Selling an inherited home without agent?

nancitaNovember 19, 2012

Hi all,

Well, this is complicated. My beautiful Mother passed away last December, leaving my sister and I both exerutrix 50/50. I live 100 miles away. The house needs updating and I suggested we do the minimal to put it on the market. She spent $9000 painting and doing some odd improvements.

When my Mother was alive, here finances were low. My sister kicked in a bit of money to help her with upkeep of the house. I have a feeling she will want to include that when the house sells.

Also, her husband has his realtor's license but has no clue about FSBO or even how to put the house into MLS. They have a huge HOUSE FOR SALE sign on the front lawn with my brother-in-laws phone number. He has received many calls but it's probably a combination of the price and the fact the house looks a lot smaller than it is.

In any case, I feel I have to go along with the very casual way they have gone about "trying" to sell the house. I forgot to mention my sister was fixing the house up originally to rent it! She casually mentioned it and I told her I never had any intention of going down that road.

So, does anyone have any words of wisdom I might share with my sister regarding how to proceed with selling the house? I would appreciate any thoughts.

Thank you.

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I'd have a talk with your sister, where you make it crystal clear how much the house is costing both of you every month it sits empty--you are paying taxes, there are still utilities (if you live in a colder area, you have to keep the heat on so pipes don't freeze), keeping the grounds looking nice, etc.

Tell her that things have to change. Flyers need to be made and put out by the sign.

You can set deadlines--no serious lookers in 3 months, the house must go on MLS--even if that means finding an agent who knows how to do that. (In three months, your BIL should be able to figure out if it is possible for him to do this or not, and do it if he can.)

No serious buyers in 6 months--together you chose an established real estate agent to sell the house.

Looks as if Sis wants the money from the house and the money from the commission. But letting the house sit for months and months and months isn't going to help get it sold, nor will it increase the price you get when it sells. And you will be spending money to keep it looking nice and functioning.

Or there's the possibility that your sister really doesn't want to sell the house for sentimental reasons. In that case, she can buy out your half and then rent it or live in it or do what she pleases.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2012 at 6:32AM
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That is great advice. At this time, she's covering all the bills and hopefully she is keeping the books in order.
She initially wanted to buy out my half at a substantial discount. I thought it would be a good thing to keep it in the family. The thing is she has no money. She is living from mortgage to mortgage. She had her mother-in-laws triple decker on the market for almost two years with NO offers. It is now off the market until spring. I have a feeling she's goingto hit me up with the rental thing if this house doesn't sell.
Thank you.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2012 at 9:44AM
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I have to pitch in here that just because your BIL has a state real estate license, that does not mean he is a Realtor. You might want to know if he is even current (completed mandatory continuing education) and his license active.

A Realtor generally works for a licensed broker and is a dues-paying member of his local board and therefore has access to classes that will teach him what he needs to know including MLS, marketing and advertising.

After a year of monkeying around, I would give your BIL exactly one month to get up to speed (assuming his license is current and active, this is not unreasonable). If he can't get on MLS with a marketing plan in one month, make appointments with three Realtors who succesfully list and sell homes in that neighborhood and go with one of them.

If your sister balks at this idea, I think you'll need to throw back at her that you can't afford the upkeep on the house. You should be paying your 1/2 of maintenance expenses or else she'll keep milking them out of your inheritance if there's any left at the end of this. Upkeep on a rental will likely be even higher than an empty house.

If the market is so bad that you can't even give the house away, you might need to consider renting, but from the information you've provided, I would not allow your Sister to run it until you've seen all the books and feel that she is handling your property/money adequately. I'd suggest having your real Realtor list it for rent on MLS and get a property manager to ensure you've gotten a background and credit check on potential long-term renters and handle the money.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2012 at 10:53AM
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Carying costs are not zero.

Get an actual RE pro to sell the place.

If maintenance has been deferred, 'cleaning with paint' is not going to be worth all that much.

How does the house compare with other ones in the same market and price point?

I have spent many years purchasing, renovating, and then selling estate houses.

The heirs rarely have any real idea of valuation.

A few look at recent neighborhood sales and think the house that has been maintained an updated ad sold for a high price is a comp to their beat up, worn out house that needs thousands of dollars worth of work.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2012 at 11:18AM
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There are too many questions here for this to be accidental or, in my suspicions, in good faith;
your sister has spent a huge amount of money without accounting for it, she's made a decision to rent the house without your input/permission/knowledge (how are the proceeds to be divided?, how much does she get paid for managing the property?, what happens if tenants tear up the house or stop paying rent? if the house is vacant for a while?), what commission does her husband get for selling the house, how much money has she "kicked in", & what are the terms for reimbursement, etc.

