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How to Sell an Inherited House in the Toronto Area?

At GTA House Buyers we’ve bought a lot of inherited houses, so I’ll go over some of the Do’s and Don’ts.
My top two don’ts are:
#1) Small Household in Big House
#2) Empty House Syndrome
I’ll give you examples from actual houses we’ve bought, so that you can avoid the mistakes that others have made.

What you DO want to do when selling an inherited house:
If a will says the house is yours, then get an Estate lawyer and sell the house. The same lawyer can handle probate and the sale of the house. If you need a referral to an estate lawyer somewhere in the Greater Toronto Area, then let me know.

The Top Two DON’TS When Inheriting a House

When inheriting a house, what people think is a blessing can turn into a curse. Please be careful with what you’re given.

My #1 DON’T: Small Household in Big House

I’ve seen this scenario many times. A single person inherits a house and moves in.
The house is too big for one person. It used to be a family home and now one person is living there alone.
A house is a lot to maintain. There’s a lot of work to do like cutting grass, shoveling snow, spring and fall maintenance, and cleaning! When I was a single person I didn’t live by myself in a 2 storey, 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom house with a basement. I couldn’t handle cleaning such a house on my own!

If you have pets or small kids, then it’s even tougher to maintain.
If someone doesn’t clean after a cat or dog properly, then their toilet will become the living room floor. And some cats will spray on the walls. We’ve removed the bottom 3 feet of drywall where the male cats sprayed against in order to remove the smell. And I’ve often removed flooring or subfloor to get rid of cat urine smells. Don’t let the pets take over!

Warning, a big house requires a lot of work to maintain. Are you willing and able to do that work? I’ve seen many houses that drop dramatically in value in one to two years after being inherited, because the new owner can’t handle the upkeep and repairs.

One example, a young lady inherited a family sized home in Whitby when her father passed. This blessing turned into a curse. When I came to see the house, the back yard weeds were up to my waist, gutters were hanging off the house, the basement had been flooded when a pipe burst the previous winter, the cats and dogs had taken over and stunk up the place. The place was a mess and the house was out of control.
It was stressful and depressing for that young lady. But we bought the house fast and she moved into an apartment that was much more manageable for her and her pets.

Now if you’ve inherited a big house and you’re moving from an apartment to a house with a yard, please take some time to make a good decision. What’s your plan to maintain the lawns? Do you have a lawnmower and tools? Snow shovels? Will you hire someone to cut the grass?

If you know anyone in this type of situation, then help them out. Give us a call and help them get out of the situation they are in.

I had one family sell me two inherited houses in Oshawa. One in 2009 and one in 2015. They were very happy with how quick and easy we buy houses. They enjoyed seeing how our renovations transformed their dated houses. They told me that their mother would have been so happy to see her house looking beautiful like we made it. It’s that kind of feedback that makes a big reno worthwhile.

My #2 DON’T: Empty House Syndrome

There are a couple reasons why people inherit a house and then keep it empty for months or even years. One reason is that people have an emotional or sentimental attachment to the house and just don’t want to part with it. I’ve bought houses from people who grew up as children in the house and it is full of good memories of their family. Other people experienced the passing of their spouse who they lived with in the house for decades. They did move out but it was hard for them to sell the house because they were still emotionally attached. I’m not sure what the correct emotional decision is, but I know it’s a bad financial decision to hold onto an empty house. It’s a waste of your money to be paying taxes, insurance, and even utilities on an empty house.

Another reason why people keep an inherited house empty is because siblings can’t agree on what to do with the house. One sibling wants to hold the house empty because they hope they house value will go up in the next few years. In my opinion, holding an EMPTY house is a risky and poor investment decision compared to what you could do if you sold the house, got the money and put that money to work.
Another sibling might want to rent out the house. Which may be a great idea unless you have no experience renting a house. If you aren’t willing to invest your time to learn how to be an excellent landlord, then it may not be a good idea.
One sibling may want to renovate the whole house so they can sell it for more money. Which may be another great idea unless you’ve never done a large renovation before. A large renovation can be stressful. If you hire a contractor who is good at doing demolition, but not so good at renovating, then you’ll be in trouble. Renovations usually cost more money than people think and I’ve seen lots of houses sitting empty in a state of partial repair. Just know what you’re getting into if you decide to renovate.
There are various reasons houses sit empty for months or years after an inheritance. Empty houses are prone to problems. A house needs to be maintained. They get mould from no ventilation. Houses get water damage problems when people don’t winterize and pipes burst. Water can come in from outside, usually from downspouts missing or plugged, or wear and tear to the roof. Or your window wells don’t drain water and water fills up and leaks through windows.

One specific example is a house we bought in the Junction neighbourhood ofToronto. The house had been vacant for YEARS and there were multiple siblings involved. I can’t speak to their reasons why they kept it vacant so long, but I’ll bet it was because they couldn’t agree on what to do. The house was very dated and hadn’t been renovated in decades. But even worse, some water pipes on the second floor had burst and damaged ceilings and floors below. The pipes burst because the house wasn’t maintained properly and water froze in the pipes during winter. The house was a DISASTER, but we transformed it and made the neighbours happy.

That’s all for today! If you’re wondering how to sell an inherited house in the Greater Toronto Area, then I hope this will help guide you on what do to and what not to do. If you know someone who needs to sell an inherited house, then please contact us through our website or call us at 647-848-7790.

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