Q. My Mother just passed, 10 years after my father. My parents lived in our family home for more than 40 years. My siblings and I grew up in that home and have many wonderful memories from that time. My Mother was a
“saver,” not a “thrower” and did not like to throw out anything. Needless to say, the house is full of items and will take a lot of time to organize and empty. I am the nominated Executor of Mom’s estate under her Will and need to sell the house to pay estate debts and distribute the rest to my siblings and me equally, per Mom’s Will. The house is located in a desirable area but is not in good repair. The roof needs to be replaced and the kitchen and bathrooms are old-fashioned. I would prefer to sell the house “as is” rather than to renovate, but am not sure if this is the best decision. What do you think?
A. First, I am sorry for your loss. It is difficult to lose a beloved parent and administer the estate where so many emotions are involved. You are wise to act quickly and to resolve the status of the house. As Executor (a fiduciary position), you have the responsibility to prevent “waste” of estate resources and money. Every additional month you hold onto the house, the estate is responsible for payment of maintenance, mortgage payments (if applicable), real estate taxes, home owner’s insurance, and payment of utility bills (i.e. heat in the winter.) These payments reduce the bequests received by the beneficiaries under Mom’s Will.
You may certainly sell the house “as is” with no warranties (promises or guarantees) that the plumbing, heating, electricity, etc. will be in good working order as of the date of Closing. However, it may be very difficult for the Purchaser of the home to obtain a mortgage under these circumstances. I see long delays in obtaining lender clearance even for Purchasers who are qualified with more than enough money to forego the mortgage.
If you are offered an “all cash” deal (no mortgage contingency), this may be a better option for you than holding up the sale to see if a Purchaser qualifies for a mortgage. Another option you may wish to consider is a “land only” sale. One of my clients recently sold her home under these circumstances. Until the day of closing, the Purchaser could not enter the home and there were no warranties on the house. The Purchaser is planning to demolish the building and build a new home.
Does the estate have sufficient available funds to renovate? Are you available to supervise the renovation? Even if you do renovate, you may find that the Purchaser’s taste differs from yours and you may not be able to recover the amount you have invested on aesthetic or functional improvements. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Please consider these questions prior to deciding to renovate.
As for decluttering the house, I suggest that you start now. Invite your siblings to take what they want (unless there are specific bequests of items in Mom’s Will). Then, hire an organizing/decluttering company to sell what can be sold and dispose of the rest. There are a number of qualified companies in our area which do this work. Please do not wait until you are in contract – or worse, days before closing – to start the disposal process. The house needs to be empty and broom clean (no debris) at closing. Do it now so you will not be faced with this pressure right before closing.
Good luck to you!
W. Zehava Schechter, Esq. specializes in real estate law, estate planning and administration, and business law. Her law practice is located on Long Island. Please send your comments to SchechterLaw@gmail.com.
No column is a substitute for competent legal advice. Please consult with the attorney of your choice concerning specific legal questions you may have.