Four Essential Steps to Selling Your Parents' Home After They've Downsized or Passed Away

Four Essential Steps to Selling Your Parents’ Home After They’ve Downsized or Passed Away

Family members who have to sell a property when their parents pass away will experience a myriad of emotions and obstacles that often catch them off guard. 

As a professional real estate investor and someone who personally had to contend with squabbling siblings and unrealistic expectations after the passing of my uncle, I’ve learned four essential steps to selling your parents’ home after they’ve downsized or passed away.

Four Essential Steps to Selling Your Parents' Home

  1. Clear the title on the house so it can be sold. Probate laws vary by state, so be certain you have the “authority” to sell the property.  Depending on the estate of your parent(s), one sibling may have sole control of how the property is to be sold.  If there is more than one sibling, be prepared to negotiate with each other on how to handle the sale, and consider bringing in a neutral expert who can help remove some of the emotion from the decision.
  2. Work with an expert to decide the value of the home and necessary repairs. In most instances, family members are emotionally tied to their parents’ property, and the expectation of what the property is worth is usually not in line with what the market will bear. One of my cousins thought my deceased uncle’s house was worth $120,000, which was far above the sales prices in the neighborhood. Even worse, the home needed about $30,000 in repairs to get it to a $75,000 market value. When I told my cousins they could sell the house for $35,000-$40,000 as is, some were upset that I did not think the house was worth more money. Yet it’s crucial to learn the truth early to avoid wasting time and money, not to mention frustration, when a house won’t sell. 
  3. Assess the need and cost for updates. While Mom and Dad may have loved their home, they probably haven’t updated it for years, if ever.  Now that it is time to sell, the property won’t be worth as much if it’s not updated.  The average cost to update the kitchen and bathrooms in a 1,500 square foot home is about $50,000.  If the cost to update does not add at least the same value or more in the current market, then you should not spend that money to sell the home.
  4. Get help from professionals who specialize in these transitions and bundle several services at no additional cost.  While your initial focus may be on what to do with the home, you’ll eventually want help from attorneys, title services, movers, and the like. Look for companies that focus on helping families find quick, stress-free ways to sell homes.  These companies are well-versed in the emotional aspects of these sales and will offer options and support to the person who is ultimately responsible for getting the home sold.

Have you helped an aging parent or other relative make a home transition? What steps did you find helpful in the process?

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