Selling your property is one of life’s many challenges facing homeowners, and with the evolving housing markets of today, it can prove even more unpredictable. However, selling properties after the owner has passed away is arguably even more complicated and, for many, incredibly daunting.
However, with the right guidance, the process can be more manageable and not overly complicated.
If you have ever wondered how to sell a probate property, or are facing this task imminently, look no further as this guide is here to help you. This short step-by-step guide will cover all the key considerations that you need to be aware of, along with tips for selling a UK probate property with minimal disruption and stress.
Get Legal Advice From The Outset
The first thing you should do is seek legal advice from solicitors and property experts who have experience dealing specifically with probate sales. They will be able to provide tailored guidance based on the unique circumstances surrounding the property, owner and sale. Having this support early on will ensure the process goes as smoothly as possible.
A solicitor can help with various aspects, including applying for probate and obtaining legal authority to deal with the estate. They can also navigate any tax implications or considerations surrounding the property sale, or if they do not handle that in-house, they can refer you to trusted partners that can oversee these aspects. Additionally, trusted legal professionals can oversee the valid transfer of property ownership and any associated conveyancing processes.
Understand The Probate Process
Before putting the property on the market, it’s important to have a basic understanding of the probate procedure.
Probate officially recognises someone’s last will and testament and gives authority to the executors to handle the estate as set out in the will. Interestingly, recent reports show that less than half of UK adults currently have a will.
- To obtain probate, you’ll need to locate the latest valid will, apply to the probate registry, pay any inheritance tax owed and submit the various legal paperwork.
The process usually takes around 3-6 months to fully complete, but more complicated property and assets may delay the completion process.
In certain circumstances, you may be able to obtain special legal permission to sell the property before probate is fully granted. Your appointed solicitor can provide guidance and accurate timescales for this.
Value The Property
To determine an accurate listing price, you’ll need to get the property professionally valued by a third party. You can approach a local estate agent to assess the home, who can look at similar home sales in the region to gauge current market value.
You can also commission an independent valuation from a chartered surveyor which will involve a thorough inspection to identify any issues that could influence property value. These reports are not the same as estate agent valuations.
Fundamentally, comparable local properties to yours can be viewed on property portals like Rightmove and Zoopla but these are NOT guaranteed or sold prices. Be sure to factor in any restorative or renovation work as this can influence the final valuation and sale price.
Prepare The Property For Sale
Before putting the property on the market, some essential preparation may be required. For starters, you might have to declutter and stage the property so it presents in the best possible light to viewers.
First impressions count and prospective viewers will want to see the listed home in a tidy, clean and clutter-free way, with any minor renovations to fix damage and wear and tear commissioned or done before viewings.
You will also need to have a valid Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) for the listing so prospective vendors can get an idea of the property and its energy efficiency. Partnering with a reputable estate agent can help take this administrative burden off your hands.
Decide On The Method Of Sale
There are a few options when it comes to selling probate property. Most sellers will go through an estate agency that will market the property, handle viewings, negotiate offers and liaise with solicitors to progress the sale as quickly and efficiently as possible.
If a will was not drawn up and a person died ‘intestate’, a seller might choose to put the property up for sale in an auction.
Other options for sale include all interested parties submitting their best and final offer or a tender or sealed bid situation. Your estate agent should talk you through all the options for sale and disucss with you the one that best suits your situation.
For probate sales and complicated wills, it may be most prudent to go with an approved estate agent to ensure a seamless transition.
List The Property For Sale
When listing the property, ensure full transparency about its probate status. Ensure that all prospective viewers are aware of whether probate has been granted or not, with any deadlines or restrictions clearly communicated in listings and during viewings (if they proceed).
Review All Offers Carefully
When an offer comes in, don’t rush to accept it as a means to conclude the probate process as quickly as possible. Talk this through with your estate agent and your solicitor and carefully consider the offer amounts. Be mindful of how quickly a buyer can complete and whether they themselves are experiencing any delays which could impact the completion of the probate property you are selling.
Progress Sale Completion
Once an offer is accepted, the buyer, in accordance with their own mortgage provider (if they are having a mortgage) and conveyancing solicitors’ requirements, will often need to conduct surveys of their own to progress the house purchase.
Your solicitor will liaise with you about contract details and exchanging of information with the buyers’ firm, advising you of any alterations if need be. For instance, you may need to amend exchange amounts if a survey highlights issues that need addressing, or if the buyer pulls out due to their inability to obtain sufficient financing or encounter other difficulties.
Your estate agent will remain engaged with you and your solicitors throughout this process to ensure everything proceeds smoothly through to completion.
Adhere to Probate Requirements
Remember, you have a legal duty when selling a probate property. This means:
Following all probate rules and procedures, even if it causes delays.
Not distributing sale proceeds until you have permission.
Keeping accurate records for the estate administrators and executors.
Cutting corners could put you at significant legal risk, so take your probate obligations seriously and work with a reputable, professional estate agent and soliciotrs to make the whole process as smooth as possible.
For more information just get in touch with us.