The probate process can be an unwanted burden in an already difficult time of life. Knowing a little bit about the process of selling a probate house before you begin may help ease the weight on your shoulders. Below, we provide a brief outline of how to sell a probate house, along with a few tips to make to process faster and more financially viable.
The steps to selling a house
Although a few steps may look familiar if you’ve gone through the process of selling a house before, working with a probate house requires that you jump through a few extra hoops. The procedure will vary by state and situation, but in general, this is how the process will unfold:
- Start by accumulating and organizing all necessary documents for the ownership to be transferred to you. This may include the property deed, mortgage information, proof of homeowner’s insurance and home warranty, title report, and more.
- Obtain legal rights to the house. The only way to do this is to file a probate case, except in rare cases when a living trust is involved. Contact an attorney to assist you in filing a case.
- Pay the outstanding taxes and debt obligations, such as utilities and HOA fees. This can be a financial burden on the new homeowner, so make sure you have all payment information before deciding how you will proceed with payments.
- Prepare the house for sale in the way you feel most necessary. This may include making major repairs, cleaning the space, or simply going through your loved one’s possessions.
- Appraise the house with an independent certified appraiser.
- Obtain a petition from the court to sell real estate.
- Put the house on the market and accept an appropriate offer.
- Petition the court for a hearing to confirm the sale.
- Arrange for a 10% deposit of the purchase price from the buyer before the date of the hearing.
- Advertise the sale and offer price in your local newspaper or on online platforms. This enables an open bidding process at the hearing, which can help you get a better price for the estate.
- Attend the hearing. Go through the bidding process (if applicable) and refund the buyer’s deposit if there is an overbid. If not, apply the deposit to the purchase price and confirm the original buyer’s price.
- Close the contract to complete the sale.
Of course, this is a much-simplified version of a process that can take many months. Below are a few tips to avoid complications and unnecessary financial burdens.
Look into a Small Estate Affidavit
Sometimes, you can skip the bulk of the lengthy legal processes and avoid probate court entirely. Here are a few instances where a small estate probate option could be made available to you:
- The total value of probate-eligible assets is below the cap amount (which depends on your state)
- Property is owned jointly and is passed to the surviving owner automatically
- Assets aren’t counted toward probate and therefore lower the total amount, such as revocable trusts or POD beneficiaries on financial accounts
Look into whether or not your situation could qualify for a small estate affidavit. This can save you some time and energy in an otherwise lengthy process.
Decide if you’d like to sell the house as-is
Realtors will likely recommend costly repairs and extensive cleaning in order to sell the house for a better price. If you do not have the time and money to go through these steps, consider bypassing a real estate agent and selling the house as-is to an investor. Cash buyers can be a fast solution to get an unwanted property off your hands, and they often can help you avoid attorney fees and transfer the title for free.
Aim for a quick sell
The longer the house is on the market, the longer you are responsible for maintenance and upkeep—from lawn care to insurance to utilities. If you’re willing to sacrifice a little bit of profit, price the house competitively for a quicker bite from a buyer. This is also another reason to consider selling to a cash buyer, as the sale can close in weeks instead of months or years.
Inheriting and selling a home after the death of a loved one can feel complicated and draining. Knowing about the process ahead of time can help avoid unwanted surprises and make the process feel a little less daunting—especially with a few tricks in your back pocket to avoid the most financially and legally complex parts.