Five Things to Do if You Inherit a Home

House Keys of Someone Who Inherited a Home

Inheriting a family home may be bittersweet: you have the opportunity to carry on family traditions in the family homestead, but the fact that the home is in your hands means that some of the family is no longer there with you. For some people who inherit a home, though, it is more bitter than sweet. The logistical issues of dealing with the property outweigh any happy memories or hopes for future good times there. This is especially true for heirs who left home and moved across the country, only have to deal with their late loved ones' house back in Ohio.

What do you need to do if you inherit your parents' home, or that of another relative? Here are five things to put on your to-do list.

Secure the House and Plan for Maintenance

When you live in a home, you take care of it: mow the lawn, clean the house, repair things that are broken. When a house is unoccupied, the home's exterior and yard can quickly become unkempt, and issues like a leak or a burst pipe that would quickly be dealt with in an occupied home can go unnoticed, leading to significant damage. If possible, try to enlist the help of a trusted neighbor or nearby relative to regularly check on the property or even to live in the house for a time so it will be cared for and less vulnerable to vandals or thieves. Think about installing a security system. And if you don't know anyone nearby who can care for the home, consider hiring a reputable vacant home manager. Vacant home managers are just what they sound like: someone who specializes in caring for unoccupied homes.

Decide What You Want to Do With the Home

Once you have the home secured with some kind of temporary plan for maintenance, you need to make a decision about what to do in the longer term. If you are not the sole decision-maker, such as if you and your siblings have inherited the house together, you will need to consider everyone's financial and emotional needs with regard to the house.

If people disagree about whether to sell the house or keep it, and you think conflict and damaged relationships might ensue, consider going to speak to an estate planning attorney. He or she can let you know the tax and other financial ramifications of your options, and refer you to a mediator to help you make the decision if needed.

Understand the Home's Value

It's important to get a handle on the value of the home, no matter what you decide to do with it. Even if you haven't committed to selling, a local realtor is probably your best bet for getting an accurate value. While you may be able to get an approximate value from a free website, such estimates are often worth what you pay for them. A professional who works with local properties can give you a much more accurate valuation. He or she can also give you tips for updates that can increase the home's value.

Get the Home Inspected

Whether you or another family member plan to stay in the home, or you plan to rent it out or sell it, you need to understand the condition of the home. While a realtor can give you advice on maximizing the home's value through more cosmetic updates, a licensed home inspector can help you to know what's lurking beneath the surface. An inspection will run a few hundred dollars, but it's worth it if it reveals problems you need to fix before putting the home on the market, or before moving in yourself.

Yes, any buyers will almost certainly pay for their own inspection. But having one done yourself will prevent unpleasant surprises from a prospective buyer's inspection, and help avoid a sale falling through due to an unforeseen issue.

Consider the Costs

Just because you've inherited a house, doesn't mean it's free. There may still be a mortgage, but even if the house is paid off, there are other costs associated with it. Until you sell or transfer the house to someone else, you will need to keep it insured and pay property taxes. As noted above, you may also need to pay someone to maintain the property if it is vacant. All told, these expenses frequently total several thousand dollars each year.

This is relevant because it can be emotionally difficult to let go of a family home, and financially difficult to hang on to one. You may know what you need to do, yet struggle to actually do it. Being aware of the financial realities may help mobilize you to take the needed steps to deal with your inherited home, and, if necessary, to let it go.

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Categories: Inheritance, Real Estate