Everything and the Kitchen Sink

By ALYSSA ABKOWITZ, Wall Street Journal

Some people don't just want the home: They want the towels, dishes, lamps—even, in one case, a toilet brush.

Terry Johnson sold his penthouse in Midtown Manhattan for $7 million last year in a deal that included practically all the furnishings—right down to the kitchen sponges, toilet brush and two jars filled with M&Ms.

"They wanted my liquor in my liquor cabinet, my spatula, my knife," says Mr. Johnson, who is an investor in an auto-related business. "I thought when people bought stuff in a place it was just the furniture."

In fact, the deal was contingent on the inclusion of almost everything in his home, all itemized in 140 lines in the contract, says Ryan Serhant, Mr. Johnson's agent. The buyers were pharmaceutical consultant Charles Stiefel and his wife, Daneen, according to public records; they didn't return requests for comment. Mr. Johnson walked away with only a few possessions: his sheets and towels, a 3-D wall-art hanging and an antique Asian statue that he bought while traveling in Thailand.

One-Stop Shopping

Richard Caplan

Terry Johnson sold his penthouse in Midtown Manhattan for $7 million last year. Included in the deal were most of the furnishings, such as the tea cups, toaster, iron, blow dryer, and other items.

 

 

In real estate, it is said, everything is negotiable. And these days, buyers want "turnkey" properties, where they can close the deal on a Tuesday and sleep in their new home Tuesday night. The buy-it-all trend is particularly popular among international buyers and celebrities, who don't want to wait for shipping containers to cross the ocean or for their own decorator to redo the entire home. "They want to be able to move in and not have to deal with all the little details," says New York-based real-estate consultant Lori Ordover.

Many sellers are just fine with the arrangement, especially when it means a faster transaction without the hassles of moving. "Some sellers view it as a fresh start and are really willing to walk away with almost nothing," says Beverly Hills agent Jade Mills.

Of course, the more details there are to hammer out, the more instances for deals to fall through. Brokers say tussles over chandeliers, custom drapery and artwork can ruin multimillion-dollar transactions. "In a seller's market, if people want specific things, it could hurt their chances," says Eric Hantman, CEO of Prime NYC Real Estate in New York.

Ms. Mills' first all-inclusive sale was to an actress who bought a 7,900-square-foot home with six bedrooms and six bathrooms in the Beverly Hills Post Office neighborhood for $7.2 million a few years ago. In the deal, her client, whom she declined to name, got the sheets, towels, dishes, drapery, pots and pans and more, adding about $250,000 to the price. "She even wanted the live Christmas tree," Ms. Mills says of her client, since the home closed about two weeks before the holidays.

Late last year, Michelle Boquiren, a sales director at an asset-management firm, was moving to New York from London. She toured a model apartment at the Cammeyer, a former shoe factory in Manhattan's Flatiron District that had been converted into 67 units, and liked the 800-square-foot condo. Although she had schlepped her Room & Board furniture across the Atlantic, she says the game changer for her was that the condo had almost everything in it already—soap dispensers, cotton-ball holders, towels and damask bedding from Restoration HardwareRH -1.19%  trash cans, a huge mirror in the bedroom, even magazines and several houseplants.

The day after she closed for $975,000, she laundered the sheets and slept in her new home. "I was relieved that I didn't have to piece things together or wait for things to be delivered," Ms. Boquiren says.

The building's broker, Mr. Hantman, says the developer was willing to sell most of the furniture and accessories because there were only a handful of available homes remaining that would need to be staged. The only things the developer wouldn't sell were certain lighting fixtures, a flat-panel TV and the marble wine-bottle holder, which were on loan from home-design companies.

Indeed, developers are increasingly offering fully outfitted units as more buyers want them. The Ritz-Carlton Residences, Singer Island, Palm Beach, for example, has started offering turnkey packages for buyers that include towels, alarm clocks, hair dryers, Bulgari toiletries, table linens and mixing-bowl sets, among other things. Of the 15 condos that have sold during the past year, eight of those have been sold with these turnkey packages, which cost about $10,000.

