The Emotional Side to An Inherited Home



By Ron Wynn


As a real estate professional with over 30 years of experience and as a top agent in the country, you would think I’ve got it down to a science. That might be very possible if I was dealing with computers, robots or machines, but when dealing with people, emotions, memories, resentment, jealousy, anger, sadness, denial, control issues, power, regret, and expectations can easily be the wild card that is least predictable.

It might be very easy to jump to a conclusion that the adult children, selling a recently inherited property and holding out for top dollar are ridiculously greedy, especially thinking the proceeds of the sale are a pure, non-taxable gift which comes without any effort. I consider this conclusion to be pure ignorance. Although that may look to be the case on the surface, such a conclusion is so knee-jerk, under-researched and short sided.

Imagine as was a recent case I handled, it was the family home inherited by 3 sisters and a brother. Here are the facts behind what is seen on the surface. The home was purchased in 1959 by the hard-working immigrant parents who struggled and sacrificed to put together a minimal down payment while the seller gave them a high-interest rate, second trust deed which they paid off after 3 years. The children each came along a year apart. Both mom and dad worked two jobs, each just to make ends meet. The parents continued to sacrifice for years, forgoing vacations and dinners to send all four children to college teaching all of them the importance of family, core values, integrity, and a good education.

Most of all they taught by example, teaching the importance of love, caring and being there for one another. Later, grandchildren came along, and the home became “the rock” for family dinners, Thanksgiving and even two wedding receptions. The grandchildren know this place to be Nana’s and Grandpa’s home where there was always holiday festivities, love, laughter, great home-cooked meals, and good spirit.

As the grandparents grew old, first grandpa became ill and always with a positive attitude and good spirit passed away four years ago. Then several months ago grandma passed away after first being cared for by two of the local children on a daily basis for nearly two years, while her incurable illness sadly progressed. It was the grandparent’s wish to have the home stay in the family, but by now each of the children had their own homes and none of them were really interested in becoming a landlord. After much debate, prayer, and consideration, a decision was made to sell the home.

Making the decision took nearly three months, and even then, there were feelings of uncertainty and concerns about the parent’s wishes. Would mom and dad be disappointed? Would they wish we kept the house for one of the grandkids? Which grandchild should we keep the house for? How would the other grandchildren feel?

So now the real reason I wrote this story.

The escrow has now closed and the transaction was a success, but not without much emotional tension and very very significant price negotiation. When the cooperating agent became pushy and borderline condescending, implying that the seller was greedy and being intentionally inconsistent to the offer agreement deadlines and timelines imposed by the buyer, I reminded the agent to be professional and open-minded in his conclusions of the sellers and the overall sequences of the negotiating process as seen through his very basic considerations of fact, minus emotions.

This is truly an example of human behavior and the importance of totally understanding a family that has much reason to be respectful and considerate to the foundation of their existence, and roots from where their families all began.

I hope when you are a buyer you will look far beyond what you may define as greed, understanding the emotions of letting go and answering to the ghost voices of a deceased family member, and when you are a seller, that you will hire a real estate professional who will support your emotions, your actions, and your ultimate decisions.

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The Emotional Side to An Inherited Home