Selling The Family Home To Settle An Estate

Real Estate Agent

This can be one of the most gut wrenching tasks a son or daughter could face.  Especially if they grew up in the home and it's filled with childhood memories. 

Maybe long ago you moved away and have a family of your own.  Coming home now that the folks are gone is surreal and often unnerving.  Fond memories of holidays with the family all together flood over you.  You laugh at the silly little stunts you pulled as a kid.  You cry for your loved ones who are no longer here.  You feel the need to find someone who will love the home as much as  you do.   You need to sell - but at the same time do not want to let go.

So here you are.  Looking around and wondering where do I start?

Perhaps you also are left with furniture, possessions, autos, antiques, collections or just plain excess stuff to deal with.

Some Realtors have a network of reputable professionals they can recommend to assist you in managing the assets and preparing the property for sale.

In the Greater Scranton Pa Area we work closely with:

  • Licensed Auctioneer
  • Licensed Antique/Collections Appraiser
  • Licensed Real Estate Appraiser
  • Licensed Car Dealer
  • Licensed Engineer/Home Inspector
  • Licensed General Contractors
  • Licensed Investment Advisor
  • Licensed Probate/Real Estate Attorney
  • Licensed Certified Public Accountant
  • Professional Decorator/Stager
  • Professional Photographer
  • Professional Cleaning Service
  • Professional Law Maintenance Company
  • Professional Clean Out Service Contractor

One of more of these professionals may be useful assisting you with the disposition of the estate.

Where is the first place to start?

The largest asset is the home.  Find an experienced Realtor who is versed assisting folks through this process.  An experienced Realtor will be able to assess the home and give you a realistic value.

Set a target date to have the home cleaned out, or staged and ready to market.  Give yourself enough time so the home is presented at it's very best.  Not full of clutter, in disrepair or dirty.


Engage some professionals to assist you in disposing of the personal property.  Prior to calling an auctioneer, antique dealer or used furniture dealer you should go through the home and remove very personal items.  Family photos, mementos, letters, medical records, old medications, alcohol and other items of personal importance to the heirs.

Decide if you are going to send items to auction, have someone conduct an estate sale, or sell them outright to a dealer. 


It's a good idea to have a home inspector go over the home to be sure there are no underlying issues which a buyer will become aware of later. Should a buyers home inspection reveal things which need to be fixed the buyer can ask for a price concession.  Often the tendency of buyers is to over estimate the actual cost of the repair.

Fix and repair as much as you can before you offer the home to the general public.  It is always less costly to fix things yourself then to wait until the buyer asks for a concession.

A home which is clean, in good condition, staged well and priced correctly will sell quickly.

If the home is in disrepair or severely outdated, and it is not economically feasible to undertake the repairs - you should reflect those deficiencies in your price.

Furnished or Not?

This question always arises.  Should I leave the furniture in the house until I sell it?  That is a matter of personal preference.  If the home is tastefully furnished, arranged and not cluttered you might want to leave it alone until it sells.  Remember you may have a short window between contract and closing to get the furnishings removed.  If it is over stuffed with furniture which is out dated or shabby, it might be more aesthetic to remove it.  Buyers tend to form an negative opinion of the entire home based on threadbare and rickety furnishings.  We have never seen a home fail to sell because if was empty.  If nothing else it allows the buyer to visualize how their furniture will fit and work in the various rooms.

  • Arrange for openness and be sure the home is spotless
  • Repaint and neutralize any rooms which have previously been painted with strong or dark colors
  • Keep the rooms uncluttered
  • Remove knick knacks which might be broken
  • Remove personal photos or portraits
  • Remove trophy collections or other collections on display which are distracting
  • Remove magnets from the refrigerator
  • Clear everything off the counters
  • Be sure light bulbs are working in all fixtures
  • Fix any light switches which do not work
  • Be sure sump pumps and dehumidifiers are working
  • Arrange for lawn maintenance and/or snow removal if you cannot do it yourself
  • Have professionals come in to dust, clean and scrub right before you put the house on the market

What about Value?

Often heirs allow emotion to cloud reality.  An experienced Realtor can guide you based on the current market trends for similar homes.  With estates when there are multiple heirs there is a tendency to try and price high hoping to increase the yield to each person.  That's bad math.  If you price too high the home will sit unsold for months.  Now start adding up the carrying costs and subtract that from the potential net.  Taxes, mortgage (if any), electric, water, gas, insurance, heat, lawn maintenance and the risk of something major breaking down before it's sold.

If you fail to sell the home before winter the heating costs will severely eat into any distribution to hoped to achieve.

The best recommendation for pricing is at least 5% below the average price of similar homes which have recently sold.

If the home sells in short order don't lament that you could have gotten more.  A fast sale means all the elements to presenting an attractive well priced home were achieved.  The goal is to market the home at a realistic price, and realize a sale in the shortest amount of time.

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