California Real Estate Search

Probate

When a person passes, they leave behind an estate that contains all of the assets they owned during their lifetime. These items include belongings such as cash, investments, and real estate. The legal process through which these assets are sold, or divided amongst heirs, is called probate. If you’re looking to buy a home, you may run across probate sales. These can be unique opportunities to purchase a property.

What is a probate sale?

Typically, a deceased person leaves behind a will that outlines what they want done with their possessions. However, sometimes the terms of a will are unclear, or the person dies without a will, leaving the person’s family to decide how to handle their assets. The courts can also get involved: In real estate, a probate sale is the sale of a home under the supervision of probate court.

Should you buy a probate sale?

Probate sales can be complicated, and they’re very different from most real estate transactions. So it’s important to understand the pros and cons before buying a home through a probate sale.

Benefits

  • Homes in a probate sale are often priced lower than they would be otherwise
  • Probate sale opportunities may not be available through the usual real estate market channels
  • Fewer people are typically interested in probate sales, meaning there’s less competition to buy the home

Risks

  • The purchase process can take much longer
  • Many probate-sale homes are in poor condition and need repairs
  • Additional regulations around probate sales can make the transaction more complicated

How to buy probate real estate...

The first step, of course, is to find a home that’s being sold via a probate sale. This can be tricky because they often don’t get listed through the usual channels.

Here's where John and I come in, We have specific probate leads that come straight to us from the courts once they are finished going through their probate court processes. From there, we have our wonderful assistant, Terrie, call the families to ask if we can help them in any way with the disbursements or sales of their deceased family member's real estate. If they need help in any way, we provide them with thorough explanations of the process and guide them gently through this difficult time in their lives. 

When in process, the probate process can take many months, so be prepared for a long wait if that's the case. You’ll likely work with the executor of the estate, a real estate attorney, or the court to make an offer on the home.

One thing to keep in mind is that probate real estate is usually sold as-is. The previous owner may have been elderly or had health issues that made maintenance difficult. That means that a home inspection is essential and that you should be ready for unexpected costs to pop up.

Finding comps

Before you make an offer on any home, you need to get a sense of what the property is worth.

The best way to do that is to look for comparable homes in the area. Look for houses in the same neighborhood that are of similar size, number of bedrooms, and more. Recent sales data can be very helpful in determining how much to offer for the property.

Finding a probate real estate agent

Probate sales are complicated, so a specialized real estate agent with experience can help guide you through the process.

John Conrad is a certified probate specialist with accredited education and certificates revealing his highly skilled and special knowledge of probate expertise.

Can probate be avoided?

Yes, it’s possible to avoid probate for your own estate if you plan ahead.

One of the most common ways to avoid the probate process is by creating a trust. If you start a trust and add assets to it, the assets in the trust will skip the probate process.

Another way to avoid probate is to own real estate jointly. If you and a spouse jointly own a home and one of you passes away, the surviving spouse will typically retain full ownership of the home and not have to deal with probate. (This can depend on the intricacies of the house title, so it’s smart to consult an attorney.)