probate (39)

Palo Alto Probate Home

This is a question I get asked all the time. When an owner has passed and has rental property should the heirs sell the Palo Alto probate or trust home with the tenants in place, or wait until the lease is up?


While most years I would say wait until the tenants are gone but with the uncertainty of how interest rates will affect prices and what will happen to a Palo Alto market that has already shown signs of slowing, even with very tight inventory, the answer is not clear cut.


Sell Palo Alto Probate or Trust Home With Tenant: Pros:


  1.      Palo Alto school Priority 1 Registration goes from Jan 12 thru Feb 15th. That is the best chance of getting your child in the school closest to you. There is always a space in a Palo Alto school for a resident, but getting the one closest to you is best obtained if you are a resident during this period. Selling with tenants in a  Palo Alto probate rental may allow the buyer to get a leg up on school registration for the next year.
  2.      Interest rates are lower now than they will be next summer, or even in March and maybe Feb. A 3 million dollar Palo Alto probate home has a very good chance of having a loan on it so the less a buyer has to pay for the mortgage the more they can afford for the home. For every 1 point increase in interest rates there is a 10 % increase in payment.
  3.      The inventory is very low and the Palo Alto housing is market still active. It is unknown what will happen as the year goes on. The market could go down as interest rates go up, or if there is a natural disaster, a world event, or terrorist attack.
  4.      Some people who buy Palo Alto homes in Probate or Trust early are happy to rent the house out until the end of the school year because they do not want to move until school is out if they are relocating. With a Tenant Cons:


  1.      Harder to show house
  2.      You will not be able to make interior upgrades or stage with a tenant in place so it may depress the price somewhat
  3.      The tenant may be messy or say inappropriate things to potential buyers which could depress the price.
  4.      If the tenant does not have beautiful furniture the professional pictures will not look as good.


Sell Palo Alto Probate or Trust Home After Tenant Lleaves Pros:


  1.      You can have the interior painted, wood floors refinished, new carpet, and any other cosmetic upgrades you want that will help bring in more money.
  2.      You can professionally stage the property and the photos will look much better.
  3.      Much easier to show the house and have open houses which bring in more people and help bring in a better price.


Sell Palo Alto Home in Probate or Trust After tenant leaves Cons:


  1.      Interest rates will be higher which will depress the price. It is unknown by how much because it also depends on how the stock market is doing, most likely for Apple, Google, Facebook, and Linkedin.
  2.      If there is a trade war with China tech stocks could be hurt more than other sectors. This would make less money available for down payments for most of the buyers in the area.
  3.      If the dollar continues to be strong foreign investors will be much less likely to be buying homes in Palo Alto.
  4.      The best time to sell a home in Palo Alto in from Jan thru early June. The second best is the fall. If the tenants are out in June and the home is prepared in July and Aug and on the market in Sept you have missed the best time, but may get the second best time, but only by waiting until Sept to put home on market.


So as you can see the answer is not clear. No one can say for sure what will happen to the real estate market in 2017. If you are in this situation now it is probably a good idea to add your own Pros and Cons to this list to get a feel for what may work best in your situation.


If you have any questions about selling a home in Probate or Trust please feel free to contact me.

Marcy Moyer

Keller Williams Realty

Specializing in Probate and Trust Sales


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On Nov. 8th Mountain Voters approved Measure V, commonly known as the Rent Control Measure. If you are the Administrator of a Mountain View Probate Estate that has rental property to sell this is a huge deal. You need to know the rules in order to make sure the property is sold without breaking any new laws.


What does restricting rental price increases have to do with selling a Mountain View rental in Probateyou may ask? Well, I’ll tell you.




Measure V relates to not only rent control, but also JUST CAUSE EVICTION.


Just Cause Eviction means that tenants cannot be asked to vacate just because the lease is up or they are on a month to month rental and you give 30 or 60 days notice (if they have been there a year or more).


Tenants can only be told to leave a Mountain View Rental Property under the following circumstances:


  1.      Failure to pay rent or other breach of lease
  2.      Continuing failure to give landlord access
  3.      Repairs that will last over 30 days that are needed for code upgrades or health and safety reasons. NOTE: COSMETIC REPAIRS ARE NOT INCLUDED IN THIS EXEMPTION. This would include a kitchen or bath re-model to make the property more valuable.
  4.      Owner or family member going to occupy the entire property
  5.      Withdrawal from rental market with 120 day notice to tenant, unless over 62, disabled, or a tenant for 5 years or more. In these circumstances you need 1 year notice.


