Over my career in real estate, I have had multiple opportunities to represent siblings in the sale of their deceased parents’ home.  As you know, when family gets together around the death of a loved one tensions tend to rise, there can be power struggles and the whole process of handling an estate is often done while siblings are grieving.  If there is an irrefutable truth across all my experiences in this area, one stands above them all:

——  No good thing happens by waiting.  ——

A few real life examples:

  • A sibling runs up over $50,000 in credit card debt, more than his/her share of proceeds from the sale of the home, only for debtors to be satisfied at closing out of other siblings’ shares. Had the property been sold expediantly, the debtors would not have had time to file liens against the property.
  • My parents home sat empty for 6 years. All the seals on the plumbing fixtures dried out. We had to replace all faucets and plumbing fixtures to sell the home.
  • After ten years of setting empty, we discovered a massive termite infestation and eventually sold the home for far less than it would have been worth.
  • Squatters/vandals took up residence in my parents home causing thousands in damages and leaving drug periphinalia behind.
  • Racoons made a nest in the attic and a “racoon latrine” which became a health hazard for any buyer. The professional abatement was really expensive.

Below, I hope to let you in on some interesting implications which will help you with the process.

Grief intensifies old family dynamics
Sibling rivalries, old wounds, and dynamics surrounding birth order all become the fabric in which the siblings will make decisions on the sale of the home.  Who the parents chose as the executor of the estate, how the estate was willed to children, and how the children perceive their parents’ wishes all play into how the home will be transacted.  By moving fast and decisively, siblings will protect their relationships with one another.

Cleaning out the home is the toughest part.
We have attachments to memories, smells, old photos, etc.  Cleaning out the home is the toughest part.  Start here and get through it.  With the home swept clean, it will be more marketable and siblings are more likely sign appropriate sales contracts and title paperwork.

Choose an agent that has great mediation skills
Keeping the siblings on the same page, perceiving family dynamics and being sensitive to each siblings emotional needs as well as financial needs is key to making it to the otherside of closing.

Abandon the idea of getting every last penny from the home
This is a tough one.  From choosing a list price, deciding on repairs, understanding the appraisal amount, choosing title professionals, and contractors, there are a thousand different decisions in transacting a home.  When siblings are deciding together, many concessions will need to be made and the dynamics change based on how many siblings are involved.  There will even be differences on what a good deal looks like. Position everyone to get a good deal on the home but don’t hold out for a perfect deal.

For this season, siblings are financially joined
Successful business partners will tell you that in many ways, running a business with a partner is like a marriage.  Communication skills between partners are required.  A break down in relationship means a break down in the business.  The new found business dynamic of selling your parents’ property together is probably the most costly oversight siblings make.  Often spending years apart, even living in a different states, then being thrust together through this familial process can cause much conflict.  Being expedient in the sale of the estate allows the siblings to normalize thier relationships as soon as possible.

Grief can cause a sibling to subvert the sale of the home
Siblings react to grief differently.  One common fear among some siblings is loneliness.  For many years up until this point, mom and dad were the reason siblings met at Christmas and Thanksgiving.  With them gone, some siblings can have very real fears that they will not be seeing their brothers and sisters as often.  As a result, they may hold off, delay or even subvert the process of selling the home.  Recognizing that fear by meeting the needs of togetherness is much more effective than trying to control or force a sibling to sign sales documents.  Plan sibling get togethers during this time.  Plan a reunion after the closing on the home.  Make this another time to celebrate the life of mom and dad.  Make times for making key decisions fun and enjoyable so the process is not unneccesarily delayed.

Reinvest cash from the estate into the home
If the home needs updates and there are ample funds in the estate, treat the home like a real estate investment to grow the estate.  This should be only  pursued if the siblings have good working relationships. Sale ready homes with good fundamentals and new updates go for more money and sell much faster.

Selling mom and dad’s home can be really difficult.  The good thing is we have done this for multiple clients and can help mediate to keep the process moving smoothly and help siblings have a wonderful time celebrating their parents lives. Call us if this situation arises.  We work great along side your estate attorney, family accountant and executors.

Remember, no good thing happens by waiting.