This single family home in Alum Rock San Jose was an off-market sale. In other words, it was not listed on the Multiple Listing Service (“MLS”) as a means of procuring a buyer.
Out of State Administrator
I was contacted by the administrator of the estate in June 2015. The administrator, who lived out of state, indicated that the house had fire damage and had been vacant for some time. The administrator wanted to know if it was the kind of probate property I would be able to help her with.
The following day I went to the property, took some photos and sent them to the administrator. The home was still boarded up from the fire, which meant I could not access the inside of the home.
The administrator had been talking with several people who were interested in buying the property prior to contacting me.
The option to list the property on the Multiple Listing Service was least attractive to the administrator because of the safety issues. The weeds were at least 2 feet high. The owner, the decedent, had left two of her vehicles parked in front of the property. There was also an empty pool in the backyard.
The administrator and I were both very concerned about people accessing the property, or attempting to access the property if the property were listed on the open market for sale. Safety and liability issues were top of mind.
For those and other reasons, an off-market sale was most attractive to the administrator. Therefore that is the route that was taken.
Compassion Versus Begging
The administrator informed me that she was contacted by a total of seven real estate agents who called and emailed her begging for the listing. One of the agents was working through the probate attorney’s office. That agent sent a listing agreement, and an offer to purchase the property to the administrator and the probate attorney. This agent was relentless and demonstrated an extreme lack of professionalism. There is little wonder why the real estate industry has such a negative reputation. Hounding people and begging for business is certainly not an admirable quality. I certainly would not want to do business with anyone who just will not stop calling and begging for my business.
I feel strongly that the one thing all of the agents were missing in their approach to soliciting the administrator’s business is compassion and understanding. The administrator not only lived out of state making managing the probate estate more challenging, but she was also dealing with emotions of grief and sadness over the loss of her mother. It was clear from many discussions with the administrator that other agents simply did not care. They only cared about getting the listing. Their approach was not appreciated.
Probate real estate sales may be very similar in many ways to a non-probate sale from a transaction perspective, yet they are typically vastly different because the personal representative (administrator or executor) are also dealing with emotions from loss, as well as managing their own life affairs.
Feelings of overwhelm are common. Any real estate agent who has ever dealt with the death of a parent, sibling, or other close family member or friend knows that working with probate sales requires patience, kindness, understanding, and compassion. Those I have helped in real estate certainly appreciate those qualities in me.
A probate home is not a slab of beef to put up for sale. The condition of the home is an issue that will impact value. Agents need to understand that the decedent was someone’s mother, father, sister, brother, uncle, aunt … a relative or dear friend. The personal representative is dealing with their own emotions from loss as well as the emotions of their relatives and friends.
The Probate Sales Process
Once the administrator decided to move forward with the sale, all of the listing paperwork and disclosures were prepared and a probate purchase agreement was fully ratified on November 17, 2015. All of the required and necessary paperwork was completed and sent to the local MLS compliance department. When a listing is taken and not placed on the MLS within a specified period of time, real estate agents are required to send the MLS exclusion form to the compliance department.
The attorney was provided a copy of the purchase agreement the same day. I asked that the attorney responds with her time frame for sending out the notice of sale and that she confirm that she send a certified copy of the Letters of Administration to the title company. I requested that the certified copy of the Letters of Administration on November 13, 2015. [Queue sounds of crickets]
To say that the probate attorney was less than responsive would be a gross understatement. She was not only unresponsive to me; she was unresponsive to the administrator as well. Working with blinders on is not my style yet I must work collaboratively as a team and find a way to manage the hand that is dealt. If it were up to me to fold and draw a new attorney, I certainly would have done so in this case.
Emails and voice messages to the probate attorney were seemingly going to a black hole. There were issues that needed to be cleared up by the administrator, the escrow officer and me. While we communicated our status to the attorney, communications were one-way. More Crickets. I share this because I believe it is important to understand that, just like real estate agents, all probate attorneys are not created equal. The level of professionalism and quality of service provided varies among attorneys. Prior to becoming a real estate broker, I worked as a probate and estate planning paralegal for a couple of top San Jose Law Firms. Having worked both sides … I know the difference!
One important component in any real estate transaction is setting expectations. The administrator accepted a very clean offer which came with a healthy deposit and no contingencies. The buyer had actually “walked” the property with the administrator several months before it was listed. The buyer made the offer eyes wide open and knew full well what they were getting into. The buyer was chosen by the administrator. The listing agent did not procure the buyer. The listing agent did not represent the buyer. We required the buyer to have their own representation.
There were many things about this probate sale that provided me the opportunity to learn new things and provide a level of service that went above and beyond the call of duty. I spent several hours making calls to towing companies to remove two vehicles owned by the decedent. There were no keys and no title to the vehicles. We finally found a company that would remove the vehicles via the lien sale process.
The Lien Sale Process
This is a legal process. The lien sale process involved me getting many documents signed by the Administrator and meeting the towing company at the property. It took nearly 4 hours to complete getting the vehicles off the property so that we could close escrow.
We closed escrow on December 11, 2015, right on schedule pursuant to the terms of the probate purchase agreement.
About the Home: The home had 3 bedrooms, 1.5 bathrooms, 1,180 square feet, and consisted of two parcels. The structure resided upon 6,098 square feet of land. The second parcel consisted of 3,048 square feet making the total lot size 9,147 square feet. The home was 60 years old. The original structure was built in 1955.
- In the end, the administrator was happy with me and the services I provided.
- The buyers were happy.
- The buyers’ agent was happy.
- I am happy to have had the opportunity to be of service and help the administrator get the probate home in San Jose sold.
Forever Thankful Kathleen Daniels Was My Realtor
“As I have said, words cannot convey the gratitude and appreciation I feel for your strong, professional and ceaseless efforts in solving problems.” The administrator of the Estate
About the Probate Agent: I am able to provide the level and quality of service I provide because I own and manage a boutique brokerage in San Jose. I prefer to truly serve people versus grinding out a large volume of sales. I believe that all sellers deserve the time, care, dedication and attention I give to all of my clients.
If you are in need of help with selling a property in probate, and you believe you deserve an agent who will dedicate all the time, care, and attention necessary to get the job done in a timely fashion, then perhaps we need to talk.
My name is Kathleen Daniels, Independent San Jose Real Estate Broker, and Certified Probate Real Estate Specialist.
Call 1-408-972-1822 or contact me on Need Probate Help to schedule a consultation.