Are you paying real estate taxes on personal property?

A number of real estate websites include the sales history of a listed property and include both the price reported in public records and the price reported in the Multiple Listing Service. Those prices are often, surprisingly, identical.

I say “surprisingly” because the value of personal property included in a real estate purchase should be excluded from the price reported in a real estate transfer tax declaration. Given the cost of high-end appliance packages, some of which may qualify as personal property, and the frequent inclusion of items of furniture in a sale, a buyer is overpaying transfer taxes and may also be overpaying real estate taxes in years to come.

The question of what qualifies as personal property can be legally tricky, and it’s something you should discuss with your attorney prior to closing.

Don’t assume that your attorney will be paying attention to this question. When I was an active seller almost every buyer’s attorney I dealt with tangled with me on this issue and I’d have to have an attorney at the title company explain to them that it was legitimate to exclude the value of personal property from the stated selling price for transfer tax purposes. The attorneys were, not surprisingly, actively arguing against their clients’ interest.

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