Tips for Selling an Inherited House

Thinking of selling an inherited house? It isn’t an easy decision to make. From knick-knacks to larger assets such as a house, it’s hard to know what to do with a loved one’s property after they pass. If you don’t want the responsibilities of being a landlord and you aren’t looking to take over the house yourself – maybe it’s too long of a commute to work or too small for your family – then selling may be the right decision for you.

When preparing an inherited home for sale, the inspection may seem overwhelming when you’re not familiar with the houses’ quirks. Here’s what you should and shouldn’t worry about, according to the National Association of Realtors:​

  • Structural/foundation issues: During a home inspection, the inspector will flag hairline cracks in walls or concrete slab, as well as misaligned windows and doors. In many cases, it’s better to address the issue before it gets worse. Repairing a minor crack costs around $500, but an extensive foundation repair could cost over $10,000.
  • Aluminum wiring: Common in homes built from 1965-1973, aluminum wiring is prone to overheating and can be a fire hazard. Many insurance companies won’t insure a house with aluminum wiring, so this is something that either you as the seller, or the the buyer will need to address immediately. The national average for rewiring a house is $16,000; however, there are alternatives such as using specialized connectors to make aluminum wiring safer.
  • Outdated electrical panels: A home inspector may find that two branch circuit wires to the same breaker – a relatively easy fix. Or the entire panel may need to be replaced, especially if it is an older Zinsco or Federal Pacific panels from the 1950s-1980s, which can be fire hazards. The national average for replacing an electric panel is $2,400. Since this may impact the buyer’s ability to insure the home, this is something either you as the seller, or the buyer will need to address.
  • Plumbing issues: Common in homes built from 1974-1994, polybutylene pipes are prone to leaks and plumbing failures. Cast iron and galvanized piping is prone to corrosion. Having one of these types of pipes in your home isn’t an emergency- it just means they won’t last as long as today’s standard copper piping.
  • Floor Joists: A home inspector will examine floor joists for rot or other damage. Sometimes homeowners or remodelers will cut into floor joists when installing plumbing. Because floor joists provide support for the home, it’s important to address any issues before it leads to structural damage.
  • HVAC Systems: A cracked heat exchanger could cause a furnace to stop working or even a carbon monoxide leak. A malfunctioning HVAC system could be deadly, so this is something you as the seller or the buyer will need to address.
  • Safety Issues: From the number of smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors, to tripping hazards and loose stairs, a home inspector will document any safety issues with the house. Luckily, these are all relatively easy and inexpensive fixes.
  • Drainage Spots: If water is being directed back to the house – either from an improper gutter setup or inadvertently from landscaping – it could mean a flooded basement, mold or structural damage over time.

As you take your time deciding what to do with the property, you’ll want to make sure that the property is locked up and secure, and the utilities have been transferred into your name. You’ll also need to sort through any belongings left in the house. Hiring a professional cleaner or holding an estate sale can help with the process, and you’ll be ahead of the game when it comes to showing the house. 


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