Is Purchasing a Probate Property a Good Way to Buy?

This article by Online Ed makes some good points:

Why is Probate sometimes a good way to find property? The probate process involves the creation of an inventory of all assets of an estate, followed by the distribution of assets necessary to pay off all remaining debts the estate may owe. Often times the heirs to an estate will have to liquidate some of these assets in order to satisfy the debts and liabilities of the estate. Houses are frequently the largest repository of value in an estate and often need to be liquidated in order to settle the estate.

Even if the home doesn't need to be sold to cover liabilities, the heirs will frequently sell the property in order to distribute the proceeds to multiple individuals. If the property needs maintenance or repair before it can sold at fair market value, that usually means someone is going to have to invest time and money to make those repairs themselves or hire someone else to do so. All too often, it takes family members more time and money than was ever anticipated. If the heirs live some distance away, or in another part of the country, the process of renovating and preparing a house for sale becomes even more demanding. Faced with those options and the potential windfall of cash from an immediate sale, most people will opt to sell – and will be willing to do so at a substantial discount. Remember, holding on to a vacant house in order to realize a bit more profit is not without cost or risks. There’s insurance, utilities, yard maintenance, and the ever-present risk of break-in or vandalism.

In addition, the heirs to the estate may be willing to finance the property with very favorable terms in order to make the deal work. This is especially true if the property has no mortgage and is owned free and clear.

In Long Beach, since 2009, out of all 1-4 unit residential properties, there are currently a total of 74 properties in the probate category that are active, in escrow, or sold, in the SoCalMLS. Considering that since 1/1/2009, in the same 1-4 unit category, there were 3505 properties sold in Long Beach, per the MLS, the probate properties are thus a small category of property. But then why should the buyer be concerned about these? Because it may pay to be prepared, just as it pays to be prepared for a short sale, an REO bid, a property under a timeline because it has a notice of default on it and may soon go into bankruptcy, and other categories which may require court approval, or even auction.

And, in some areas, it may be best to assume that a strong market price will be negotiated (many heirs study area sales too) , but the opportunity for the buyer may be that other buyers may choose to not buy a fixer, or take an as-is sale with no repairs by the seller.

It pays to know what you the buyer might be capable of doing in this market.

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