Buying a home after the previous owner has died may sound a little spooky, but it doesn’t have to turn into a horror story. Deceased estates can offer excellent property investment opportunities. The key is to go in with your eyes wide open and good idea of what to expect.
One of the most common reasons people consider buying from deceased estates is that they expect to get a real bargain. Although that can be true, it’s not always the case. Heirs are seldom as emotionally attached to a property as the previous owner would have been. They also aren’t usually relying on the sale to finance another purchase. That can increase their willingness to negotiate on the sales price, but it’s very unlikely to convince them to ignore market value altogether.
Before you make an offer, do the following research:
Understand the fair market value considering the state of the property and the surrounding area and then make a reasonable offer.
Hire a valuer or property inspector. Given that many deceased estates belonged to elderly owners who may not have been as active on maintenance as they should be, the hidden defects could be more extensive than you think. The price of a professional inspection is generally more than worth it to avoid the nightmare of being saddled with a real property disaster.
Find out whether the property is currently occupied by a tenant. Having to evict difficult tenants can add a whole new level of stress to things.
Make sure the sale is authorised. Properties that are part of a deceased estate can only legally be sold by the estate’s executor. No agreement signed before the executor has been formally appointed by the Master of the High Court will be valid. It can take as long as three months for the executor to receive his Letters of Executorship from the Master, so it’s best to ensure that those letters are in place before getting started.
Once your offer to purchase has been accepted, the transfer of deceased estates have a few more hoops to jump through. As a result, the transfer process tends to be a little slower than normal. All the heirs with an interest in the property as well as the Master of the High Court have to consent to the agreed sale. This can take several weeks, or even months if there are any issues.
While the process may seem complicated, the majority of the extra work during a deceased estate sale is the responsibility of the sellers. Buyers who have done their homework and are willing to be patient during transfer shouldn’t find the process too different to an ordinary property purchase.