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The First 5 Things to Do When You Inherit a Home

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You may already know that you are going to inherit a home (like the house your parents live in), or the inheritance may come as a complete surprise to you (like learning that a distant relative named you as the heir to their home). Either way, there are a lot of things to do when you officially take over someone else’s property.

To help you through the process, following these five steps as soon as you inherit a home.

#1) Identify the Roles of Your Family Members

It is possible that you may not be the sole inheritor of the home. You may have inherited the home with your siblings or other family members. If this is the case, decide what role each person will play in the inheritance.

It is often best to identify one person to take over the deed and step in to handle the sale. This person will be the leader, but each family member has a say.

This is also when you decide whether you will sell the house, use it for rental income, or live in it. If one person decides to live in it, they may need to buy it from the other inheritors.

#2) Transfer the Insurance and Utilities

It doesn’t matter whether you plan to sell the house as soon as you can or move into it within a few months, you need to make sure the house is still properly maintained and safe from potential threats.

Dig into the paperwork on the house and make sure you can continue making insurance payments and that the insurance is in your name. If something happens to the house, you don’t want to lose your investment.

Repeat this process for utilities like electricity and water. You can also cancel utilities that you don’t need. If the house is vacant, then you likely won’t need high-speed internet or an extensive cable plan.

Once you have the main utilities taken care of, consider the other monthly expenses. You will need to turn to optional additional expenses. For example, check to see if the house has a weekly lawn care service or a pool service. If you cannot maintain the house on your own and intend to sell, you will want to keep these services. Few things kill curb appeal more than an overgrown yard (or a green pool in the backyard).

When you inherit a home, you also inherit the mortgage, fees, and bills. This is why many people choose to sell their inherited house even if it contains important memories.

#3) Clear Out the Items Inside

If the passing of your friend or relative was unexpected, then you may have a house full of items, mementos, and decorations that you need to move before you can list it. Unlike selling a traditional house, there is no second location where you can take the items to.

Fortunately, there is a set process that you can follow to strip down everything inside:

  1. Invite close relatives over to claim anything they want that was not included in the will. Some relatives will want sentimental items (like old shirts or photo albums) while others may need the furniture or want to pick up the computer or TV. You can also invite some family friends over as well.
  2. Set up an estate sale to sell the items in the house. There are professionals who will help you sort through the items (or at least show you how) and market your home to bring in shoppers. This is a great way to get rid of the majority of your items over the course of a weekend, and maybe even make a little money.
  3. Set up donation pick-up for large items that no one claimed or bought. This includes items like couches, beds, and tables. Smaller items can get bagged and donated to secondhand stores. Some items may need to be thrown out.

The longer you wait, the more laborious this process will get. It is better to clear out the house now instead of dredging up painful memories a few months down the road.

#4) Decide What You Can Invest in Improvement Projects

The input of your family members and other inheritors is also important for determining what you need to upgrade. You may need to take certain steps to prepare the home for market before you can sell it. For example, the house may need a new roof or the carpet may need to be replaced.

Hire a real estate agent to look at the house and evaluate where you should spend the most on a home renovation. You can also have the home inspected to see if there would be any barriers to sell. Once you have an idea for the cost of the house before you can list it, you can decide who is paying for the upgrades and how this will affect the sale.

#5) Work With a Professional Agent When You Inherit a Home

The final step when you inherit a home that you want to sell is to hire a real estate professional who can list, market, and sell your space. Some Realtors® specialize in selling inherited homes and can get the job done without much involvement from you or your family. Working with an experienced professional will be especially helpful if you inherit a house a distance from your home and you’re trying to sell the house out-of-state.

To find a Realtor® with the experience and expertise you need, use Effective Agents. Use our search feature to specify that you are looking for someone who can help with inherited property and/or an agent that specializes in a certain city or state and we’ll help you find the best person for the job.


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