Without anything in writing, signed by both of you, she may be able to charge the estate whatever she wants for her time, expertise, & the use of her money.

I know of a family where something very similar is going on, & my prediction is that the sister who spent her money, who decided what was to be done, picked the contractor to do it, found tenants, etc...will literally end up owning the farm, & her sister will be holding an empty bag.

& she'll be hurt that her sister doesn't appreciate what she's done, she was just trying to do the best thing, after all she took money out of her own bank account, while sister sat at home without a worry in her head, etc.

A hundred miles is a 2 hour drive;
you need to set up a date & time to meet your sister at the house to look at it & have her bring the books or records, & get this thing on a more, not "businesslike", but at least practical, pragmatic basis.

If I were in your boots, I think I'd put a stop to her spending any more money or doing any more services;
I'd insist that the house be sold as-is as soon as possible, using the most productive Realtor in the neighborhood, & get this thing ended before my relationship with my sister deteriorated or was destroyed.

I wish you the best.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2012 at 12:49PM
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Thank you everyone for the wonderful advice. I first have to say my sister, my BIL, their three adult daughters and hubbies outnumber DH and me. This is nothing new. I do think sitting down with her asking for records of what she's paid etc. is a fabulous idea. She is not exactly truthful so I was hoping not to have to do this. What recourse do I have?
DH thinks we should have had something in writing even before we sold the house, but water under the bridge. I do not my BIL has a clue about anything real estate. He only sees dollar signs. He is quick-tempered so there's another potential problem.
We're invited to Thanksgiving and althought I'm not thrilled about going, I wonder if it's an opportunity to work this out.
DH and I are visually impaired and do not drive. One hundred miles is not far but for us it's a stretch.
I wish it was all over. I think the time limit is the best solution. Just to figure out how and what. Now the holidays are coming and we're in New England.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2012 at 6:19PM
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You know she's not honest,
"outnumbered" sounds like bullying,
& your BIL is "quick-tempered".

and I'm cnfused;
has the house been sold already?

You need to talk to an attorney & maybe send certified/return receipt requested mail to your *sister* (brother-in-law & nieces/nephews have no standing in this), telling sister to stop doing anything to or about the house until...whatever.

Here in the Dallas area, the Bar Association has a Lawyer Referral Service, where you can pay $20 (which the lawyer sends back to the Bar Association for their expenses) & consult for 30 minutes.

I can just about guarantee that the Thanksgiving invitation is not about warm fuzzies.

Please protect your own interests;
nobody else is doing it.

(& you can consult a Realtor for free; someone who can give you marketing info)'

I wish you the best.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2012 at 7:42PM
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About how much are you talking about? Would it be worth it just to have her buy you out and go from there? What ever you do, I would suggest legal help to protect her from charging you for either fixing it up, rental expenses and by the way, who is/has filed tax papers on it. When my parents passed away, the house automatically came to me, because that is the way the deed was written. When the will went thru probate who paid inherance taxes etc and how was the house recorded etc. Were the legal issues clarified?

    Bookmark   November 19, 2012 at 8:41PM
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Great advice everyone. Without boring all to tears, I need to clarify a few things.
There was no probate. My Mother had a trust and my sister and I are executrix 50/50. There's a lawyer on her side so the lawyer card would not sit well. She scammed her sister-in-law and they are not speaking. BIL doesn't want anyone to get commission yet he or anyone in the family knows how to market. She may be dragging it out and have the renting prospect as a backup for her.
I was willing to have her buy me out for one-third of the house's current asking price. I would be glad to turn it over to a realtor because at this rate, the utilities, taxes etc. are going to keep piling up.
She hasn't asked me for ANY money since before she thought was going to buy me out and spent $9,000 painting and cosmetic fixes.
Her son-in-law has been doing work on my house since March and almost done. That's another story but if I stir things up now...understand? That's my tale of woe and I have got to get a couse of action. I do think the time frame is the best place to start.
Please excuse the numerous typos.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2012 at 12:46AM
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She may not have yet asked for money, but she will charge the estate.

Despite the bullying, there are only two decision makers: you and your sister. She cannot sell the house without you, and she cannot negotiate any rental contract without you. She does not seem to understand that. You need to make this clear to her and to her family. You may end up being the bad guy in this all.

You need to stand your ground here or be willing to just walk away from any money without worry to protect the relationship.

