To sell or not to sell – what to do when you inherit property

Deciding whether or not to sell a property you’ve inherited can be one of the most difficult and mentally draining things you can do.
For one thing there is the emotional element of coming to terms with the loss of a relative or friend and dealing with the grief which can hit you when you least expect it. This can be compounded if the property in question is a much-loved family home.
Then there is the practical side of things such as getting to grips with all the paperwork, the legal responsibilities such as applying for probate and other financial and administration matters.
Sadly, sorting out an estate is not always an easy or straightforward process and can take time, which can add to the feelings of grief and stress. Getting a good solicitor to help and guide you through the various stages can be invaluable as it takes some of the emotion out of the process.
But before you put the house on the market, the first thing to do is consult the will, find out who the executor(s) and beneficiary(ies) are and apply for probate.
Probate allows the executor the legal authority to act on behalf of the person who has died. As part of this you will need to get the property and its contents valued and then submit the valuation to HMRC.
Your solicitor, if you choose to use one, will also be able to advise on any inheritance tax liability which is deducted on estates of more than £325,000. There are some variations on this depending on the circumstances and it is possible not to have to pay any inheritance tax on estates worth up to £1million but it is worth seeking professional advice on this. Bear in mind any inheritance tax owed must be paid within six months of the person’s death or HMRC will charge interest.
There may also be a capital gains tax liability if the property in question is not your main residence and you do decide to sell it.
Also worth checking is whether or not the mortgage has been paid off. If it hasn’t, it is advisable to find out who the lender is and speak to them to explain the situation.
If you do decide to sell, be aware the sale can’t and won’t go through until probate is granted. This could take up to a year although this is subject to the size and complexity of the estate.
However, once you have made a decision there are things you can and should do ahead of putting the property on the market.
Clearing the furniture and possessions is the first step although that in itself can be emotional. It may be easier to get a house clearance company in to help, particularly if the property in question is a long way away, or if you are struggling to get rid of things. Otherwise, you may wish to donate to charity, sell or keep some or all of the items.
As with selling in general, making an inherited property look as appealing as possible to buyers is paramount. So once the place has been cleared of furniture and other possessions, give it a good clean – get a professional cleaning company in if necessary – repair anything that needs doing, clean and polish the windows, and if there is a garden, make sure trees and shrubs are cut back, the lawn is mowed and borders rid of weeds.
If you are looking for a quick sale it doesn’t pay to spend too much money on potentially unnecessary upgrades such as putting in a new kitchen or bathroom as buyers may want to do that themselves.
However, replacing old, worn carpets with new ones or even wooden floorboards can make a big difference. So too can getting rid of dated wallpaper and giving the walls a lick of paint instead,  keeping the colour palate neutral.
It’s also a good idea to get a surveyor in to do a full structural survey so any potential issues are flagged up and addressed before you put the property on the market. This has the added benefit of giving you an idea of costs involved for work that may need to be done and an idea of a realistic sale price.
Finally get a reputable estate agent such as Sheldon Bosley Knight to advise on how to market your property successfully.
We offer free, no obligation quotes, and our team is well placed to offer help and advice on all aspects of the selling process.