Selling guide

Selling your parents' home as an estate sale

Getting the home ready for sale can take longer, but it’s important to do well.

Last updated: 2 May 2023

Getting the home ready for sale can be a lot of work and it’s good to take advice on what to prioritise.

What you’ll learn:

  • Take care to appoint a good property lawyer and real estate agent.
  • Popular marketing terms used with homes of deceased owners.
  • A deceased estate sale is seen as a home that has to be sold.
  • Deceased sale homes are often do-ups.
  • It’s better to spend money on marketing than painting the home.

One of the responsibilities that often comes after losing a parent is selling their home. Often you’ll share this with siblings who may be in another city or country. So it’s important to have a good team of advisers – a lawyer and a real estate agent doing the mahi on the ground and communicating with the family, keeping everyone in the loop.

How much to spend on getting the home ready for sale

Barfoot & Thompson agent, Alan Vessey is experienced in estate sales and called in to appraise them regularly. Sellers should have all the probate done and all the paperwork up to date before bringing the home to the market. And they should enlist the help of a good lawyer, someone who is objective about the sale, he advises.

A good agent will make sure the family are communicated with, daily ideally, wherever they are, says Alan. You become a team with the sellers, and there needs to be trust there.

With your agent, you’ll get a Land Information Memorandum (LIM) from the council and a building report so you’re “ahead of the race,” he suggests.

The Barfoot’s agent often finds that deceased estates will have the odd task left undone or some kind of complication. One he’s worked on recently had a conservatory that didn’t have a council code certificate (CCC) on the addition. He discovered this on the Land Information Memorandum (LIM) and organised the CCC before bringing the home to the market.

Families will often agonise over how much to spend on doing up the home before putting it up for sale. Alan’s advice is to clean the windows. The paint you choose may be the wrong colour for buyers, and it takes time to get quotes and book tradespeople in to do the work, he says.

“I’d be inclined to spend the money on marketing, not on the paint. If I had $5000 I’d spent it on marketing and you’ll have more people coming across the door,” says Alan.

If so, for some cultures, they might want to do a blessing at the house or to address that in some way, says Kathryn.

6 Fearon Ave, Mount Roskill, Auckland

Estate sale genuinely up for sale

For Ray White Mt Eden agent, John Covich, if he were looking to buy, he’d always look at an estate sale, he says.

As an agent, when he has agreement from the family, John likes to have the fact it’s an estate sale front and centre in the marketing.

“My view is if the vendors are happy, it just says to a buyer it’s definitely up for sale, the vendor is not playing with the market, it attracts attention and it’s very genuine,” says John.

“It’s a genuine property for sale, it’s not a flick that someone has fixed up,” he adds.

“Estate sale” label creates sense of urgency

Bayleys Takapuna agent Kathryn Robertson has worked on a number of estate sales or deceased estate sales in her career and each one is different, she says. From an agent’s point of view, it can take longer to get the house ready, she finds, but it’s important to do it well.

If the family is comfortable with it, her advice is that it’s definitely worth mentioning that it’s an estate sale in the Trade Me Property listing. It adds to the momentum around selling the property.

“When people see the home is a deceased estate, they see that this vendor is not testing the market. They’re definitely selling, they know they have to sell, so it creates a sense of urgency,” says Kathryn.

“You’re telling the market it has to be sold, that there’s no taking it off the market and renting it, there’s no, “not selling it”. And the market will step up,” says the Bayleys agent.

One of the first things buyers will want to know is whether the owner passed away in the house? So it’s good to have that answer ready to go, she says.

If so, for some cultures, they might want to do a blessing at the house or to address that in some way, says Kathryn.

Deceased estate means clear instructions to sell

For a lot of buyers, estate sales can seem more straightforward, says the Harcourts Cooper & Co agent, Phil Mitchell.

With many home sales, buyers ask him, what does the vendor want? With an estate, the estate wants the house sold and while he’ll get as much as he can get for the party, there’s never any vendor price expectation to deal with, says Phil.

“This is a property that will be sold,” he adds.

An important piece of advice when selling your family home

Lastly, another useful piece of advice from Bayleys’ Kathryn Robertson. If you don’t know the home that well and you are a beneficiary of the property, the agent says it can be an idea to put a “what you see, is what you get” clause in the sale and purchase contract.

You may not be able to give the same clarity as your loved one would have about the history of the house and any issues over the years, explains Kathryn. Normally, there’s a vendor warranty or warranties, but a clause saying in effect: “If you buy it today, we know as much as we know and we haven’t lived here ourselves,” will protect you. If you don’t include this clause, as an executor of the estate, you’ll be liable, she says.


Gill South
Gill South