Q: We are shopping for our first home and we’re wondering if there are any special qualifications for buying probate property. As first-time buyers, are we eligible?
A: Absolutely! Whether you’re looking for a condo or a cottage or a country estate, probate properties come in every shape and size. Here are a few important pointers:
- In addition to viewing homes in your ideal location, be willing to look at properties that are in places you might not have considered. You might be surprised at the options!
- Be aware that probate properties are offered for sale “as-is.” That means the sellers can clean up debris, but cannot repair or beautify the house in any way – not so much as a new coat of paint!
- Work with professional inspectors (at your own expense) to assure that you are confident you can manage any shortcomings with the property. You won’t be able to ask the seller to make repairs, but you will know what you’re facing if you are the successful bidder on the property.
- If you need the assistance of inspectors, probate attorneys or other professionals, your Realtor will be able to provide you with reliable referrals.
- Work with a lender to get advance approval for a loan if you need it. There are no contingencies on probate sales; in other words, you cannot delay the transaction while you shop for a loan. You have to know what you can afford and be ready to act.
- Even if there’s an offer pending, you may have a “second chance” on a probate purchase that requires court approval. After the seller has accepted an offer, other buyers are invited to overbid that original offer on the property. This overbidding is handled in court under very specific terms.
- Real estate contracts are binding. Read all documentation carefully. There are special disclosures regarding probate. Make sure you understand the terms of each document and ask questions if anything is unclear!
- Probate law varies by state. Be sure to work with a real estate agent who is experienced in the purchase and sale of real property through probate, knows the Probate Code and is familiar with court-confirmed transactions. You should be able to ask your real estate agent any question about the probate process and get an answer that you can understand.