Generally speaking, “personal property” is any property that is not attached to the land or to structures on real estate. Personal property is sometimes called personalty or chattel. Property that is attached or fixed to real estate is known as real property or realty. Fixtures that can be removed without damaging the building are sometimes included under personal property.
The distinction between real and personal property is very important. Property laws may be different depending on whether the item is classified as realty or personalty. Also, property laws can vary depending on the jurisdiction where the property is located.
Personal property sales involve the transfer of personal property from one party to another. This may be done either through an informal oral agreement (like at a garage sale) or through a written contract. Personal property sales involve the sale of moveable items such as:
- Appliances and furniture
- Clothing, drapes, and linen
- Computers, phones, television sets, and other types of electronics
- Mechanical and hand tools
- Jewelry, watches, and other valuables
- Fine art and other collectibles
A personal property sale can be conducted by any person. A business entity can also conduct a personal property sale. In a business setting, the term “personal property sale” refers to the sale of goods that are moveable, regardless of whether a “person” or a business owns the goods.
Personal property sales are governed by basically the same principles found in contract law. Though the requirements may vary, there are three general requirements for a valid personal property sale:
- Subject Matter of the Sale: The subject matter (the item or items of personal property) should be clearly identifiable in the contract. Also, the property must be deliverable at the time the sale is completed
- Price: The price of the personal property must be definite amount or be capable of calculation. For example, the parties may compare market values to determine the price of the property
- Mutual Consent: The parties must agree upon the price and terms of the sale. Any sale that is achieved through force, coercion, or duress is prohibited
If any of these elements is not satisfied, the sale may not be considered valid under property laws. As mentioned, these requirements may be met either through oral agreement or through a written instrument. According to the statute of frauds, certain sales must be agreed to in writing, such as sales of goods worth over $500.
However, it is always best for a sale to be supported by a written contract. The writing can serve as evidence in case a dispute arises over the personal property sale.
Personal property sales can be complex, especially if the sale involves multiple items or very expensive items. It may be in your best interest to contact a commercial lawyer to help you with a personal property sale. A lawyer in your area can help you draft a sales agreement contract so that it follows state laws. Also, an experienced attorney can represent you in court if a lawsuit becomes necessary.