According to the Holmes-Rahe Stress Inventory — used to calculate the impact of significant life events on an individual’s stress level — the death of a spouse stands alone among life’s challenges, even greater than a divorce and loved one’s health issues combined.
Are you or someone you know experiencing or anticipating the whirlwind of emotional, familial, and financial struggles such a tragedy spurs? If so, here’s a look at the three steps involved in deciding whether to sell a house after the death of a spouse.
Step 1: Be proactive
Going into any major life event unprepared dramatically increases its harm. While addressing issues of mortality is no one’s idea of a good time, being proactive about the subject is a vital step toward alleviating the pain and suffering of the surviving spouse in the event of a tragedy.
Financial planners are trained to guide couples through such a discussion to ensure their wishes about the estate are carried out as thoroughly as possible. AARP has a checklist that can help you prepare for the sorts of questions and documentation requests your planner will have.
Questions to ask yourself about the possibility of selling the house after your spouse has died include:
- What kind of lifestyle do you want? If the house feels too big, a move might be in order. If it’s located close to golf courses or hiking trails you frequent, you may feel more compelled to stay.
- How will a move affect your support system? Will you be able to sell the house and relocate somewhere closer to friends and family?
- Does your plan work financially? Depending on your financial situation, a move might be required.
If you’re coming to this situation after a spouse passes, your proactive focus merely changes from decisions made alongside your spouse to decisions made alongside those closest to you: children, siblings, and friends. Don’t be afraid to communicate what you need from them. Getting feedback from loved ones, especially adult children who may play a role in the care of the surviving parent, can help you make decisions with which you are comfortable.
After her spouse died, one HomeGo customer found that her home simply no longer fit her needs.
“My husband had passed away and I had no family up in that area. Actually, I got a bigger house. I was a foster parent—my husband and I were both foster parents—and our house was kind of small for the amount of kids we had. I found a house up here, I put a bid in on it, and I won the bid. I got an over 2,000 square foot home for $26,000.
I wanted to move in the summertime because I had permanent custody of two children that I needed to put in school. I didn’t want to have them in school, take them out, and then move in the wintertime.”
Another customer felt similarly after the death of her husband. She told HomeGo:
“I lost my husband a few years back and I just couldn’t take care of the house by myself. I just wanted to move into something that would be easier for me to take care of.”
Step 2: React with careful measure
There will undoubtedly be a lot of commotion in the days, weeks, and months following the death of a spouse. If the matter isn’t settled immediately, whether to sell your house after your spouse dies is a topic that will be raised several times.
Don’t rush into any decision. Therapists recommend waiting a year or so, if possible. There’s enough on your plate without negotiating with a real estate agent, determining an asking price, finding a new home, and making yourself scarce for showings.
A few things to consider:
- Your asking price. Real estate agents make their money by selling homes. The more they sell, the more they make. That’s why pricing a property on the lower end of the averages for your neighborhood can sometimes be a promoted tactic in the industry. That’s good for the agent, but is it right for you?
- Your eagerness to make repairs. Some agents feel that “sprucing up your home leading up to the sale is equally if not more important than when you actually list it.” How eager are you to endure that kind of activity in the immediate aftermath of your loss?
- Your memories. According to Realtor.com: “On average a staged property sells 88% faster and for 20% more than a non-staged one.” Since your home contains many memories of happier times, decluttering and staging is perhaps more than you want to take on.
During this time, avoid dismissing your financial planner right away. Geoff Williams of U.S. News and World Report writes, “Switching a financial advisor can fall into the category of making a big decision too quickly. If you haven’t been running the financial show for a while … there is a pretty good argument that switching advisors for someone who doesn’t know you and your finances well is the last thing you’d want to do in haste.”
Your financial advisor will be able to help you address tax issues after the death of a spouse such as:
- Federal and state estate taxes
- Inheritance tax
- Generation-skipping transfer taxes
- … and, unfortunately, more
Step 3: Choose the easy way to sell your house after a spouse dies
At HomeGo, our goal is to make your home sale as stress-free as possible, especially after the death of a spouse. That’s why we developed our simple, friction-free home-selling process. It’s also why we work on your schedule, not ours.
All you need to do is submit your address and meet with HomeGo for about 10 minutes at your home. We’ll make you a straight deal, right then and there. Once you accept, you can move whenever you want. Move out the next day or take your time saying goodbye. It’s up to you.
If you’re recovering from the death of a spouse, you’ll appreciate the fact that unlike traditional home buyers:
- We close fast.
- We work on your timeframe.
- We make straight, hassle-free deals.
- We never charge service fees, commissions, or closing costs.
- We don’t penalize you for home repairs.
- We don’t require a formal home inspection.
- We don’t subject you to an infinite number of inconvenient showings.
- We buy your home as-is. No repairs or clean up needed.
You and those closest to you have enough going on — we’re here to make things easier on you, not harder. For homeowners seeking convenience, simplicity, and a 100% stress-free home sale after their spouse dies, contact HomeGo. Learn more about how it works today.