"Hi! I want to buy your dead sister's house."
September 21, 2019 6:29 AM   Subscribe

What is the etiquette for reaching out to someone because they have inherited a property you want to purchase?

A few buildings on my street have had owners die intestate within the past year or two, and the deeds have gone to various relatives. Since the buildings are standing vacant, it seems like the new owners don't want to deal with them and I'd like to see if they're interested in selling them to me. I vaguely knew the previous owners, enough to have had a few conversations and wave cheerfully to each other on the street.

What is the most respectful and effective balance of acknowledging the deceased when reaching out to gauge interest in selling the properties? Should I offer condolences and mention I thought warmly of them (which would help indicate I'm not a random disengaged investor), or should I not mention it at all if it would be gauche to do in the light of business dealings? I would appreciate some scripts or phrases to use in reaching out. Thanks!
posted by Pwoink to Human Relations (8 answers total)
I came into this question expecting it to be about a very recent loss. 1-2 years changes things a lot. I would keep it simple and professional.

Owner, I am one of Relative's neighbors in City. I was wondering if you are considering selling the house at Address. If so, my contact info is #, @. Best wishes, Name
posted by arnicae at 7:09 AM on September 21, 2019 [7 favorites]

From my point of view, I'd ask a real estate agent I've known for a long time, to do the ask. They would probably know what to do.
posted by baegucb at 7:18 AM on September 21, 2019 [15 favorites]

I'd do it the human way. Give condolences, say something kind about the person who died if you knew them enough to do so, say something about yourself as a human, and then indicate your interest in purchasing the property if/when they're ready to sell.
posted by spindrifter at 7:37 AM on September 21, 2019 [5 favorites]

Anything from a realtor goes in the circular file and I'm not sure you need a realtor for that kind of sale anyway. A real estate attorney might be better and cost less. I like spindrifter's suggestion.
posted by Botanizer at 7:54 AM on September 21, 2019

I was the out of state relative in a situation similar to this. Selling a house is a project, and I suspect your intuition about the relatives not wanting to deal with it is right. In my case, the house was desirable, and I got several approaches from neighbors. For me, the important things were: buyers expressing clear interest, letting me know they were serious in moving forward as soon as I was, that they were willing to pay market price, and that they were generally going to make this as easy as possible for me. I wasn't interested in doing a renovation or dealing with a list of contingencies or repairs. The successful buyer made it easy: we didn't use a realtor (but did use a lawyer), they didn't ask for any contingencies and bought the house as-is, and it was an all cash deal. Other than doing enough due diligence to determine that their offer was a fair one, the buyers did all of the work and there was always a clear next step, and they were patient when I had a delay on my end. They also handled some left behind furniture, saving me a trip to go deal with that. What didn't work, or left a bad taste in my mouth: neighbors who approached me but were vague in their interest, wanted to immediately low ball me, or thought that there was some kind of understanding with my relative about buying the house.
posted by kovacs at 8:22 AM on September 21, 2019 [12 favorites]

This happened to us, on the other side. My aunt died and my dad was the executor and was left to sell the house. Before we even started the listing process, a woman whose parents lived around the corner left a note in the mailbox introducing herself and expressing an interest in the house. She told a very short but nice story about loving the neighborhood and hoping to start a family there and wanting to be close to her parents.

My parents were thrilled to sell it to her, and probably accepted 10% less than they could have otherwise gotten if they jumped through all the hoops. It meant something to them that the buyer was not some calculated real estate flipper or short term owner.

Sure enough, the buyer got married and had a couple of kids and when she outgrew the house about 10 years later, it was thrilling to look at the listing and see how well loved the house had been.

If you can tell a personal story (or even make one up), I think that kind of thing would speak to a family who is selling their relativeā€˜s house.
posted by AgentRocket at 1:21 PM on September 21, 2019 [4 favorites]

I was involved in selling a house where one owner died and the other moved out of state to be closer to children.
We gave the buyers a really good deal based on
- they let us know that they were committed to the area, wanted the house and would be happy to fix it up and live there - it was important to some of the family that their home go to someone who would love it, not an investor or flipper or someone who would raze the house and build a new one
- they were willing to take the house as-is with no haggling about what needed to fixed. We were happy to give them the benefit of most of the money we saved from not having to fix it up enough to sell because there was such a huge savings for us in not having to manage the repair work long distance.
- we didn't need a real estate agent, just a lawyer, saved 6%
- they were willing to move at our speed - it was over a year from initial inquiry until we were ready to have a serious negotiation but once we were ready, things moved quickly
- as a bonus, they offered to take care of whatever we wanted to leave behind - we did not have to leave the house empty and "broom clean". We hired someone to do an estate sale but whatever didn't sell plus all the trash (boxes, papers, broken tools etc) became their problem not ours.
posted by metahawk at 8:26 PM on September 21, 2019 [1 favorite]

Do the due diligence first. Find out from the taxing authority who is now considered the owner and responsible for paying taxes, and check the chain of title. Both are public records and readily accessible.
posted by megatherium at 8:16 PM on September 22, 2019

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