The good thing is that single family homes, condos, and duplexes are exempt from both rent control and Mountain View Just Cause Eviction. If you are an Administrator of a Mountain View Probate Estate that has a four- plex or more units to sell Mountain View JUST CAUSE EVICTION rules will apply to the estate.


Some things you should NOT do before selling the building are:


  1.      Try to evict the tenants because they make the building look messy.
  2.      Try to evict the tenants because the property is dated and you want to upgrade it before putting it on the market.
  3.      Raise the rents above the allowable rent increase so the CAP rate looks better and makes the property more valuable.


Some things you can do when you are selling a Mountain View Four-Plex  or larger building in Probate.

  1.      Paint the exterior
  2.      Make sure the tenants do not leave personal property outside the building
  3.      Upgrade the landscaping
  4.      Give the tenants an incentive to keep their apartments clean and allow showings.


This law is new, and takes effect Dec 23rd. There is an emergency ordinance that was passed Nov 16th to keep landlords from evicting tenants in order to raise rents on vacant apartments before that date, so if you are reading this before Dec 23rd you are out of luck anyway.


Just remember the Mountain View rental market is strong, and even with rent control and Just Cause Eviction there will be buyers for your Mountain View Apartment in Probate so relax, hire a great real estate agent who knows Probate (like myself) and let the process work itself out.


If you have any questions about selling or buying Probate property in Santa Clara or San Mateo County please feel free to contact me.


Marcy Moyer

Keller Williams Realty

Specializing in Probate and Trust Sales


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Anyone who has looked for acreage in places like Pescadero, Gilroy, or Morgan Hill has probably come across a situation where a neighbor or friend has horses or goats or cows who graze the property. You ask to see the lease and the response you get is often, “There is no lease, they have an informal agreement that Ms X gets to keep her livestock on the property in exchange for the livestock grazing Mr Y’s land.


Mr Y does not have to pay the high cost of keeping the grasses and weeds cut and Ms X does not have to pay the high cost of boarding and feeding her livestock. It is a win win, and for decades no one has formalized the agreement.


Then, unfortunately Mr Y dies and his heirs need to sell the Probate acreage in Pescadero, or Gilroy, or Morgan Hill. There is no documentation of the agreement and no one is sure what Ms X’x rights are, or what the estate has to do to terminate the relationship. Or maybe the buyer of the Pescadero Probate acreage’s , Mr and Mrs Z’s don’t understand what their  responsibilities are if they want Ms X to continue grazing, but don’t want her to have full tenant’s rights. In other words, Mr and Ms Z still want to use the land, so they do not want to lease out a portion of the Pescadero or Gilroy, or Morgan Hill land. They just don’t want to have to pay someone to mow it.


The answer to this dilemma is for Mr and Mrs Z to grant Ms X a license for Ms X’s horses to graze on a portion of the Pescadero Probate property they are buying. The license can be terminated at any time by the owners of the property. There are no tenant’s rights for exclusive use and Mr and Mrs Z do not need to give any notice or have any cause to terminate the agreement. The right to graze horses is a personal privilege and is not tied to the property in question. The horses do not have any exclusive use and Mr and Mrs Z can use the grazed property any time they want.


If Ms X had a lease then she and her horses would have exclusive right to use the property and Mr and Mrs Z would have to give notice to enter that portion of the property and could not tell Ms X to leave whenever they want.


It is a distinction that is important to preserve the rights of Mr and Mrs Z to use their new Probate property in Pescadero, or Gilory, or Morgan Hill.


I suggest if you are going to do this you consult a lawyer before closing escrow on that gorgeous view property in Pescadero, or Gilroy, or Morgan Hill, or anywhere else you may find it.


If you have any questions about buying or selling property, especially in Probate in San Mateo, Santa Clara, or Alameda County please feel free to contact me.


Marcy Moyer

Keller Williams Realty

Specializing in Probate and Trust Sales


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As a realtor who specializes in Probate sales I have recently been involved with a number of families were trying to sell homes they thought they inherited or had title to, but wound up in Probate instead. Since the Probate courts are backed up, this can cause delays, heartache, and tension for the families and were problems that probably could have been avoided.


I want to say firmly, I am not a lawyer. I am a Realtor who specializes in selling homes in Probate and this is not legal advice. If you are going to be involved in intra family title changes PLEASE get the advice of a lawyer. This is complicated stuff.


