Typically we only hear stories of someone passing away, but rarely do we hear what happens next. Even though I lost my father 7 years ago to cancer, I never imagined I would lose my mom so young too. Three short weeks after we found out my mom was sick, she passed away, and suddenly, I was thrust into handling her affairs. Being an only child, and living 5 states away with my own family to take care of, definitely provided some challenges. Despite all of the emotions surrounding my mom’s unexpected death, I still had to make a few major decisions, one of which selling her home.
It’s important to surround yourself with people you can trust to guide you through the process of selling a loved one’s home. When someone passes away, the deceased’s estate, assets that are both monetary and physical property, will need to go through the Probate Court. Hopefully, your loved one has a will that lists out what should happen as well as beneficiaries named on all accounts, deeds, policies, etc. The Probate Court is there to ensure that everything is handled according to law and, as you can imagine, this will take time. The estate attorney you select will help you gather information needed in order to take care of all these items, including the deed to the house.
In my situation, my mom had placed a “transfer on death”, TOD, on the house deed. All I needed to do was fill out and file a few forms to transfer the deed into my name. Having the TOD kept the house from being put through Probate Court and allowed me to move forward with putting the home on the market faster.
Real Estate Agent
As mentioned earlier, I live 5 states away from where my mother’s home was located. I was lucky that my good friend, Bonnie Overbeck, from 3B Realty Group in Cincinnati, OH was able to be my agent. However, if you don’t know an agent already, finding an agent familiar with the area is vital no matter what home you’re selling. Thankfully, homes.com makes it super easy to find an agent with their “Find An Agent” tab.
Preparing The Home For Sale
Selling your home is one thing, but selling someone else’s home is a completely different kind of challenge. Homes.com has an extensive list to help you prepare for the sale of any home. After you speak with the agent you have chosen, you’ll need to inspect the property together and look for any obvious repairs that should be addressed immediately. Thankfully, my parents worked to keep their home updated and essentially maintenance free. Keep in mind that unless there is money available from the estate, any repairs will be paid out of pocket. My agent recommended the carpet be removed in all the bathrooms, and while I completely agreed, I did a cost/time analysis and determined it wasn’t something we would update. Instead, we opted for a bargaining piece should the carpet be an issue with the buyer, and offered a flooring allowance. You can check out the Homes.com guide “Fix It Or Not? Questions To Ask When Preparing Your Home For Selling” for more information.
Also, make sure you listen to your agent when it comes to pricing the home for the market it’s in. While you want to get the best possible price, you also need to keep in mind the carrying costs while you’re selling the home. These costs will be on top of your personal utilities and mortgage, lean into their expertise and save yourself the headache.
In order to get my mother’s home ready to list on an MLS, I cleaned, purged, decluttered, and depersonalized as much as possible. We also made sure to use an amazing photographer for the listing pictures, who truly captured the best features of the home.
Handling The Contents Of The Home
While my mom was neat and organized, she had a lot of stuff. After I picked out which keepsakes I wanted to bring home, I hired a local auctioneer to pack, move, and sell the remaining items in the home and garage. The company held an offsite auction and while their fee was 30% of the total sale, they saved me significant time and energy. If there are a few items that you believe have greater value, I recommend selling on your own in an effort to get the true amount you believe it’s worth. I opted for an offsite auction because I didn’t want people walking through the home while it was on the market unless they were with an agent.
Maintaining The Home During The Sale
My mom already had a landscaper who had been maintaining her lawn since my dad was sick. I paid out-of-pocket to continue his services while the home was on the market. Keeping up the curb appeal is a must when trying to sell a home, I recommend having someone check on the home periodically to make sure all is ok if you’re not able. If the home is WIFI-enabled, I recommend utilizing a video doorbell service so you can monitor who is coming to the home remotely when you’re not in the area.
I never imagined that losing my mom and handling her estate was in the cards this year. Thankfully, she had her affairs in order, which made that part of the process easier. My hope is that by sharing my journey I can help foster a dialogue between you and your loved ones. Losing someone is hard enough and unexpected surprises will make the grieving process so much harder. Talking about death may be uncomfortable for many, but it’s an inevitable part of life. If you’re unsure of what you need to do, refer to an estate attorney who can help guide you in the planning process as well.