Selling a parent’s house is stressful. Here’s how to make the job easier.

If you’re tasked with selling a deceased parent’s house, you’re facing an emotion-charged, monumental task. For one thing, your emotions are probably raw and your thinking may not be as focused, due to grief. At the same time, most people want to settle the estate as quickly as possible so they can mourn without administrative distractions and move on with their lives.

The last thing you need when a parent dies is a long, drawn-out process for selling their house. Fortunately, you can take steps to expedite the sale.

1. Keep emotions at bay

It may seem nearly impossible, but when selling your parent’s house, try not to let emotions stall your progress. For example, you could subconsciously sabotage finding the right real estate agent or fixing the home up because the house sale will cement the reality of your parent’s death and the fact that you must let go of yet one more thing.

If you worry your emotions will affect your judgment, consider putting someone you trust in charge of finding a real estate agent, getting estimates for repairs and cleaning clutter from the home.

Find out: Who’s Responsible for a Deceased Parent’s Debt

2. Avoid “for sale by owner”

Many people have sold their homes without the aid of a real estate agent. By going the for sale by owner (FSBO) route, you won’t have to pay the 6% agent commission. However, you may not sell the home for as much as you could if you list with a real estate agent. How much of a difference can there be?

In 2018, the typical FSBO home sold for $217,900 compared to $295,00 for agent-assisted home sales, according to the 2020 National Association of Realtors Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers. Another drawback is the length of time it may take to sell the home without an agent. An experienced agent or realtor can help you price competitively and market the home on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) and other websites to market the home so you can sell it faster.

Find out: 7 Ways You Could be at Risk of Losing Your Inheritance

3. Hire professional declutterers

Do you dread sorting through decades of possessions your parents accumulated over several decades? Decluttering your parent’s home could take months on your own or with the help of siblings. Meanwhile, your grief – and possibly even resentment that your parents never downsized – will be continually triggered.

That’s where hiring a professional organizer who can help you declutter can speed the process. Depending on the scope of the project, you may pay several hundred dollars — or even a couple of thousand — but that’s better than spending months going through everything in your parent’s basement, attic, drawers, closets and spare rooms.

Make sure you hire an organizer with solid experience helping adult children declutter their parents’ homes. With assistance from a professional who knows how to make tough decisions,  where to donate or recycle or which junk haul-off companies to call, you may be able to declutter enough in just a week or two to ready the house for sale.

Find out: 6 Things You Can Do to Protect Aging Parents From Financial Exploitation

4. Research which updates are worth the expense

You may be tempted to go in and completely renovate your parent’s house so you can sell it for a higher price. Beyond cosmetic repairs such as painting and landscaping, not all updates will bring a desirable return on investment.

Consult your real estate agent for suggested renovations based on sales for comparable homes in the neighborhood before spending money on updates that won’t raise the value of the house enough to make the renovation pay off.

Find out: Caring for an Aging Parent? Know These 8 Family and Medical Leave Act Facts

5. Get estimates for large repairs

Many older homes need major repairs before they’re desirable to buyers. For example, a foundation or plumbing repair could cost thousands of dollars, or the house could need a complete electrical rewiring to be up to code.

If you know about necessary repairs but don’t want to pay to have them completed, get some estimates from companies or providers and deduct those costs from the price of the home to make it more attractive to buyers.

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About the Author

Deb Hipp

Deb Hipp

Deb Hipp is a full-time freelance writer based in Kansas City, Mo. Deb went from being unable to get approved for a credit card or loan 20 years ago to having excellent credit today and becoming a homeowner. Deb learned her lessons about money the hard way. Now she wants to share them to help you pay down debt, fix your credit and quit being broke all the time. Deb's personal finance and credit articles have been published at Credit Karma and The Huffington Post.

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