Before my grandma died, she began getting rid of things: the guns my grandpa made before he’d died—sold in a garage sale; the box of silverware he’d given her as a present—mine to take; the knick-knacks, the books, the furniture—all gone—sold, trashed or passed on to someone. Before she moved into my family’s house, where she’d live for a while, we had to sell hers, and that meant getting rid of things.
In a way, this was very hard, a beginning of the end, so to speak, when she said goodbye to the home she’d known for decades. But in another way, this was good, selling her house before she died and not after. We didn’t have to wonder how she’d want us to do things or sort through a lifetime of possessions.
This is a process familiar to many, whether selling a home for a loved one who is ill or for a loved one who’s passed away, and it’s never easy. The important thing to remember is to take things one step at a time and to have help whenever possible.
To help navigate you through the experience, here are a few tips from Buy Owner:
- Legalities: Is there a will involved? Will you need to transfer title before selling? Is there an outstanding mortgage? What taxes would be involved with the sale? If your loved one died in the home, are you required to disclose that to potential buyers? In cases where a home owner has deceased, some or all of these questions will be important. Seek legal counsel to know how to proceed. Whether you choose to keep or sell the home, you’ll need to have all the information in front of you.
- Logistics: You’ll probably want to have all mail forwarded, at least for a few years, in case anyone who doesn’t know about the situation tries to contact your loved one. Also, consider having the locks changed, and find out what bills (utilties, etc.) will be due.
- Possessions: If you’re responsible for going through a house full of things, the best method is to sort as you go. Decide what you want to keep (of anything not accounted for in the will) and put everything else into categories: donate, sell, trash.
- Preparation: As with any other home sale, you have to prepare the property before marketing it. This is the point where you need to depersonalize from the home as much as possible and think of it only as a business transaction. Prior to posting a description and photographs online with BuyOwner.com, for example, you should have decluttered, cleaned and reasonably staged your residence.