How properties wind up in probate court
Properties are sold through probate when the owner of the property dies without leaving a will or specifically bequeathing that property. In this case, the state takes over the administration and sale of the property.
The court’s mandate is to ensure the property is sold at a price high enough to benefit the estate the most. In probate, it’s possible the property may be sold at a lower price than in a traditional transaction. This is a major reason buyers like probate court.
To ensure the property is sold at the best possible price, there are very specific processes and procedures to follow during the sale process.
The exact steps, process, and procedures vary significantly from state to state. The services of an agent versed in the details of probate court can really come in handy because not all real estate agents are experts in probate law.
How a probate sale is marketed
Probate properties are marketed the same way as traditionally listed properties. The lawyer or representative of the estate will hire an agent, formalize the listing agreement and ensure the property is shown.
Usually, the price of the property is based on the listing agent’s suggestions, but this price can also be influenced by an independent appraisal ordered by the court overseeing the transaction.
When it’s time to make the offer
Any interested buyer can make an offer at any point in the process. In a probate sale, no offers will be entertained unless accompanied by a deposit of ten percent. The person representing the estate can accept the offer as is or put forth a counter-offer.
Here’s where things get a bit tricky. This is why some buyers choose to stay away from probate properties. The offer itself is subject to confirmation by the overseeing court. This means there is no commitment between the seller and potential buyer.
The estate representative submits a petition to the overseeing probate court asking that the sale be confirmed and a date is chosen for the sale to receive the court’s confirmation.
Wait and wait some more
When the sale date has been set, all parties must enter into a 30 to 45 day waiting period. During this period, the court mandates that the newly accepted price must be the one at which the property is marketed.
For instance, in California, the court raises the accepted offer by 5% and adds an additional $500. This then becomes the new price. The property must be marketed at the new price.
Time for court
To confirm the sale, the court requires the potential buyer and any other interested parties to attend a probate court session. Then the property is sold at auction with the first bid consisting of the original accepted offer plus 5% and the additional $500 increase (California example).
During the auction, bidders bid in $5,000 increments. If there are no additional bidders, the first potential buyer buys the property at offer they first made.
If a bidder different from the original buyer wins the auction, they must immediately give a 10% deposit.
Money back deposit or not
The 10% deposit that was required to accompany the original offer is not going to be refundable if the final confirmed buyer is someone other than the original buyer. This is an additional probate court risk.
Disclosures can be an issue
In a probate court sale, the seller has already died. There is no firsthand information about leaky roofs, non-permitted work, upcoming neighborhood changes or any number of issues.
Inspection results can make a big difference
Anyone considering a probate sale must have the property inspected. Even though this is an out of pocket expense, and your offer may not be accepted by the court, it still pays to inspect the property. That relatively minor expense can make the difference between a successful transaction and one you wished you’d never seen.
It pays to be aware of the nuances of probate sales. They can bring you great properties at terrific values, but only if you’re willing to take on the additional risks. Contact Doug Hopkins today to get started toward your future.