This kind of thing is one reason I hope my parents have nothing left when they pass. Five siblings, five spouses, a dozen grandkids.....

    Bookmark   November 20, 2012 at 7:25AM
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If she has a lawyer on "her side" that is more reason for you to get your own lawyer. You should have a lawyer representing both of you in the estate, but it sounds like you're already past that. She should have no problem with you getting a lawyer if she already has one.

If she says the lawyer represents both of you, then you need to make an appointment together and air all of these grievances, such as how the house is basically NOT on the market (no Realtor, not on MLS, no advertising, no CMA to set the price, etc) and you NEED to sell it, so the only option you see is to get a Realtor or sister buy you out. She has one month to decide - and no more improvements on the house unless the Realtor says you absolutely need to in order to sell the house. Your current unqualified "agent" is in no position to make an unbiased opinion here.

What we don't know is how much money we're talking about here and whether or not you need the money. If your sister put $9K into the house, I hope it's worth at least $100K. What are the homes selling for in the neighborhood? We're all assuming that your incompetent so-called "realtor" BIL has no idea how to price the home in the first place (by using a CMA or any other method).

Toss in the family factor - if this is a relationship that
you want to protect or willing to give up. Unfortunately, inheritance is all too often the final straw that breaks up siblings as a few people have already mentioned.

Since yet another family member is doing what sounds like extensive work on the house ($9000 for 9 months of work?), you may already be past the point where you can save the family. I have a vision of dragging feet, un-permitted work, incomplete or shoddy work, outrageous charges and fees, no receipts or record of hours worked to justify, etc.

As rrah says, if you want to protect the family relationships, you may just have to quit claim your share now and hand it over before you start owing money to this estate which is where you are headed if you don't start taking a firm stance. If you can figure out the fair market value (NOT the asking price) and then take your 1/3 share you might have gotten, and start whittling away at it worth it? Only you can decide.

It can get worse. I've seen restraining orders on a brother to stay away from a friend's house, property, and horses (that were boarded). I still see a brother-sister (both with big families, cousins) living next door to each other (on 10+ acre properties) who haven't spoken since they buried their mother 8 years ago, mostly because of a ring. Just some things to think about.

Good luck.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2012 at 9:04AM
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I'm curious as to why the sister is automatically considered to be the wicked witch of the west. I know there are lots of families out there who don't get along, and when an heir dies and leaves a pile of money for them, things can get nasty.

Nancita, you said your sister has already spent $9k on home improvements. Was this estate money or her own money? You also said while your mother was alive, your sister also helped her financially. So I am wondering why wouldn't she expect to get some of that money back? I don't know what is really going on, but it seems like your sister may have been there for your mother, while you were 100 miles away, and you never really stepped in to help very much. And now that she is gone, you are still 100 miles away and not really doing much, while she is doing all the work to get this house ready for the market. You are looking at her like she is trying to rip you off. Well maybe she is thinking you have nothing invested in this, and here you are, wanting a piece of the pie. You say her and her whole family gang up on you. Is this because they are ALL evil, manipulative people, looking to scam you? Or is this because they are actually right, and maybe they think you're trying to scam them?

I do not mean to be insulting to you. I know you do not appreciate me pointing a finger at you. All I am saying is there are 2 sides to every story. She is not here to defend herself - all we're getting is your side. You guys need to find a way to work together and put this behind you. Money is actually a meaningless, temporary thing - it should never destroy a family. And I am sorry to hear about the loss of your mother and all the additional stress it has brought. Good luck, I hope you can fix things.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2012 at 9:21AM
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I purchased a house from an estate f few years ago.

the father left the house to his daughters to be divided.
One daughter had lived i the house for 15 years, but still could not buy out her sisters share (or even pay half the market rent).

It finally went to civil court under a 'partition' lawsuit.

The non-resident sister won, and the resident sister was evicted.

She still waked away with enough money to purchase a town house a few miles away without a mortgage.

