How To Sell A Home After A Loved One Dies

Losing your last surviving parent is nothing short of heartbreaking. While dealing with the gut-wrenching pain of losing someone you love, you may also be tasked with selling their home.

If you are wondering what to do and how to approach selling your parents’ property, here are the seven steps of selling a home after a loved one passes away.


Determine the Estate’s Status

Many surviving children think they automatically inherit their parent’s house when they die. However, there are three ways that property must be left to the surviving child(ren).

  1. The probate process – With this “standard” process, the court oversees how to distribute the parent’s estate.
  2. The living trust – The parents, must establish this document naming their children as their beneficiaries before they die.
  3. The death deed – This option allows children to receive ownership immediately, so there is no need for a probate court. However, death deeds are only available in certain states.


Gather Necessary Documents

Nobody loves searching for, gathering, and sorting financial documents, but this step is necessary when preparing to sell a relative’s house. Things can become much more complicated and drawn out without the correct paperwork. Here are a few things to look for when collecting documents:

  1. Your relative’s will
  2. Current household bills and past receipts
  3. Financial documents (stocks, bonds, etc.)
  4. Bank account information
  5. Insurance policies

Once you have gathered everything you need, shred any remaining documents that contain personal information like social security numbers, which can help prevent future identity thefts.


Don’t Forget to Pay the Home’s Bills

Surviving children must ensure they pay all bills associated with their parent’s house. You need to stay current on the electric and maintenance bills and continue to pay the house payments (if the home still has a mortgage).

If your parents had a reverse mortgage, contact the financial institution and notify them of your parent’s passing. Additionally, you should check to see if they have any outstanding debt related to the home, such as unpaid landscaping or cleaning bills. Continue to pay all applicable fees until ownership of the property is transferred.


Ensure the Property is Secure

Unfortunately, criminals often target empty homes. So, you will need to keep the home as secure as possible. Change the house’s door locks if your parents loaned keys to friends or neighbors. You may also want to consider a home security system if you are not there to monitor the home.

Lastly, don’t forget to have your relative’s mail rerouted to an alternate address. Doing so will do two things: It will help you determine what accounts your parents may still have open and prevent anyone from rummaging through your parent’s mailbox.


Sort Through the House’s Contents

Now that you’ve sorted through documents and secured the home, it’s time to go through the household contents. Parents often accumulate many belongings over the years, so give yourself grace and patience through this process.

While preparing the home to sell, you’re also going to want to determine which items are sentimental or are family heirlooms. Your siblings or relatives may wish to help with this process so items can be distributed among family members. After these items are handed out, you can decide if you want to sell or throw away what’s left.


Prepare the Home for Market

You’ve made significant progress, and it is time to finish getting the home ready to sell. During this step, you will want to consider making minor updates and repairs to the house.

Here are a few renovations to consider when selling your parent’s home:

  • Remove old wallpaper
  • Repaint rooms, especially where the paint is chipping
  • Throw out damaged furniture
  • Replace stained carpet and other outdated floorings
  • Update fixtures
  • Install new lighting
  • Remove any other “dated” household items

If you enjoy DIY projects, consider doing some of the work yourself. You also have the option to hire someone to complete upgrades or to sell the home “as-is.”

Additionally, you will need to deep clean the home and stage it for showings and open house events. You can hire a professional for these jobs if you feel like you’re becoming overwhelmed with the process.


Hire a Realtor Who Has Experience in Estate Sales

While working with a realtor when selling a home is always important, choosing the right agent for an estate sale is essential. I pride myself on giving unparalleled advice, pricing the home appropriately, recommending top-notch renovation professionals, providing a unique marketing plan, and much more.

Be sure to snag a realtor that is on top of their game and who has experience with selling homes after a relative passes away. Because there are so many steps to completing estate sales, you don’t want to skimp when hiring your agent.



Do you need help selling a loved one’s home, or do you have more questions about estate sales? Feel free to contact us with any questions – our experienced real estate team is ready to help! Also, please take a moment to subscribe to our YouTube channel, which will help you stay on top of the latest real estate information and trends.