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Tips on Selling Your Parents' House

Feb 21, 2018 4 min read Pam Holland-Moritz

Key Takeaways

  • Design a plan for sale of the house while your parent is well and aware of your intentions.
  • Seek professional help for sale of the house.
  • Plan for timely removal of personal belongings prior to closing.


Circumstances sometimes push you into shouldering responsibilities you weren't quite ready to assume. Perhaps one of the biggest is when an elder parent passes away or becomes incapable of living in their own home: The children are often forced to make decisions regarding their parents' house. Here are a few tips on how to make the process a bit easier.

Maintain the property

Should you be undecided about the future of its ownership, it's still important to make sure the mechanics within the house are in good working order and the surrounding grounds are kept neat and safe to navigate. Not only does it help preserve the home's “curb appeal" should you decide to put it on the market, but also it conveys a strong sense of ownership vs. a neglected or abandoned property.


Seek professional help

You probably could muddle through the listing, negotiation and final closing of the property yourself. But a licensed realtor can often make the entire process less daunting, offering advice based on professional experience and a clear understanding of the current market for comparable homes in that geographic location. It's a good idea to meet with one or two agents and then decide which one can best address your priorities when selling the house.



Keep an open mind about suggested marketing tactics. Open house events usually generate the most foot traffic and opportunity for offers on the property. Limiting potential buyers to one-on-one visitations affords you fewer chances to sell the house.

You may also want to extend a courtesy to neighbors and your parents' friends by letting them know you are planning to market the house. They might appreciate knowing there could be unfamiliar people and increased activity in the area. (Or you could identify a potential buyer.)

If applicable, it's a good idea to streamline the contents of the house, removing any appearance of clutter. And be sure to remove all valuables from the home prior to opening it up to potential buyers.

Your realtor can help you handle multiple offers, price negotiation and communication between you, the buyer and/or their broker. While ultimately it's up to you to decide which offer to accept, past experience can help your realtor advise you as to which offer is most viable.

You would be wise to enlist the services of a real estate attorney. He or she can navigate you through the contract review, advise you on how to handle any outstanding considerations and assist in finalizing the sale and closing. Maybe you can do it yourself, but a good real estate lawyer can expedite the process and ensure that all terms of the sale are legal and binding.



Once you have a contract that has passed through attorney review, it's time for the buyer to schedule various inspections to make sure the plumbing, heating, air conditioning and other systems are in sound working order. Be prepared to address any concerns and arrange to have all repairs attended to promptly. Outstanding issues like a crack in the sidewalk or an unresolved work permit can delay your closing.

What about mom's stuff?

You might offer your buyer the option to purchase any of the items in the home. Everyone benefits from this practice: The buyer can purchase needed furniture or other household items at a reduced price, while the seller has fewer items to clear out of the house prior to the closing.
Consider selecting a day to have family members come and take items from the home that have sentimental value. Use this opportunity to share some stories about your loved one and strive to make it a positive experience for all concerned.

If you find yourself in a time crunch, you might consider hiring the services of an online auction house to sell off unwanted items.

You've made progress, but there's still clothing, dishes, artwork, furniture and tools to be disposed of. You can make donations to local charities. I know we made a rather large donation to a local food bank, as my mother-in-law had a huge assortment of canned soups in her basement.

Different charities will pick up donations at your home – they will accept clothing, many household items and small appliances, and may provide you with a receipt for tax purposes.

If you find yourself in a time crunch, you might consider hiring the services of an online auction house to sell off unwanted items. For a fee, an auction house will catalog and group all items in the house, host an online auction and supervise the pickup of all items. The entire process usually takes about two weeks.

Think about hiring a company to haul away the last remaining items. It may bother you to pay someone to dispose of this stuff, but you may not have the time or available muscle to haul that sleeper sofa out of the attic and to the recycling center.

Final phase

Finally, your closing day arrives. You may attend, but sometimes it is possible to sign all the necessary documentation prior to the closing date and allow your attorney to represent you. Once all the paperwork has been signed by both parties and there's been the appropriate exchange of monies, your responsibility for that property is over.


What you can do next

Just as important as having the right protection to manage unexpected risks and enough savings to maintain your lifestyle in retirement, formulating a plan of action and identifying the available resources to sell your parent's house can help you expedite the process.


Pam Holland-Moritz is married with two sons, and parent to two fur babies. Also an avid collector of useless movie and television trivia.


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