The day after she closed for $975,000, she laundered the sheets and slept in her new home. "I was relieved that I didn't have to piece things together or wait for things to be delivered," Ms. Boquiren says.

The building's broker, Mr. Hantman, says the developer was willing to sell most of the furniture and accessories because there were only a handful of available homes remaining that would need to be staged. The only things the developer wouldn't sell were certain lighting fixtures, a flat-panel TV and the marble wine-bottle holder, which were on loan from home-design companies.

Indeed, developers are increasingly offering fully outfitted units as more buyers want them. The Ritz-Carlton Residences, Singer Island, Palm Beach, for example, has started offering turnkey packages for buyers that include towels, alarm clocks, hair dryers, Bulgari toiletries, table linens and mixing-bowl sets, among other things. Of the 15 condos that have sold during the past year, eight of those have been sold with these turnkey packages, which cost about $10,000.

Other brokers hire home-inventory companies, which traditionally document personal property for natural disasters, insurance reimbursement or legal issues, such as a divorce. Ms. Mills, the Beverly Hills agent, has worked with Home Sweet Home Video, a high-end home-inventory company in Pacific Palisades, Calif., that charges a minimum of $375 per 50 items to take pictures of what is included in a home sale. Owner Amy Reiss says she goes room by room with her clients to discuss what needs to be inventoried and delivers a report that includes manufacturer model and serial numbers, along with an item's location and category.

Still, some agents and bank executives say it is best to negotiate the purchase of furnishings separately from the sale of the home. For one, many lenders won't cover personal property in the home mortgage, but would consider a separate loan for, say, artwork, says Jim Minich, managing director of capital advisory services at Harris myCFO, a wealth-management company. That is because an appraisal, which is required before securing a loan, doesn't take into account personal property. "The appraiser instantly deducts the value of the furniture, so you rarely get the extra value you think you've obtained," Mr. Minich says.

    

    

Earlier this year, David Benveniste, CEO of Velvet Hammer Music and Management Group, sold his Beverly Hills home to an Indonesian buyer for $7.425 million. In a separate transaction, he sold the same buyer, who declined to be named, many of his custom housewares. Initially, the buyer planned to bring in his own designer, Mr. Benveniste says. But in late June, the buyer asked to purchase his rugs, mirrors, marble dressers, custom bed frames and other furniture and accessories. "You cannot have my art and you cannot have my dogs, but everything else is negotiable," Mr. Benveniste says he told the buyer. In the end, the majority of his furnishings were included in the separate $200,000 transaction.

Pat and Roseann McGeehin's 8,200-square-foot home in Potomac, Md., is on the market for $3.45 million, with the option to buy most of their furnishings for an additional sum. Mr. McGeehin, senior managing director at FTI Consulting, says he and his wife are willing to part with their sommelier cups, four sets of flatware, the African birthing stool they got on a trip to South Africa and an antique 7-foot clock from a Philadelphia bank, among other things. The only things they want to keep, such as the yellow ceramic pig in the kitchen and a tall torch lamp in the music room, have sentimental value and can be used in their other homes in Palm Beach, Fla., Bethany Beach, Del., and condo in Manhattan.

The Manhattan property, which they bought in May for $2.4 million, came fully furnished, including the sheets, towels, picture frames, dishes and silverware. "We were trying to avoid all that additional stress," he says. "The day we closed, we slept there."

Despite even the hardest negotiations, sometimes a buyer or seller won't budge on personal property. About a year ago, Ms. Mills represented a couple selling their contemporary 4,000-square-foot home on the Sunset Strip in the Hollywood Hills. Each time the buyers visited, they commented on the owners' white Maltese poodle. During the last inspection before closing, Ms. Mills says the buyers asked if the dog could be included in the sale. "My sellers couldn't believe they asked for their dog," Ms. Mills says. "They were serious about it."

The home ended up selling for $4.3 million—sans poodle.