Steps to Follow When Selling a House After Someone Dies

When a family member—or even a close friend or colleague—passes, it can be devastating.

Even when death is expected due to a protracted illness, debilitating injury, or incurable disease, it’s no less easy to process and heal from.

And, though the experience of loss presents itself differently to different people, at some point it usually has to be faced head-on. If you’re lucky, you’re given the opportunity to grieve in your own way and in your own time.

If, however, you’re tasked with selling a house after someone dies, you may have to work through your grief quickly (or delay it) to deal with the property and any problems connected to it. It can feel unfair. It can also feel overwhelming when you don’t know where you should begin.

The only way to usher in some relief is to take selling the house one step at a time. This blog will help you get started.

It’s critical to exercise a great deal of compassion—especially toward yourself.

Selling a House After Someone Dies

To begin, keep in mind that selling any house at any time can be complicated, difficult, and even frustrating. When trying to sell a house after the death of a parent, sibling, spouse, or other loved one who has bequeathed you their home, however, emotions tend to run exceptionally high. That makes it critical to exercise a great deal of compassion—especially toward yourself.

Fortunately, that may be the hardest step you have to take. Though, truth be told, the others aren’t necessarily easy. For example, you will need to:

1. Organize all documents

Whether a house was passed on to you through someone’s will or because the state has designated you as the lawful heir, your first order of business will be to gather all of the appropriate documents.

Organizing documents may or may not be difficult to do, depending on how careful the former owner was at keeping records and organizing paperwork. Hopefully, the executor of the will (if there is one) already has everything in order for you. Either way, be sure to get:

  • Mortgage information
  • Sale agreement from the original purchase
  • Property deed
  • Title report
  • Most recent property tax assessment and bills
  • Proof of homeowners insurance
  • Proof of a home warranty

It’s important to keep in mind that you may not need all of these documents to have official ownership of the property transferred to you, but you will need them to sell the home to someone else. And, the only way you can obtain them is if the house has legally been passed to you.

Laws can vary between states and the court system, when there isn’t a clear heir, can tie things up in probate. So, if rights to the property are muddy, to begin with, your first step may actually be to hire a real estate attorney to help sort it out.

2. Pay debt obligations

All debt obligations will need to get paid and, as the new homeowner, that responsibility will fall to you—whether or not you were also left enough money to do so.

Gather all relevant information before you make any debt repayment decisions.

Existing debts may include the mortgage payment, utilities, HOA fees, and any unpaid home repair and maintenance costs. It may also include liens levied against the home for unpaid taxes or medical bills which, if left unresolved, can make the house near impossible to sell.

Take note, however, that even this step gets tricky if the debts are substantial. If what is owed on the home loan outweighs what the property is worth, for example, you’ll suddenly find yourself trying to sell a house with an upside-down mortgage—a situation in which you have few options.

Depending on the full extent of the debts, what you pay (and when) may even be dictated by the state or the estate’s executor. So, again, gather all relevant information before you make any debt repayment decisions.

3. Prep the house

Your next step is preparing the house to sell. Unfortunately, this step is one that can really take a lot out of you—especially if you’re emotionally attached to the property.

Whether you are or aren’t, it’s still a great deal of work. Depending on what needs to be done, it can cost a significant amount of money and be very stressful to accomplish, too. It can also help you sell the house more quickly than if you didn’t prep the home at all, which is why it’s important to do.

Here’s what a typical to-do list looks like:

  • Pack up items of personal value that you intend to keep
  • Give away or sell old furniture, appliances, clothing, toys, etc.
  • Clean the interior and exterior of the house and haul away all trash
  • Get a home inspection to determine what work needs to be done, if any
  • Perform minor repairs, like adding a fresh coat of neutral-colored paint
  • Perform major repairs, like replacing insulation damaged by rodents
  • Add to or keep up the home’s curb appeal by tending to the lawn
  • Stage the house so that it appeals to the average home buyer

4. Hire a REALTOR®

Under most circumstances, a licensed real estate agent can help you sell the home more easily—and sometimes—faster than if you tried to sell the house on your own.

A REALTOR can help you decide on an appropriate selling price, market the house online as well as put signs in the yard, hold showings for potential buyers, negotiate the contract on your behalf when someone makes an offer, and file all the paperwork with escrow.

Even if the home doesn’t sell as easily or as quickly as you’d like, having a helping hand can help to reduce your stress.

You will pay for the help of a professional REALTOR®, however, and it could be as much as six percent of the selling price. When there are other debts to pay, any added fees are likely going to hurt—especially if you’re already paying some costs out of pocket.

It certainly won’t help if it takes the home a long time to sell, whether it’s the fault of the market or your real estate agent. Without a buyer you can trust to sell direct to, however, selling a home without a REALTOR® can be difficult. And, what you need right now is for things to be easy.

Even if the home doesn’t sell as easily or as quickly as you’d like, having a helping hand can help to reduce your stress.

5. Pay taxes

Aside from any back property taxes that may come with the inheritance of the house, you may be liable for paying other taxes—particularly after the home sells. Estate taxes, inheritance taxes, and capital gains taxes are the burdens most heirs face.

The extent of these liabilities, however, will depend on state law among other things. If you did not receive adequate funding as a part of the inheritance to cover these obligations, that can—and, maybe, should—impact how much you sell the home for.

Working with a trusted real estate advisor who is also an experienced home buyer may help you get a grasp on all the numbers in addition to helping you understand all of your selling options.

Find the right buyer who is ready, willing, and able to take some of the burden of selling your loved one’s house off of your plate—a buyer who cares.

If all of this sounds to you like a lot to do, you are not alone. Selling a house after someone dies takes some work and, as you can see, it can even take quite a bit of money. It may take more time than you have to spare as well. So, if you were hoping to sell the house fast because you’ve got your own life to get back to, you may just be out of luck.

Then again, you may not. There is a simple way to make this process go a little smoother. It involves finding the right buyer who is ready, willing, and able to take some of the burden of selling your loved one’s house off of your plate—a buyer who cares about your situation as they are passionate about helping you do something about it.

A First Step Towards Compassionately Selling a House

Here at Sell Your House Direct, we place as much importance on exercising compassion toward our clients’ situations as we do on offering a fair all-cash price for the sale of their homes. So, when we take a property off of a client’s hands—especially those who are selling a house after someone dies—we strive to make the process as simple and as easy as possible.

For example, the house doesn’t have to be prepped to sell. We’ll take it as-is, whether it’s full of furniture or infested with rodents. If there are back taxes and liens, or a growing pile of unpaid bills, we’ll help you sort through that mess as well. As a family-owned and operated business, we’ll treat you and yours with patience and respect every step of the way, too.

What we won’t do is charge you fees and commissions to sell your house. We don’t think that’s the right thing to do to people who may be in a lot of pain. We’ll just give you all cash for the house as it is, working with you side-by-side until at least this burden is put behind you.

Take your first, and possibly easiest, step toward relieving the pain connected with your loss. Contact us to start a compassionate conversation about how to sell the home of someone you love.