Boston condos: Where do I begin?
Underneath the plains of Romania lies a cave that has been sealed off from the rest of the world for 5.5 million years. According to the BBC, “While our ape-like ancestors were coming down from the trees and evolving into modern humans, the inhabitants of this cave were cut off from the rest of the planet.” Insects, spiders, fungi and bacteria evolved separately in the low-oxygen environment, and scientists have discovered at least 33 species that exist nowhere else on earth!
Before a house becomes a “property” listed on the real estate market, it’s somebody’s home. And some of these homes that our grandparents and sometime parents, for us old guys, live in have been, like Romania Cave, sealed off from the rest of the world for quite a long time.
In the life of a home, a couple of decades can be like a couple of million years — styles change, the lovable couch wears out and needs to be replaced. For the next generation, investigating and unravelling these homes’ mysteries can be a daunting task. Luckily, your real estate agent (that would be me) can be your headlamp and your oxygen mask as you explore options for selling a home that has been in the family for eons. Yes. you may even have to take down those Charlie Angels posters in your bedroom, in my case Stevie Nicks.
It’s no wonder some people stay in their Massachusetts homes for decades.
However, there comes a time in every family when we need to let go of a beloved home for a myriad of reasons. Maybe mom and dad are moving on to a retirement home or have passed away. You might be the one in the position of selling that house, or have simply been willed a home from a distant relative that you now need help dealing with. Where to begin?
If your folks are still living in the home but need to move out, they will need to be the ones to spearhead the home selling process. As much as you want to help, legally, it’s impossible to sell a home that’s not yours. It can be slow and frustrating, but working with a skilled real estate agent, you and your family members can help your aging parents get the home ready for sale and put it on the market.
If your parents or other relatives left a home behind, the transition can be difficult. Before you call your Realtor to get a price estimate on the home, make sure you and any others who were willed parts of the estate are on the same page. The house may be yours, but what about the things in it? A legal professional, a licensed attorney, versed in both real estate and estate law should be the first person you call.
We also have a few resources we’ve written on this site and collected them here for you to browse:
When can you sell a home in Probate?
(Often it is possible to sell before Probate is fully closed.)
What is a transfer on death deed in real estate?
(In case this has been attached to the home.)
How can you get a Date of Death Value?
(Often needed for tax purposes.)
Once you have legal approval to sell the home, it’s time to take a deep breath. Recognize that the task ahead is no small challenge and that you’re going to need some help to get though it. We have relationships with our homes just as we do with people. Even if it’s not the home you grew up in, the fact that your loved ones might have lived there for a long time makes it difficult to detach from the process.
If you and your parents are planning for the future, the best thing you can encourage them to do is downsize their belongings now. It can be tough, but reminding them that it will make things less difficult for you down the road, both at an emotional and a logistical level, might be a good motivator. If they have a large estate, be sure they have spelled out in their will or living trust who gets what. Yes, it’s uncomfortable to talk about, but trust me — it will save conflict and headaches among those they leave behind.
Despite your best efforts, you still may be left with a lot of work to do when that day comes. Fortunately, downtown Boston is chock-full of folks who actually enjoy the process of going through people’s stuff, sorting out the valuables, and finding new homes for everything. We have lots of good Boston Beacon Hill estate sale company recommendations. A good estate lawyer can help you figure out whether it makes sense to call in all the relatives and let them pick through first. Your trash may be someone else’s treasure.
And if you find any new and interesting looking insects, it’s probably best to call a biologist from the Romania Cave area!
Now you have a spare home to deal with. From here, most Back Bay or Beacon Hill real estate agents will advise you not to get carried away with improvements and remodels. Most Boston condo buyers will want to put their own touches on the home, and the most important thing is that the house be functional, bright and freshened up. Repaint the interior, refinish the floors, and get the front yard looking spic and span. We’ve got a whole category of this site dedicated to research articles on remodeling to improve home value. Sometimes it can make sense, often it doesn’t.
The best return on a financeable home is always de-cluttering and cleaning. Painting and changing big cosmetics items (like carpets) follows as a close second. Typically major remodeling and repairs do not give you a good (or any) return on investment. For example, if there are major items that need upgrading or replacing — like the roof, HVAC system or all of the windows — you might just want to take the hit on the sales price.
Experience counts, especially in transactions that can be complicated, have multiple interested parties, and involve homes that may not be in the best of shape. Licensed since 1999, I’ve sold countless inherited homes, helping guide the involved parties from start to finish. I’d love to hear your story today. Please give my office a call or text at 617-595-3712.