kitchen appliances. Shorey advises homeowners to sell their home with matching appliances, consistent in the finish, age, and brand when possible.

“If you’ve got a newer refrigerator and dishwasher, but a very old stove, I’ll often recommend replacing the stove so that it’s of similar quality or value to the other appliances,” Shorey shares.

If all of your appliances are dated, consider upgrading the set to boost your home value. 75% of HomeLight agents surveyed share that stainless steel is still the most popular finish among homebuyers. On average, new stainless steel appliances for the kitchen (including a dishwasher, stove, hood, microwave, and refrigerator) cost $4,229 and add $5,982 in value — that’s a 141% return on investment!

Choose appliance brands based on your home’s price point

Upgrade your appliances in accordance with your home’s price point. Most homebuyers will appreciate mid-range appliances from recognizable brands such as GE, Samsung, and Whirlpool. However, buyers purchasing luxury homes will expect high-end appliances from brands like Wolf or Thermador. If the appliance quality doesn’t match up with the price point of the property, Shorey warns that your kitchen could bring down your home value.

Refresh old appliances on a budget

If your kitchen style dates back to the ‘70s, don’t bother upgrading those yellowed appliances.

“It’s putting lipstick on a pig,” Shorey comments, stating that new appliances in an old kitchen won’t persuade buyers to raise their offer.

Instead, deep clean and refresh your existing appliances with these DIY tips:

  • Apply stainless steel decals: Artfully apply stainless steel Con-Tact paper to the dishwasher or refrigerator for a more aesthetically pleasing kitchen.
  • Update burner grates: Improve your stove by replacing old, grease-caked burner grates and drip pans.
  • Swap out hardware: Update your oven’s exterior with new, contemporary range knobs.
  • Disguise your dishwasher: Cover your dishwasher door with a beadboard or cabinetry panel so it blends in with your kitchen cabinets.

Repair or replace broken appliances before listing

If an appliance isn’t working properly, consider repairing or replacing it before you list your home. Otherwise, you can expect some buyers to lower their offer price or lose interest in your home completely. As mentioned previously, all appliances included in the sale must be functional if you are selling to a buyer who is backed by an FHA loan in order for their loan to close.

A washing machine that will be removed when selling a house.
Source: (Andrey_Popov / Shutterstock)

Safety tips for moving appliances to your new home

When moving selected appliances to your new home, keep safety top of mind, so you don’t damage the appliances, your home, or yourself in the process.

The safest route is to hire a moving professional who has experience moving heavy items such as appliances, hot tubs, and other bulky items. According to long-distance moving service MoveLine, the cost to disconnect and remove an appliance from a property runs between $35-85 per item, with move-in installation starting at $75.

If you forgo hiring professional movers, take your time moving the appliances carefully, following these safety guidelines:

  • Use the right equipment: Rent or purchase an appliance dolly, furniture blankets, appliance straps, and sliders.
  • Drain the appliances first: Open and defrost the refrigerator, drain the washing machine, and disconnect the dishwasher at least one day before the move to remove all moisture from the interior. This way, you’re not carrying around any water weight during the transport.
  • Measure twice, so you move once: Take measurements of the appliances, in addition to the path out of your old home and into your new home to ensure the appliances will fit through door frames and hallways.

When selling your home, you’ve got options for your appliances

Appliances play a fairly significant role in your home sale. New, shiny appliances can attract buyers to your property or serve as the tipping point for a buyer to make an offer. On the flip side, if you’re selling your home in a competitive seller’s market, you may have more leeway to take your kitchen appliances to your new home without your buyer pushing back.

If you’re still tossing up whether to keep or sell your appliances, consult your real estate agent. They’ll help you make a strategic decision for your market, as well as connect you to resources for moving your appliances safely after the sale.

Header Image Source: (Sidekix Media / Unsplash)