4 Questions to Ask a Probate Realtor Before Hiring Them

If you're an executor of someone's estate, or you've been tasked with the responsibility of selling a decedent's home, one of the first steps will be finding a real estate agent who can handle the process with care and integrity. But you don't want to hire just anyone; you need someone who understands the delicate process involved. Here are four great questions to ask a probate realtor before hiring them for the job.

Have you dealt with probate real estate before?

Selling a home through probate differs greatly from that of a traditional sale. The courts oversee the process, deadlines must be met, and there are special rules to follow. So asking a realtor if they have experience in selling and marketing probate real estate should be the very first thing you ask.   

How much experience do you have?

Because homes that are sold through probate can become complicated, you want to find someone who has plenty of experience. There aren't any hard and fast rules regarding how many transactions they should have under their belt, but the longer they've been doing it, the better they will be at negotiating and working hard on your behalf.

How does this differ from a regular home sale?

How a real-estate agent answers this question will generally let you know just how knowledgeable they are. Here are some examples of answers they should be able to provide.

First of all, the list price is based on the agent's professional suggestion, but the court will usually order an appraisal of the home, and that will be factored in as well.

Second, when a buyer makes an offer, they will be required to put 10 percent down, and their offer will need to be approved by the court. The way this typically works is the person representing the estate will get the help of a probate attorney to petition the court, asking it to approve the sale. From there, the court will decide on a "sale date." This is usually about 30–45 days later.

Every state is a little different, but at this point the court will usually require the property to be marketed continually before the sale date with the approved offer as the list price. On the day of the sale, the person who made the offer, plus any additional parties who are interested in buying the property, must show up for court. The home is then sold auction style, with the opening bid being the original offer made.

Other people might show up to bid on the home, but if they don't, the home goes to the person who made the original offer. At that time the buyer should be prepared to put 10 percent down.

Some caveats to be aware of include the possibility of the deposit being non-refundable as well as the fact that because the original owner is deceased, there's no way of knowing for sure what repairs were done on the home, if any. Most of the time, an inspection can reveal anything major, and that is why paying for an inspection before making an offer is so important with probate properties.

What sets you apart from other agents?

A good probate real-estate agent should be able to list their strengths and why they are better suited than their competition. Because of the paperwork involved, all the special disclosures required, and the need for a unique marketing strategy, you want an agent that is intimately familiar with these things, more so than other realtors. They should be familiar with the protocols and procedures and have a good relationship with other probate professionals like attorneys, paralegals, and court personnel. You also want someone who is assertive and confident, has a history of happy clients, and an excellent team of professionals assisting them.

Lastly, don't be afraid to ask for references as well as examples of how they plan to market the property. These are things that will give you the confidence you need to hire them.