Selling a House in Probate in California

by | Nov 7, 2019

There seems to be no end to the things you need to take care of when there has been a death in the family and no end to the energy you have to muster to get them all accomplished. Planning the funeral, notifying family and close friends, closing out accounts, and forwarding mail are just some of the tasks that may require your attention.

You may also be responsible for selling a home after the death of a parent, sibling, or other loved one, whether you believe you’ve got the strength to handle such an undertaking or not. It might feel unfair. But, if there is a good reason this burden has fallen to you, deep inside you might know it’s the right thing to do, too.

If the home has landed in California’s probate system, however, because all of the assets are only in the deceased’s name, your task can also feel like an impossible one. But, selling a house in probate in California is possible. We’ll walk you through the steps you’ll have to take and, hopefully, it will make the process easier to move through.

Selling a House in Probate in California

In the state of California, there are actually several reasons why a property might be probated. The most common reason is that the deceased—called a “decedent” by the court—left no will at the time of death. So, the beneficiaries of the estate have to be determined by the state.

Even when there is a will, however, if the assets are valued at more than $150,000 or there are mistakes present in how the will was initially drawn, the beneficiaries may have to be validated by the state. The home will also be probated if the beneficiaries passed before the decedent.

Unfortunately, California’s probate system is a complicated one despite the fact that it was created to simplify the distribution of assets and make the process fair.

One way to reduce your stress is to sell the house to an all-cash buyer who is familiar with the process of buying a probate property.

If you’re one of the beneficiaries of a will or have been designated as the executor of the estate, you’ll find this out soon enough (if you haven’t already). And, when you’re faced with selling a house in probate in California—no matter how it got there—legally navigating the process is no easy feat. That’s why, though we’ve described the steps you’ll likely have to take to sell a house in probate below, you should always consult an attorney as well.

Seven Steps to Selling a Probate House:

  • Obtain permission from the court to sell the property, even if you are the executor of the estate. For that, a judge will need to issue a court order, and you’ll need documented proof—called Letters of Administration or Letters Testamentary—from the court clerk.
  • Seek full authority, if you can, seek authority to conduct the sale on behalf of the deceased. Under the California Independent Administration of Estates Act (IAEA), having full authority means that the court does not have to approve the sale of the home provided the selling price is close to its appraised value.
  • Have the house appraised by a probate referee—often an attorney or certified public accountant who has experience with appraisals—to determine the home’s cash value.
  • Notify any beneficiaries (or others who have expressed interest in the home) in writing of your intent to sell. They may want to weigh in on what is done with the home and, in some cases, may even object to the sale. It’s a risky step to take and can hold things up. Still, it’s better to address any issues now, rather than after you’ve finalized the sale.
  • Prepare the house to sell by cleaning, decluttering, and hauling away trash. Minor or major repairs, like the installation of a new roof, may need to be performed as well—especially if the home has deferred maintenance or sat uninhabited for a long period of time.
  • Hire a real estate agent to help you market the home, schedule showings for buyers, and negotiate offers. It is possible to sell a home without a REALTOR®, of course. But, unless you already have a buyer lined up, doing all the work of an agent yourself will only add more stress to your already full plate.
  • Seek approval from the court if the highest offer you’ve received isn’t at least 90% of the appraised value. Alternately, you can contest the appraisal to have it lowered if none of your potential buyers can agree to the probate referee’s appraisal price.

Assuming each of these steps runs smoothly, from this point forward, closing the transaction is not unlike other real estate sales. There are a few additional things you’ll need to keep in mind, however, so that you’re not taken by surprise as you move through California’s probate process.

What to Keep in Mind When Selling a Probate House

  • Expect to spend six months to one year in probate before getting the home sold. Filing the right paperwork with most California county courthouses takes time. Getting responses from the court can take even longer.
  • Expect to be responsible for keeping the contents of the house safe.
  • Expect to pay holding costs (e.g., the mortgage payment, property insurance, and utility bills) until the home is officially out of your hands.
  • Expect to spend several thousand dollars to get the house sold, whether from the estate, the sale of the house, or out of your own pocket. Expenses may include:
    • A probate filing fee of approximately $450.
    • The cost of a probate referee is charged at a minimum of $75 and a maximum of $10,000, depending on the appraised value of the home.
    • Attorney fees range from .5% to 4% of the gross value of the home.
    • The cost to prep the house for selling, if there are a lot of repairs to make, can be substantial. A house that needs a new roof, for example, can run you $14,000 or more to fix.
    • Commission fees are paid to your real estate agent, which averages 6% of the selling price in California.
  • Expect that it will be difficult to attract traditional home buyers when selling a house in probate largely because closing the sale can take a long time—especially when an offer has to get the court’s approval after all.
  • Sometimes, the court will even set terms that most buyers can’t meet (like asking for all cash payments) since they’re working with loans. With so many people involved, probate sales are a hassle to deal with, too. And, the average buyer just wants a house that won’t cause them any stress.

Sell to a Cash Buyer to Reduce Some of Your Hassle

One way to reduce your stress is to sell the house to an all-cash buyer who is familiar with the process of buying a probate property. Having such a buyer already lined up can save you a lot of time since you won’t have to market the home.

Since many all-cash buyers are also reputable real estate investors, they may not even ask that you perform any repairs.

If you sell to them directly, you won’t have to use a real estate agent, either—and that can save you a lot of money. Since many all-cash buyers are also reputable real estate investors, they may not even ask that you perform any repairs.

In fact, when selling a house in probate in California, contacting the real estate investment team at Sell Your House Direct may be the easiest step you take.

We’ll buy the home as-is and pay you all cash, plus we’ll close whenever you or the court says that it is time. Or, we’ll help you find another buyer who can—without charging you any commission for the assistance. You’ve got enough on your mind and weighing down your heart. Let us remove some of the hassles by buying your probate home.

Get an offer today from a California-based home buying specialist who can buy your probate property quickly and easily—and pay you all cash.
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