Selling an Inherited Home in the Bay Area

Last Will and Testament California

Inheriting a property can be a bittersweet affair. While it may potentially translate into a significant financial windfall, it also comes with a myriad of responsibilities and potential complications. This guide aims to provide you with a comprehensive understanding of what you can expect when selling an inherited house in the Bay Area.

Understanding Inherited Property

Inheriting a house in the Bay Area can come about through various means – a will, a trust, or as a result of state intestacy laws when someone dies without a valid will. Each avenue carries its unique implications and processes.

Inheriting a House Through a Will

A will is a legal document that outlines the deceased’s wishes regarding the distribution of their assets, including real estate. If a house in the Bay Area is willed to you, you have the absolute right to keep it as your own, rent it, or sell it (provided that the will is not contested).

Inheriting a House Through a Trust

A trust is a legal entity designed to hold assets on behalf of beneficiaries. The most common type of trust used in estate planning is a revocable living trust. When a house is placed in a trust, the probate process can be bypassed, and the house can be passed directly to the beneficiary upon the trust maker’s death. Putting a home into such a trust is a very important part of the estate planning process, as it greatly simplifies and streamlines selling your inherited Bay Area home.

In California, when a person dies without a will (intestate), the process of intestate succession determines how their property is distributed. This process is governed by California’s intestate succession laws, primarily found in the California Probate Code. The property of the deceased, known as the decedent, is usually distributed to the closest relatives, starting with the spouse and children. If there are no direct descendants, the property may go to parents, siblings, nieces, nephews, or other relatives. The probate court oversees the entire process, which begins by appointing an administrator to manage the estate. This administrator is responsible for identifying and inventorying the decedent’s property, paying debts and taxes, and finally distributing the remaining property according to the laws of intestate succession.

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The Probate Process

Probate is a legal process that validates a deceased person’s will, settles any outstanding debts, and distributes assets to the rightful heirs. In California, probate is typically required for estates with a total value of more than $166,250. This process, although necessary, can be time-consuming and complicated, taking anywhere from 12 to 18 months.

Inheriting a House: Emotional and Financial Implications

Inheriting a house in the Bay Area can be an emotionally overwhelming experience, especially when it comes with memories of loved ones. On top of the emotional aspects, there are also financial implications to consider. These may include ongoing maintenance costs, property taxes, insurance, and potential repairs or renovations.

Options for Selling an Inherited House

Once you have decided to sell the inherited Bay Area house, you have several options:

Traditional Estate Agent

Working with a real estate agent who has considerable experience selling inherited properties comes with several advantages. The agent will guide you through the complex process of selling an inherited property and help you make the right decisions throughout the sales process.

For Sale by Owner (FSBO)

Selling your home yourself, referred to as For Sale by Owner (FSBO), gives you complete control over the sales process, allowing you to set the price and negotiate directly with potential buyers. However, this approach requires a substantial amount of time, effort, and expertise on your part.

Real Estate Investor

Selling your inherited house to a real estate investor for cash can be a quick and straightforward option. Real estate investors can speed up the process considerably, guide you through probate, and ensure that you get a fair cash offer on your property.

The Taxes and Legalities involved in Selling an Inherited Property

When selling an inherited house in California, various taxes and legalities need to be considered. These include transfer tax, property tax, and capital gains tax. Furthermore, if the house is still under a mortgage, you’ll need to decide how to handle this liability.

Property Appraisal and Home Staging Tips

To set a competitive price for your inherited property, obtaining a property appraisal is crucial. A professional appraiser will evaluate the property’s size, location, and condition to determine its fair market value. Staging the inherited house can also help create a positive first impression for potential buyers, ultimately leading to a faster sale and a higher selling price.

For Best Results

Working with Real Estate Agents

Working with a Bay Area real estate agent can be a safe option, as they are knowledgeable about market conditions and can guide you through the selling process. However, hiring an agent typically involves paying significant commissions and fees.

Selling a House Yourself

Selling your house yourself can save you the cost of agent commissions. You would need to handle tasks such as pricing the property accurately, creating effective marketing materials, coordinating showings, managing negotiations, and understanding the legal and contractual aspects of the sale.

Selling to Real Estate Investors

Selling to a real estate investor is a quick and efficient way to sell an inherited house. Real estate investors buy houses as they stand, which means that you won’t need to make repairs or tidy the place for showings.

Selling an Inherited House to Family Members

If you have siblings or other persons who stand to inherit part of the property, selling your share of inherited property to a sibling may be a good compromise. This approach generally makes reaching a mutually acceptable agreement worth the effort.

Documents Required for Selling Inherited Property

Selling an inherited house requires careful documentation regarding the transfer of ownership. Depending on how the inheritance comes to you, you will need to access specific documents, such as a living trust, transfer-on-death deed, mortgage records, death certificate, and a copy of the probated will.Ā  Gathering these documents may be time-consuming and in cases will prove to be impossible, meaning that some kind of court action(s) may be required before the property can be sold and the proceeds disbursed.


In conclusion, selling an inherited house in the Bay Area involves several steps. Understanding these steps can help you make informed decisions and navigate the process with ease. Whether you decide to sell the inherited property yourself, hire a real estate agent, or sell to a real estate investor, knowing your options can ensure a smoother and more profitable sale.

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About the Author
Seb Frey helps long-time Bay Area homeowners make their next move easily the next one yet. If you're looking for a minimum of hassle, maximum net cash on sale, and certain results, contact Seb today.