If you are looking for a property bargain, buying a probate property is one of the best ways to do so. But there can be costly practical drawbacks to buying this type of property…
A “probate property” is a property which is going through “probate” – the court process whereby the executors of a deceased owner get legal permission to administer the estate, including the power to sell any property.
The formal permission from the probate registry is known as a “grant of probate” (where the deceased left a will) or a “grant of letters of administration” (where the deceased died without a will).
Buying a probate property has many benefits but the negatives should be kept in mind.
1. Great way to get a bargain property
The biggest plus in buying a probate property is the opportunity to get a great bargain as well as the chance perhaps to refurbish it to a style and standard of your choosing.
Probate properties can sell at a discount for several reasons – including their poor condition or the willingness or need of the executors to sell fast.
However, there will be a lot of competition for desirable probate properties and you may find yourself in competition with builders – some of them having the formidable advantage of being cash buyers.
2. Possible completion delays
The executors of the deceased owner can exchange contracts – form a legally binding contract to sell – but cannot legally complete the sale until there is a grant of probate or a grant of letters of administration (“a grant of representation”).
However, before securing a grant of representation, the executors have to identify and administer the estate and pay any inheritance tax due.
With a simple or low value estate this process can take around 2 to 3 months.
However with a complex or large estate, it is more likely to take 6 to 9 months and sometimes much longer if there are issues such as disputes between the beneficiaries.
So perhaps the biggest drawback of a probate purchase is the fact that it may take longer than a regular purchase.
Further, if a grant of representation cannot be obtained, the purchase may have to be aborted, resulting in wasted mortgage and legal costs.
Oddly, sometimes buying a probate property can be quicker than a regular purchase – where the grant of representation has already been obtained when the property is put up for sale.
Probate sales have the benefit of the seller not having a related purchase, so there is no “chain” to cause delay; that and the fact that the property is usually vacant can cause the sale to go through faster than the norm.
BUYING IN DIFFERENT SITUATIONS
Buying a UK property (must know steps when buying in the UK)
Buying property at an auction (the ins and outs of auction purchases)
Buying a property abroad (the issues, risks and dangers to be aware of)
3. Auction purchases
Executors may opt to sell a probate property by auction.
If you are buying property at an auction you need to be aware of the special issues and risks involved.
It is prudent to have an auction property professionally surveyed before the auction and it is also wise to have a lawyer look over the auction contract and other documents before bidding.
Once your bid is successful, you will normally be obliged to complete within 28 days and failure to do so could lead to loss of your (normally) 10% deposit.
It is therefore highly risky to purchase at an auction if you do not have cash ready to complete or you are not sure that you will get a mortgage in time to complete.
4. Poor condition
It is common for probate properties to be in a poor condition and possibly in a state of disrepair.
Modernisation and redecoration are often necessary.
The upside is that you have the opportunity to repair or refurbish the property and add value – sometimes substantial value – assuming you manage to buy it cheap enough.
The downside is you may not be able to get a mortgage for a property which is in very poor condition, or you may be able to get a mortgage but for less than the amount you need.
If you need to carry out works to the property before moving in, that will be inconvenient and you may need to live elsewhere for a few weeks after buying.
5. Lack of property information
Another issue is that executors often have very little knowledge of the property they are selling.
The executors have to respond to “pre-contract enquiries” submitted by your conveyancer. However they may be unable to answer some questions and that could result in a range of issues not coming to your knowledge until after you have bought – with you having no recourse under the contract rule “let the buyer beware”.
Problems which may come to light after you purchase include:
- Neighbour disputes
- Boundary issues
- Sound proofing and noise problems.
There are various practical ways to address these and other possible issues before you buy.
Probate properties can seriously rock on the matter of price. They are often a way of getting “the worst property in the best street” – a great way to pump up the value of a property.
They can offer you the chance to put your own unique stamp on a property.
But you should not be blinded by the positives. Keep in mind the peculiarities of a probate sale and be alert to the issues and risks which may arise.
Have you ever bought or sold a probate property? Was it all plain sailing or did you experience any problems or issues? Please leave your comments below.
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Rebel Property Coach
My website is: www.rebelpropertycoach.com