death and real estateWhen a parent, spouse or loved one dies and he or she owned a home, there’s a lot for the survivors to do in addition to the very real and painful process of mourning.  I have been through this with my own parents (and their house in Saratoga), a great aunt in Willow Glen and many clients in San Jose, Los Gatos and elsewhere in Silicon Valley.

Where to begin?  in terms of settling the estate, it is wise to first speak with an attorney and tax professional about the property (will, trust etc. if applicable) and what they advise and require to help in doing what is required and adviseable. (I have some wonderful people I can suggest if you would like a referral.)  They will try to help you to legally minimize capital gains and estate taxes and can advise you on topics such as when might be the best time to sell vis a vis the tax liability.  This is extremely important and it can be very expensive to not take into account their guidance on this point, so I strongly recommend that you or other beneficiaries discuss everything with the attorney or accountant prior to electing whether the home will be sold, rented etc. in the short term.

How can a real estate professional help?

Most often, something you’ll need for the lawyer and CPA or other tax professional is a valuation of the home as of the date of death (whether or not there is a surviving spouse or co-owner).  You can obtain this by hiring a licensed residential real estate appraiser who will do an appraisal for you.  Alternatively, you may be able to engage a real estate licensee (salesperson) to do a competitive market analysis or comparative market analysis (CMA), which would provide the probable buyer’s value for the property.     

Sooner is better: Please don’t wait too long to request the valuation be done.  The task of establishing the home’s value at the time of death is most easily done if not too much time has elapsed, both because it can be hard to recall market conditions years later and also because the data needed can be more challenging to obtain.  Our multiple listing service or MLS only keeps info online for about 10 years.  At times, though, I’ve been asked to reconstruct the likely pricing or value going back much further.  Last year I did one going into the 80s!  That required driving out to the MLS offices in Sunnyvale and culling through old books of sales records – which were extremely minimal, one line statements with only the address, square footage, beds, baths and price listed.  With so little usable information, the valuation is limited in its accuracy and takes an inordinate amount of time to accomplish.

Additionally, in some cases your lawyer or CPA may suggest that you sell the house in the same calendar year in which the death has happened for tax reasons.  If you wait to address any of these issues until a lot of time has passed, some windows may be closed.

Other odds and ends on death and dying & real estate:

In addition to needing the appraisal or market value of the property at the time of death, your accountant or attorney will probably also ask for information ore receipts needed to establish the “basis” of the property (if not now, then when it is transferred, most likely – it depends upon when the home was purchased). The basis is what the homeowner has put into or invested into the house or home. For instance, if points were paid on the loan at the time of purchase, that is part of the basis.  So too would be important capital improvements.

If your mother, father or loved one kept the papers and costs from the time of purchasing the property and from major expenses (remodeling, house expansion, re-roofing etc.), this will help immensely. It can be time-consuming to have to dig through years of paperwork but it may end up saving the estate and its beneficiaries a lot of money in the long run.

On a related note, I have at times been approached by someone who is dying and who wishes to sell so as not to leave that task to a wife, husband, or others.  Depending on the circumstances (though not always), an attorney or tax expert may suggest not doing this due to the impact of taxes being different before and after death.  In some cases, it can be enormous.  I have at times talked myself right out of a listing by strongly advising my clients to see a tax person prior to signing a listing agreement when this was the situation.

It is very difficult, when a death of a mother, father, spouse or other close loved one has died to turn toward the business aspects of settling the estate.  I know this firsthand. Waiting to see legal, tax and realty professionals will tend to complicate things, though, so I suggest arranging appointments within a few weeks of the loved one’s passing if at all possible.

For further reading on working with tax and legal professionals:

Why Good Realtors Refer Buyers and Sellers to Lawyers and Tax Professionals for Some Questions

  1. 5 beds, 3 baths
    Home size: 2,711 sq ft
    Lot size: 12,858 sqft
  2. 3 beds, 3 baths
    Home size: 2,137 sq ft
    Lot size: 12,205 sqft
  3. 5 beds, 5 baths
    Home size: 6,000 sq ft
    Lot size: 5.77 ac
  4. 4 beds, 3 baths
    Home size: 2,210 sq ft
    Lot size: 12,758 sqft
  5. 4 beds, 3 baths
    Home size: 2,438 sq ft
    Lot size: 16,600 sqft
  6. 4 beds, 3 baths
    Home size: 2,363 sq ft
    Lot size: 8,572 sqft
  7. 5 beds, 4 baths
    Home size: 3,248 sq ft
    Lot size: 15,028 sqft
  8. 2 beds, 3 baths
    Home size: 1,511 sq ft
    Lot size: 766 sqft
  9. 4 beds, 3 baths
    Home size: 2,600 sq ft
    Lot size: 12,501 sqft
  10. 4 beds, 4 baths
    Home size: 3,479 sq ft
    Lot size: 23,470 sqft

See all Real estate in the city of Saratoga.
(all data current as of 4/22/2018)

Listing information deemed reliable but not guaranteed. Read full disclaimer.


by Transposh - translation plugin for wordpress
Mary Pope-Handy
Sereno Group Real Estate
214 Los Gatos-Saratoga Rd
Los Gatos, CA 95030
408 204-7673
Mary (at)
License# 01153805

Selling homes in
Silicon Valley:
Santa Clara County,
San Mateo County, and
Santa Cruz County.
Special focus on:
San Jose, Los Gatos,
Saratoga, Campbell,
Almaden Valley,
Cambrian Park.
Let’s Connect
Find Mary on FacebookFollow Mary on Twitter
RSS FeedFollow Mary on YouTube

Please see more icons
at the bottom of the page.

The real estate search
Use the widget below to browse properties which are for sale, under contract (pending) or sold. Want to view only homes which are available now? Use the "find a home" link on the menu above (next to the "home" button).
Mary’s other sites & blogs
Valley Of Hearts Delight
Santa Clara County Real Estate,
with an interest in history
Silicon Valley relocation info
Silicon Valley real estate,
focus on home selling

Silicon Valley Real Estate Report
Silicon Valley real estate
market trends & statistics
Mary’s Blog Awards
Top 25 real estate blogs of 2018 by RentPrep2018's list of top 25 real estate blogs to follow

Top 25 real estate blogs 2016
2016: Personal Income's list of top 25 real estate blogs.

Best Realtor blog award
2016: Coastal Group OC's list of best Realtor blogs

The 2009 Sellsius list of top 12 women real estate bloggers
2009: Sellsius list of top
12 women real estate bloggers

Mary Pope-Handy's Live in Los Gatos blog won the 2007 Project Blogger contest, sponsored by Inman News and Active Rain

2007: Mary Pope-Handy and Frances Flynn Thorsen win the Project Blogger Contest for Mary's Live in Los Gatos blog. The contest was sponsored by
Active Rain and Inman News.

Non blog award

Best real estate agent in Silicon Valley from the San Jose Mercury News poll of readers in 2011
"Best real estate agent
in Silicon Valley"

2011 readers' poll,
San Jose Mercury News

Site Statistics
  • Users online: 3 
  • Visitors today : 1,753
  • Page views today : 7,168