How to sell an inheritaed house?
September 6, 2010 8:24 AM   Subscribe

What's the best way to get this 100-year-old house marketed and sold without it becoming the money pit first? Oh, and I'm 1,500 miles away.

After my mom passed away in November, 2009, I inherited her house. The intention was to clear it out and put it on the market "as-is" since it had a lot of issues - from smoke/pet smells inside to various small issues due to the age and lack of maintenance over the past ten years. A deal fell through when the buyer asked for a lot of work I wasn't willing to do. Since the main issue appeared to be getting people past the smells, I decided to put new paint and flooring throughout and a new bathroom, plus fix up a few things here and there.

Now, I need to put it on the market again, but want to find the best approach since there are likely other issues that will come up - I've had a home inspection done and have spoken with two Realtors to get their opinions and all roads are leading to extensive work ahead. Although the house isn't perfect, it's better than some foreclosures I've seen and I want to find a happy medium to get this place sold, since I can't be there in person and trying to do this long-distance is a time-suck and frustrating!

The house is in Tacoma, Washington, so time is of the essence - if I don't get this place sold before winter, I'm doomed! It's a 1100 sq ft, two-story house with 3 bedrooms, 2 baths and a "shop/garage" outside - fully fenced in a mixed South End Tacoma neighborhood (meaning, some nice places, some dumps). There is a small mortgage on the house that I continue to pay and based on everything I've researched, I should be able to price/sell/net about $50K when done. I don't want to get rich, but I don't want to give the place away, so an "investor buyer" option doesn't appear to be likely.

So ... hints, tips, suggestions, recommendations on how to proceed would be fantastic! I'm in the process of finding a new Realtor to list the place and will certainly work with them, but so far, the two I've had just haven't been a right fit.
posted by cyniczny to Home & Garden (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Wow - so much for preview - inherited, of course. Sorry for the typo!
posted by cyniczny at 8:26 AM on September 6, 2010

How much of a loss are you willing to take? Because to sell quickly in this market with a house in that condition, you are going to have to lowball it.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 8:29 AM on September 6, 2010

P.S. Altho the Internet is a good resource your BEST resource is an experienced realtor in your area that knows the market. A good realtor will tell you the truth even if you do not want to hear it. A bad realtor will let you put an overpriced house on the market and let it sit there and sit there and sit there.

A house will sell for what it's worth, not what a seller wants to make back from it.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 8:32 AM on September 6, 2010

I'm with the Bunnies. Low, low, low price. Do not spend another dime on this place. Consider yourself lucky if you can pay off the mortgage and get back your expenses. I'll say it again, lower the price. That is the only prayer you have of dumping this in the next couple of months.
posted by JackFlash at 9:01 AM on September 6, 2010

The house is in Tacoma, Washington, so time is of the essence - if I don't get this place sold before winter, I'm doomed!

It's not that big a deal to put a house to sleep for the winter, especially in Tacoma where it barely freezes.

Whatever you do, don't try to rent it....
posted by at 9:10 AM on September 6, 2010

Yeah, if you don't want to lower the price, ad it doesn't sell before winter, just pay someone 300-400 bucks to haul a compressor in there and blow all the water lines down. Then you fill the toilets with anti-freeze and let 'er sit.
posted by Glendale at 9:39 AM on September 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

A few things you say make me suspect that you're not finding the right realtor because you're not hearing what you want to hear. Especially this: I don't want to get rich, but I don't want to give the place away.

Bunnies is spot on that, if you want to sell the house, you'll have to follow the market's lead and sell it for what it will fetch. That's not easy to hear, but better to deal with that and then find an honest, hard-working realtor who is willing to take on a client so far away.
posted by yellowcandy at 12:00 PM on September 6, 2010

Best answer: I've been househunting near Seattle for far too long, and have been to a lot of tours. Houses in need of repair are stagnating. For an example, look at the history of this house. It's in a good location and it's big (twice the size of yours), but it needs a lot of work and the price is dropping steadily.

You're trying to sell a tiny house that needs "extensive work"? My advice is to give up, sell it at a cut-rate price, and be done with it. Sorry.
posted by The corpse in the library at 3:19 PM on September 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

The house is not worth what you want it to be worth.

There are some things where taking a little action yourself is helpful, such as smells -- it's hard to tell whether a smell is "in the carpets" or "in the walls"*, and so changing out the carpets (or, better, replacing them with a hard surface, since dead carpeting makes up 2% of landfills) makes a lot of sense. Cleaning up the space -- cleaning surface and white paint -- is relatively inexpensive, and will help the place "show".

So for some things, some input on your part reduces the *risk* to the buyer, and that helps.

But the difference between the current value and the fixed-up value accounts for the cost of labor and materials necessary to fix it up. And it only accounts for that for professionals -- not you hiring professionals, but people who professionally flip houses and are essentially their own contractors. There is no magic bullet; if it's not selling, it's overpriced.

*I purchased a home where we thought the odor was transient, and discovered it was in the acoustic tile which was covering the falling-apart plaster of the ceiling. It was a party and a half, I tell you.

[Actually, I purchased that home from an estate, and the inheritors' in ability to understand that the property was not worth what they wanted it to be worth was quite frustrating.]
posted by endless_forms at 8:56 AM on September 29, 2010

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