We stayed their until my wife became dissatisfied with the public school system.
In the meantime I installed central air, rebuilt a flat roof area between the house and three car garage (it was ready to collapse), updated a mid 1950s kitchen (two bowl enameled cast iron sink with dual drip trays over 8 feet long), and did a lot of back maintenance.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2012 at 9:38AM
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You are absolutely right about two sides to this story. As I started this post by saying it's complicated. My Mother and I were soulmates. My Mother and siter had a different relationship. My Mother never approved of her disregard for money or her lifestyle. My sister is deep in debt with absolutely no reason except that is her personality. She is hoarder buying multiple items for the gratification.
But I digress. Yes, I am only 100 miles away. DH and I both have medical issues that keep us from going there. When I inquired about staying at my Mother's house over Easter, the reply was there was nothing in it. There was no offer to have us stay elsewhere.
This is getting way off topic and I apologize. I am simply trying to point out my sister is living in a Disney world. My Mother always said while she alive that she had no money problems. Evidentally, my sister nosied around and accessed her bank account.
My sister and amily are very gracious and hospitible and generous with their time if needed. There is something she had always had a problem with and that i money. She always lived in the nicest houses etc. and I ondered how she did it all these years. I know what she told me briefly after my Mother passed away they have three separate mortgages, have no credit and are on the border of losing it all. She is the type of person that appears happy and jovial but she is ealous of everyoe that more than she does.
Well, that's exhausting! Sorry.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2012 at 9:52AM
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Not sure if you have made any progress as far as the home, but I wanted to offer my services. I am a licensed Realtor, and I also buy and sell houses. At the very least, I can give you an evaluation of the homes value, that your BIL will not be able to argue with, as it will be supported by comparable sales within the last 6 months. Feel free to visit my website or just call me 972.379.8931
Im not a salesman, I'm not trying to list the property,and I dont mean to waste anyone's time. Just saw your post, and thought I could help.


    Bookmark   January 28, 2013 at 7:16AM
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Obviously, if she's paid money to upkeep the house and do repairs it is only fair you pay her for those expenses, and I gather that is your intention. I would ask for an accounting of all expenses to date by February 28th. Tax time is coming up, and many people try to get all financial matters for the year squared away at this time, so you can always let her know you want to know what you owe her to this point so you can pay her in a timely manner. It isn't fair to her to have all these out of pocket expenses, and she may feel entitled to more of a say in what happens if she does have these expenses, and because she has been helping your mother for years. I think if BIL gets a realtor to put it on the market he will get some time of a percentage of the commission, which is fair as they have some some work so far.

However, let your sister know she needs to get a fair market value established by a real estate agent, and get it on the MLS as soon as possible. A house that sits empty isn't good, and will sell for a lower price. Additionally it sounds as if she is in no financial condition to have a rental, rental properties need repairs, maintence, etc.

If there is any way you can travel there and meet with some realtors with your sister, I suggest you do it as soon as possible. You need to make a trip there and stay in a motel or hotel if necessary.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2013 at 9:41AM
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This is so old I would hope it has been settled i some fashion.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2013 at 9:43AM
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Have a deal with Cash buyers so that fast selling of your property will be carried out without much hassle.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2013 at 7:04AM
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Hi all,
Well, here's the update as best I know. House on MLS, etc. a week ago. Price dropped to a comp, not pie in the sky wishful thinking. People are coming to view. Complaining about outdated kitch and bath. Location is the absolute in the city. So, you can change anything except the location. Do buyers expect a lower price when it's a fsbo?
Thanks for your offer, Kevin. Think we're on the right track now.
I have asked many, MANY about expenses and offered to pay my half now. I get a vague 'I don't really know" and blown off again. I fully intend to pay my share of expenses. I do remember before the house had the home made FOR SALE sign, we differed greatly in what to do and how much to put into the house. I gave in and they supposedley painted and replaced some kitch appliances and a few cosmetics. Lipstick on a pig. Kitch is tiny and the rest of the house is pretty spacious. Can't believe the buyer wouldn't want to redo the entire thing.
So, this old chestnut is still kicking around. Hopefully there will be more action. The oil bills are high. Wish things were different and the house went on the market months ago but there you have it.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2013 at 9:43AM
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It's an old thread, but inquiring minds want to know what Brickeye did with the 8 foot long double bowl cast iron porcelain kitchen sink. Some of us on the Old House forum would die for such a thing. (well maybe not literally...)

    Bookmark   February 7, 2013 at 12:22PM
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" inquiring minds want to know what Brickeye did with the 8 foot long double bowl cast iron porcelain kitchen sink"

Sold it for scrap iron.

The porcelain surface was worn to an overall matte in both bowls and stained.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2013 at 4:12PM
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Glad to read that things are tracking along for you.
Yes, buyers expect to pay less for a FSBO. They reason that you are not paying the commission so they shouldn't have to pay for it either.
It does seem like buyers want updated kitchens and baths to move in rather than take it on themselves. Piecemeal replacing shiny new appliances with worn-out, stained formica countertops won't cut it. You've got to be priced below similar updated homes or nobody will bite.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2013 at 10:07AM
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