Real Estate Terms: Estate Sale
There are many reasons why someone may want or need to sell a home and not all of them are happy reasons. When a homeowner passes away, something must be done with their home and often their heirs decide to sell it.
There is a process of transferring title (ownership rights) of a property that is part of a broader legal process known as “probate”. Probate, being the process of transferring the various kinds of the deceased’s property to their heirs. The part of probate that concerns us in real estate is that the person who is trying to sell it has the right to do so and is therefore on the title search. (See the link above.)
The thing about probate is that it can be a real curveball. I have seen it take two months to complete and I have also seen it take two years. It can sometime get very convoluted if the heirs start to dispute the validity of the will. As the subject property is just one part of what is potentially a large and complicated estate there is simply no way to know for sure how long things will take. Sometimes the Lawyers will tell us a general idea but more often than not, even they don’t really know how long it will take.
So, when Buying an estate sale it is important to know if the probate process is finished. Most people are planning on moving fairly soon by the time they start house hunting so this is important to know. If it’s not done, this may or may not be a bad thing for you. You see, for most people, not having a definite timeline for taking ownership of a property is unnerving at the very least or not possible in most cases. This means that it is likely that there aren’t as many other Buyers considering the property which means less demand and will hopefully, for the Buyer, translate into a lower price. This may be coupled with a grieving family that is more interested in letting go and moving on than they are in getting every last penny out of it. So you may be able to find a good deal as a Buyer if you can arrange your life accordingly and are willing and able to wait more than other Buyers are. That said, not all estate sales are good deals, sometimes the heirs cling to high hopes of cashing in for a very long time before accepting market reality.
As always, having looked around with the guidance of your Realtor is the best way to find the best deal that suits your personal situation in whatever kind of market we are in.