How to Buy & Sell Real Estate From a Widow
One of the most challenging things anyone in real estate deals with is buying and selling the property of a loved one who has died. You have to keep the priorities of the business upfront in your price negotiations, but under no circumstance can you forget that your dealing with someone who might have lost their own mother. Navigating through these challenging situations is something real estate agents deal with frequently when working with investors, and their perspective is very beneficial to getting our deals done.
It all depends on how the home was deeded. Not in all cases does the surviving partner get the home. The dying spouse might of owed the home before they were married to this person, so it may be set up that his children from his first marriage gets it. His first wife might even have claim to the property. The best thing to do is contact a probate attorney and have him do a title search.
Once it is determined who has the rights to the property, contact a Real Estate Agent and get a home evaluation to see what the value of the property is and whether it has any equity in it. It maybe that you owe more then its worth and you just let it go back to the bank versus taking on the debt yourself. If there are several people that have rights to the house they may want to sell it and split the profits.
If a surviving spouse is not on the loan and is going to lose home she should contact a lender and see if she qualifies for a mortgage. If so she may want to buy the home and stay in it. If not she will want to contact a
Realtor and have him help her find a home. If the home was just in the dying spouses name and they had not owned a home in the last 3 years themselves they are considered a first time buyer by Fannie Mae and Freddie
Mac guidelines and there are many programs to assist you to get into a home with little or no money down.
As a Real Estate Agent in South Florida I’ve been involved in several transactions involving people who had just lost a spouse. I always try to act particularly considerate in these cases, however, that has not always been the case with my clients. One deal I remember especially involved a woman who had just lost her husband of many years, was now selling their house to downsize, move into a one bedroom condo.
I was representing two brothers, thought they were big time investors, looking to purchase rental properties. We looked at the home, and talking outside afterwards one brother told the other the woman was fragile. We made a reasonable offer, which was accepted. Then the two brothers insisted the widow also pay for their Title Insurance. The contract was already signed, however, my Buyers refused to fulfill the terms of their signed agreement unless the woman conceded. It was around $1,900. I felt terrible explaining this to the Listing Agent. Ultimately the woman acquiesced. After that I refused to have anything to do with those Buyers, who were just too low rent, big-talking wheeler-dealers who wouldn’t live up to their signed agreement unless the fragile widow woman coughed up an extra $1,900.
Interestingly enough, I’d had prior experience with one of these brothers. He had a signed contract to purchase a luxury oceanfront townhome for $900,000. The deal fell apart when he tried to squeeze that Seller out of an extra $30,000 based on a ridiculous Inspection Report. That Seller did not fall for it. My guy called me back a few days later, said he’d buy the property anyway, but it was already under contract to someone else. Recently, the townhome right next door to that unit sold for $1.8 Million. Now that’s some smart investing.
Obviously, respect is the most important element. I usually stage my homes before the photographer comes. Selling the home is a very triggering event, and going through the decedent’s belongings and items that bring back memories can be very triggering to them. Also, selling the home brings an element of closure and guilt they may not be ready to accept. I’ve seen this when a spouse dies, and even with an estate of a parent who lives far away. Some times, it is driven by financial concerns, which makes it even worse.
With this type of listing transaction, it is important to listen, let the seller vent, and be genuine and authentic in understanding their feelings. There are usually legal ramifications, such as having all the estate details in order, coordinating with heirs and executors, and a completely opposite end twist, is multiple heirs all thinking the home is worth twice its value. So there are two polar opposite sets of emotions and agendas to deal with the first being a bereaved family member, and the second, situations where there are heirs involved who may be removed, and have several family members that require consensus.
When I bring in an offer, we generally write a cover letter. Usually, death isn’t common knowledge, until we find out there is an estate involved. It is important to write a respectful cover letter, and sometimes, things such as timing are very important to the seller. I try to discover this in advance, i.e. what is their perfect selling scenario, and if my clients can accommodate, we write that right in.
It is very hard to make that move. The most important thing is to let the sellers vent, have time, and although staging a home properly is very important, to find a balance. Equally as important is to insure that they are in good legal hands with regard to settling the estate, and knowing who ALL the players in the estate are, providing timely updates, and being very hands-on.
One of the main issues that I have been trying to correct with the real estate industry is the salesman approach.
I feel as though many realtors, in their goal of listing and buying properties, treat clients with a false smile and a shiny attitude. The problem with such an approach is that it lacks authenticity. I think the majority of people see through that kind of behavior and a realtor then becomes synonymous with the word fake.
In order to truly be successful in real estate and in order to truly enjoy the profession, I believe it is much more important to be as honest as possible with your clients and treat them as your friends. That means that if you had a bad day, mention it. It means if your children are home sick then feel free to share that with your clients as well.
The more realtors stop treating their clients like clients and treat them as they would treat a friend, the more they benefit and the more their clients do as well.
When considering real estate with someone who is a widow or has recently lost someone they love, that approach is that much more important. That means genuinely caring about what your client is going through, that means allowing them to share stories about their loved ones and actually listening. That also means that you should not push your client to show their home if they are having a difficult day. The sale of the property at that point does not become your main objective. Your main objective becomes ensuring your client has someone they can feel comfortable to confide in and also translates into understanding their needs better.
For example, if your client ends up telling you stories about how their spouse used to love gardening and how much they wish to continue that hobby in their honor, a realtor will no longer need to ask their client if they are sure they don’t want that beautiful house down the road only it has a small garden. Being a friend to your clients first will result not only in finding your clients properties that suit their needs better, or going through the sale process in a more suitable way, but also will result in friendships that will stand the test of time…and will result in continued business in the future.