Top 5 Mistakes to Avoid When Selling Your Inherited Property

August 10, 2023

Inheriting a property can be a bittersweet experience, merging the emotional connection to a family home with the potential financial boon of its value. However, diving into the real estate market without adequate knowledge can lead to costly blunders. If you’re planning on selling your inherited property, it’s crucial to be wary of common pitfalls. Here are the top five mistakes to sidestep:

Not Understanding the Tax Implications:

Inheriting property is not as simple as receiving and then selling it for a profit. The process involves a complex web of tax considerations that, if overlooked, can significantly eat into your proceeds or even lead to legal issues. Here’s a more comprehensive breakdown:

    1. Capital Gains Tax:
      • Definition: Capital gains tax is levied on the profit you make from selling an asset that has appreciated in value since you inherited it.
      • Stepped-Up Basis: One significant benefit for inherited properties is the “stepped-up basis.” When you inherit a property, its basis (the reference point for appreciation) becomes the property’s fair market value at the date of the previous owner’s death, not when they originally purchased it. This means if you sell the property soon after inheriting it, the taxable gain might be minimal. For example, if a property was bought by your parents for $100,000, but worth $300,000 when you inherit it, your basis is the latter amount. If you then sell it for $310,000, you’re taxed only on the $10,000 gain.
    2. Estate Tax:
      • Definition: Estate tax, sometimes called “inheritance tax” or “death tax,” is a tax on the transfer of the estate of a deceased person. The tax is levied on the entire estate before distribution to heirs.
      • Exemptions: The federal government provides an exemption threshold, which means only estates above a certain value are taxable. As of my last update in 2021, the federal exemption is over $11 million for individuals and double for married couples, but this can change based on legislation. Many people will not need to worry about federal estate taxes, but it’s essential to be aware of current thresholds.
      • State Considerations: While the federal estate tax has a high exemption, individual states might have their estate or inheritance taxes with much lower thresholds. It’s essential to research your state’s regulations or consult with a tax advisor to understand potential liabilities.
    3. Income Tax:
      • Rental Income: If you rent out the inherited property before selling it, any rental income will be subject to income tax. It’s essential to report this income and any associated expenses.
      • Sale Proceeds: The money you receive from selling an inherited property isn’t considered “income,” so it’s not taxable as such. However, the capital gains derived from the sale are subject to taxation.
    4. Special Tax Considerations:
      • Holding Period: Inherited property is always considered long-term property for capital gains tax purposes, regardless of how long you actually own it. This means any gain from the sale is taxed at the generally favorable long-term capital gains rate.
      • Losses: If you sell the inherited property at a loss (below the stepped-up basis), it’s considered a deductible loss, which can be used to offset other capital gains.

Failing to Properly Assess the Property’s Condition:

Inherited homes, especially older ones, often bear the brunt of wear and tear. While it’s tempting to sell “as is” for convenience, doing so might lead to significant financial loss. An in-depth home inspection can unveil hidden issues—from faulty wiring to foundational damage. By addressing these concerns, either through repairs or by adjusting the price, you ensure that you get the best value for the property.

Setting an Unrealistic Price:

Emotional attachments can skew perceptions of a property’s worth. Unfortunately, the market is indifferent to sentiment. Overpricing deters potential buyers, causing prolonged listing periods, while underpricing leads to rapid sales at potential losses. Engaging with local real estate experts can offer valuable insights into current market trends, comparative property values, and help pinpoint a competitive listing price.

Neglecting Proper Legal Procedures:

The world of inherited real estate is a legal minefield. Multiple heirs might stake a claim, liens from unsettled debts could exist, or there might be lingering probate issues. Neglecting any legal facet can lead to transactional delays, disputes, or even lawsuits. To safeguard against such eventualities, always work with a seasoned attorney specializing in estates and property law. Their expertise ensures a legally sound sale, sparing you potential legal hassles.

Letting Emotions Dictate Decisions:

Selling a property imbued with memories can be emotionally taxing. It’s easy to make impulsive decisions in such a state—either clinging to the property for too long or rushing a sale to distance oneself. While it’s essential to respect and process these emotions, it’s equally vital to maintain objectivity. Engaging trusted professionals, from real estate agents to counselors, can help provide a balanced perspective, ensuring your emotional well-being doesn’t compromise the property’s financial potential.

Navigating the complexities of the real estate market, especially when it comes to selling an inherited house, can be a daunting experience. However, with the right insights and expertise, homeowners can simplify the process, ensuring that they maximize their returns while minimizing potential hassles. Choosing a trusted partner like DealHouse can be the difference between a smooth transaction and an overwhelming ordeal. With their industry knowledge and commitment to client satisfaction, DealHouse ensures that every inherited house sale is handled with professionalism, compassion, and efficiency.

Chris Chiarenza