The Emotional Side to an Inherited Home
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 possible if I were dealing with computers, robots or machines, but when dealing with people, memories, resentment, jealousy, anger, sadness, denial, control issues, power, regret and expectations can easily be the wild card.
It might be easy to jump to a conclusion that adult children selling a recently inherited property and holding out for top dollar are ridiculously greedy, especially if they think the proceeds of the sale are a pure, nontaxable gift that 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 knee-jerk, underresearched and shortsighted.
Imagine, as was a recent case I handled, a family home is inherited by three sisters and a brother. Here are the facts behind what is seen on the surface. The home was purchased in 1959 by their hardworking immigrant parents, who struggled and sacrificed to put together a minimal down payment while the seller gave them a high interest rate and a second deed of trust, which they paid off after three years. The children each came along a year apart. Both Mom and Dad worked two jobs to make ends meet. The parents continued to sacrifice for years, forgoing vacations and dinners to send all four children to college, and teaching them the importance of family, core values, integrity, a good education, 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 were always holiday festivities, love, laughter, great home-cooked meals and good spirit.
As the grandparents grew old, first Grandpa became ill. Always with a positive attitude and good spirit, he passed away four years ago. Grandma passed away several months ago after being cared for daily by two of the local children for nearly two years while her incurable illness sadly progressed. It was the grandparents' wish to have the home stay in the family, but by then, 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 parents' wishes: Would Mom and Dad be disappointed? Would they wish for us to keep 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 closed, and the transaction was a success, but not without much emotional tension and a very significant price negotiation. When the cooperating agent became pushy and borderline condescending, implying that the sellers were greedy and being intentionally inconsistent with the agreement, deadlines and timelines imposed by the buyer, I reminded the agent to be professional and open-minded about the sellers, and in the overall sequences of the negotiating process.
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 of their family roots. It is easy to forget and often difficult to explain, but separating market value from emotional value is important. Emotional value usually outweighs market value. This can impact the ability to find a willing buyer unless the buyer can develop an emotional understanding and have a high enough level of motivation. Similarly, some people will use their money to preserve or protect a threatened habitat for emotional reasons that have nothing to do with economic value, and will outbid buyers who want to develop the same land for profit. Sometimes letting go of what one is attached to is just too emotionally costly to justify.
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, I hope that you hire a real estate professional who will support your emotions, your actions and your decisions.
For more information, please call Ron Wynn at 310-963-9944, or email him at Ron@RonWynn.com. To find out more about Ron and read his past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.
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