August 13th 2010
The New York Times
IT’S only in the last few years that boxy television sets with giant cathode ray tubes have gone the way of rotary phones and typewriters.
But since flat-screen televisions now reign, and they don’t necessarily get packed up with the rest of the furniture when someone moves out, they have become the newest punch-list item that must be considered in an apartment sale.
If a television has been mounted to a wall, does it stay or go? If it goes, does the bracket stay or go? And if the bracket goes, who repairs the gaping holes left by the now-removed bracket?
“It seems to be a topic of discussion in every walk-through now before we close on an apartment,” said June Gottlieb, a senior managing director at Warburg Realty. “If a seller is taking their flat screen with them, I always will ask if they plan to fill and patch the holes left by the brackets, because I’m not going to let my buyer walk into a mess.”
Unlike kitchen appliances, air-conditioners and light fixtures, mounted flat-screen televisions and their hardware are not part of the boilerplate language for items that automatically come with an apartment in a standard co-op or condominium contract. This means the fate of a mounted flat-screen television is entirely open to interpretation. It’s not a given that a seller will leave a television and its bracket, nor is it a given who is responsible for repairing any wall damage caused by an unwanted bracket.
“It’s something that people have to take into consideration,” said Steven D. Sladkus, a Manhattan real estate lawyer. “If they want something left behind or repaired, they have to make sure they specify it. Otherwise, you might go on a walk-through and be surprised that something you expected to be there has been ripped out of the wall.”
Ms. Gottlieb had one recent buyer who didn’t want the existing bracket but wanted to have her own contractor make the repairs. So Ms. Gottlieb helped her negotiate a $300 credit from the seller before they completed the sale.
“I would counsel buyers to do this because then you know the work will be done to your own standards,” she said. “Otherwise a seller might not fix it exactly the way you want it, and that’s a fight at the closing that doesn’t have to be.”
Mr. Sladkus said that in his experience, “more and more buyers are considering the brackets a freebie.”
In a recent sale, he had a buyer who asked a seller to leave the television bracket in place, aware that he might wind up taking it down and refinishing the wall at his own expense. “But he finally convinced his wife that the television looks better hanging up, so he got a free bracket and free installation,” he said. “He figures he saved about $400.”
Brackets can range in price from under $100 to as much as $1,000, for a motorized model that can swivel and swing out from the wall. Installation services start at $150, but can also cost several hundred dollars, depending on whether a contractor has to open up a wall.
Some sellers have chosen to market a mounted flat-screen television as part of an apartment sale.
Jill Sloane, an executive vice president of Halstead Property, said she had worked on several sales in which sellers opted to leave mounted flat-screen televisions. “For some of them,” she said, “it’s just been more convenient because they don’t want to have to get the wall patched up. But for buyers, as long as it’s not a really big and heavy older model, they’re finding it to be a plus because they don’t have to go through the process of buying and installing a television.”
In a current listing she has for a studio on the Upper West Side, the owner has agreed to make the flat-screen a selling point. “It’s on the fact sheet and on the listing itself that the flat screen stays,” Ms. Sloane said. “There are a few other studios on the market in the building, so we’re trying to make it more attractive.”
So, in addition to a renovated kitchen and hardwood floors, she said, the flat screen ranks as a bonus.