I need to sell a house in SC. I'm in OR.
November 11, 2010 11:18 AM   Subscribe

I need to sell a house in Columbia, South Carolina. I live in Oregon. I haven't actually even seen this house since I was eleven years old, and need the cooperation of a parent from whom I've been estranged for 22 years.

When I was a kid, my father put his house in my name, but made it subject to his Life Estate, so I couldn't do anything with it (like sell it) during his lifetime.

We became estranged when I was about 13. I'm 36 now, and my father is still alive.

However, a couple nights ago I unexpectedly received an email from him (first communication in 22 years!) asking me to sell the house. He says the property taxes have become a burden for him, he wants me to sell it, he doesn't want any of the money from the sale, and that he'll cooperate with the real estate agent to make it happen.

While I haven't been in touch with my father, I am on friendly terms with his wife (via email, we've never met in person, she got in touch with me about 7 years ago and we write each other once or twice a year) and she says the house is in good shape -- that there's been a lot of work put into it over the years. I hope so, because from what I remember of it, it really needed some work. Not structurallly, but the wallpaper in the bathroom was older than I was, the kitchen linoleum was probably original to the house (1937), etc. Apparently it now has hardwood floors and not the indoor/outdoor carpet over concrete, etc.

SO I have a few questions:

1. Capital gains taxes. I didn't buy this house, it was deeded to me for $0 back in 1983. I obviously don't live in it. The house would probably fetch about $100K (maybe more?). Would I have to pay capital gains on the whole amount? If this question is too complicated for AskMe, who should I consult? A CPA? An attorney?

2. Real estate agent. I don't know anyone in SC anymore. How do I go about finding a good agent, who will work with me long distance? The house is in the Shandon neighborhood so I'd like someone who specializes in that area if possible.

3. Is there anything else I should be asking about but haven't thought of??

Other relevant details: my father doesn't live in Columbia anymore, he lives near Charleston now, and he's also 74 years old and an alcoholic. I am 39 weeks pregnant so may not have much energy to throw at this in the near future. But on the other hand, I don't want this hanging over my head and would just like it taken care of.
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (7 answers total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: poster's request -- cortex

Oh, god. I don't envy you your situation.

The very first thing you should do, should you even decide to do this (choosing not to is a VERY VALID option here), is consult a lawyer. Not only do you need to make sure that you know the applicable real estate rules, implications for taxes, etc., you first need to be absolutely sure to draw up something that says that you have the permission to do this, overruling the terms of the Life Estate. You need to be the only one involved in this transaction. With an estranged, alcoholic parent in the picture, even if he seems to have a helpful spouse and promises to play along, this has the potential to turn volatile at the drop of a hat. You do not need him interfering.
posted by Madamina at 12:04 PM on November 11, 2010

My mother had a very similar thing happen to her (deeded house, death of parent, house had appreciated in value). This was in Texas but, in order to avoid paying excessive taxes (probably capital gains but I'm not totally sure), she had to move into the house and establish it as her primary residence for something like two years (possibly more but at least two years). Also, the home was valued at over 1M and a quick internet search puts your magic number at $250K profit (double if you're married). So as long as the house is sold for less than that - you *should* be fine without having to take up residency in SC.
posted by Siena at 1:06 PM on November 11, 2010

If he could deed it to you, could you not just deed it back to him?
posted by pickypicky at 1:18 PM on November 11, 2010

Get a lawyer who's based in Columbia. If no South Carolinian MeFites send you recommendations, I will ask around among my friends--we do know a couple of people who live there and who have bought real estate there.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:41 PM on November 11, 2010

Not sure about the rest - although I'd definitely want a lawyer who was familiar with the relevant S.C. law in your shoes - but in re 2, I'd say you best bet to begin would be to go to some of the large national brokerage sites ( realtor.com, which is the national association of realtors, coldwell banker, trulia or zillow) and start poking around to see which realtors are active in the neighborhood the house is in. Realtor.com, I know they for one let you search for recent sales, which should help sort out the pros fseethe part timers. Pick out a few that are active, check out their websites, and once you've found a few who seem like they know what they're doing, explain the situation, and ask how they'd go about marketing g the house. Check the local licensing board to make sure there's no complaints against them, and pick whoever you're most comfortable with. An email interview should help in this situation, since you're going to need someone who's comfortable keeping you Up to date with their efforts long distance, and if they can't manage to send you some example of past listings and so forth overthe innertubes, they're probably not going to be right for you.
posted by Diablevert at 2:02 PM on November 11, 2010

My family is in Columbia. Memail me if you need lawyer/Realtor recommendations; I will ask them.
posted by pointystick at 5:28 PM on November 11, 2010

The $250K exemption from capital gains tax applies only to the sale of your primary residence, which generally requires that you have lived in the home for at least two of the five years preceding the sale. (link to IRS). You need to consult a real estate attorney who can give you more guidance.
posted by notme at 6:14 PM on November 11, 2010

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