Selling a house under probate
Selling a house under probate can be one of the most stressful situations anyone can go through. I know this all too well….
When my father passed away, it was the most painful loss I’ve dealt with to date. The responsibility of his estate was suddenly on my shoulders. I had to help plan the funeral, make sure the bills were paid, and find an excellent probate attorney that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. I didn’t have time to fully process the loss….and yet everyone was constantly in my ear and in my face about what I’m going to do with his house, car, and even his money. I didn’t care to deal with any of it, but it had to be done. I’m posting this blog about some mistakes that I made and some advice on what to do about those in the same situation.
DO NOT always listen to your friends and family
Some family and friends have your best interest at heart. However, when you’re grieving, it’s hard to know the difference between those who love and care for you and those who are trying to take advantage of you. Tragic events tend to bring a rise on those who are opportunistic. Not to mention, these aren’t experts and most don’t know what they’re talking about. Remember, they’re grieving too. Unfortunately, I learned the hard way to some degree. I made some decisions based on opinions of those that didn’t know what they were talking about because I was trying to make it a family thing. I wanted everyone involved. But it turned out it was nothing more than some family members chiming in to get a piece of the pie, even if they’re not entitled to. You’ll be amazed what assets do to families. My probate attorney said that families will fight each other and take to court over the dumbest things (watches, a lamp, movies, etc). It’s the very thing that, he said, is paying for his children’s college. Fortunately, despite the grief, I was able to quickly learn who was giving me shoddy advice for their own advantage and was able to dismiss the situation quickly.
DO NOT tell everyone your business
When you’re grieving, you want to talk to anyone and everyone who is “listening”. It’s very easy to blurt out your situation. When you come across some assets, you’ll be amazed at how many people will come out of nowhere and start wanting a relationship or become closer. Which is why I advise to keep your business to yourself unless you really trust that person. While I understand that certain things are public record, I’m advising not to make the information easy for them to access. Let them research it themselves.
Do some research before making hefty decisions
I’ve never sold a house before, let alone bought one. It involved a lot of paperwork, everyone wanted to talk to me, and all I wanted to do was hop on a plane to an unknown island and go AWOL (no joke I really did). When a house goes under probate, it becomes public record. Meaning suddenly you’ll see mail from those who want to buy your house and take it off your hands. My advice is to do a lot of research. If you are not interested in keeping a house, especially when you can use the money, just sell it. As I’ve stated above, DO NOT listen to your friends and family and go with your gut. I kept flip flopping on whether or not I was selling the house because I was guilted in keeping it. The problem was I couldn’t afford it. It’s amazing how the people giving you advice to keep it are the ones not paying for it.
Research the fair market value for your home if you decide to sell
This one is more complicated to explain than it sounds. There’s different explanations for two separate scenarios: one for turnkey properties and one for fixers.
If your property is turnkey, I advise finding a realtor who fits your personality. There are a million realtors out there and some do it sparingly part time. You’ll find some who have sold one million homes in a year so therefore, they are the best and greatest thing since sliced bread. You’ll find some who have no personality, no drive, and no motive to sell your property. They’ll take horrible pictures from their phone (hiring a professional real estate photographer is best), post the listing, and let it just sit there. Believe it or not, the amount of experience from a realtor doesn’t mean they’re better than the one who hasn’t sold a house. I’ve come across realtors that have sold 100 houses in a year who will be quick to trash the reputation of a couple of friends of mine who have sold just 11. You’ll be amazed to know that it’s all the same system. At the end of the day, it’s about what that realtor can do for YOU. What can they provide for YOU. How hard they will work for YOU.
If your property is a fixer and you’re trying to sell it fast, I advise finding a cash buyer. In my previous article, I talked about the experience of my first flip. The house was under probate and the person who inherited it wanted nothing to do with the house. She didn’t want anything to do with a mortgage and needed to sell it fast. We didn’t go through a realtor to save money, closed in two weeks, and took care of the closing costs. By saving so much money doing so, she sold it at a lower price. It’s a win-win situation for both parties. I’m not saying using a realtor is a bad idea. Just providing a different option that can be a benefit to everyone involved.
Remember, it’s okay to take time about these things….but don’t take too long either
Don’t allow yourself to feel like you have to rush to do something about the house (or anything for that matter). It’s better to make an informed and unrushed decision than to make a dumb and rushed decision. But I do have to warn you: the longer you wait to make a decision, your home lowers in value if not upkept. A fixer will just continue to rot over time, especially if it has mold, pests, and roof rotting issues. These aren’t issues that will eventually go away, they become WORSE. If you decide to take a month off to process, research, grief, or whatever you need to do, take it. But I highly advise not taking six months. The house could’ve sold for $100,000 if sold back in April. But now that it’s September, it’s now worth $80,000 due to the extra rotting. That’s $20,000 lost in a matter or four or five months!
Hope any of this if not all of it helps. Like I said, selling or dealing with a property under probate isn’t easy. There’s so much that goes into it during such an emotional time. If you have a question or a house under probate, visit my website at www.smartpartnersinvest.com or call 206.569.0800.