I just want to give you a few examples so you can see that you should not assume anything when it comes to Probate sales. To see First Example click here


3rd Example:


Mom and Daughter 1 own a home together. Both are on title as Joint Tenants and own it equally. They need cash so Daughter 1 gives her share to Mom and Mom gets reverse morgage.

Mom does not make a will leaving 1/2 the house to Daughter 1 and 1/2 the house to each of the 4 daughters including daughter 1. She plans on doing it, but never gets around to it.


Mom dies unexpectantly, with no will, no trust, and only a verbal agreeement with Daughter 1.


Reverse mortgage company tells Daughter 1 she needs to sell the house or pay back the reverse mortgage. Daughter 1 can not sell the house or do anything without Probate Court permission because she does not own the house any more and there is no will or trust.


Daughter  1 calls me and give her a referral to a Probate lawyer who will get paid through the sale of the house since there is no cash in the estate.


Daughter one will ask the court to appoint her Admistrator of the estate then ask the other 3 sisters to give up the half of the equity that was supposed to go to Daughter 1.


Hopefully the Probate Court will agree to all of this. It is not guarenteed.


As you can see, these are complicated issue, made more complicated by actions taken by owners and family members before the owners died. 


The moral, just because you think you have the right to sell a house in probate, that does not mean you do. Be sure and consult a Probate Attorney and a Realtor who understand Probate Sales before you proceed.


If you have any questions about selling a home in Probate or need a Probate Realtor in Half Moon Bay or anywhere else in the Bay area please feel free to contact me.


Marcy Moyer

Keller Williams Realty

Specializing in Probate and Trust Sales


Read more…

As a realtor who specializes in Probate sales I have recently been involved with a number of families were trying to sell homes they thought they inherited or had title to, but wound up in Probate instead. Since the Probate courts are backed up, this can cause delays, heartache, and tension for the families and were problems that probably could have been avoided.


I want to say firmly, I am not a lawyer. I am a Realtor who specializes in selling homes in Probate and this is not legal advice. If you are going to be involved in intra family title changes PLEASE get the advice of a lawyer. This is complicated stuff.


I just want to give you a few examples so you can see that you should not assume anything when it comes to Probate sales. To see First Example click here


Second Example:


Mom owns home in Pacifica in a trust free and clear after Dad passes. She needs money for daily living expenses so she takes out a reverse mortgage.


Eventually she is unable to care for herself. She takes the house out of the trust and gives half to Daughter 1 as joint tenant so daughter has right of survivorship and right to sell house to pay Mom’s assisted living expenses.


Mom’s health gets worse and she needs to be moved to assisted living. Mom and Daughter 1 decide to sell the house to pay for the finest assisted living they can find.


Mom moves to assisted living and 3 days later dies.


Daughter 1 wants to sell the house which has plenty of equity that was not used to take care of Mom, so she plans on splitting it with Daughter 2 and Son 1.


Reverse mortgage company says “Hold Your Horses.” You had no right to change title of house without our knowledge. They claim:


Reverse mortgages are for senior home owners only, not their children. Daughter 1 should not have been on title because she was not given permission by Reverse Mortgage Company.


Joint Tenancy is an equal partnership between all parties. All partied must be equally responsible for any liens/mortgages on the home. Only Mom was on the loan so she should have been the only one on title. 


You can see the problem here.


I suspect this one ends up in Probate Court with Court Confirmation needed instead of a fast, clean easy sale.


Tomorrow I will give you details on other issues that have come up in my Probate sales.


If you have any questions about selling a home in Probate or need a Probate Realtor in Half Moon Bay or anywhere else in the Bay area please feel free to contact me.


Marcy Moyer

Keller Williams Realty

Specializing in Probate and Trust Sales


Read more…

Recently I have been involved with a number of families were trying to sell homes they thought they inherited or had title to, but wound up in Probate instead. Since the Probate courts are backed up, this can cause delays, heartache, and tension for the families and were problems that probably could have been avoided.


I want to say firmly, I am not a lawyer. I am a Realtor who specializes in selling homes in Probate and this is not legal advice. If you are going to be involved in intra family title changes PLEASE get the advice of a lawyer. This is complicated stuff.


I just want to give you a few examples so you can see that you should not assume anything when it comes to Probate sales.


First Example:


Mom owns home in Redwood City free and clear with no mortgage. She has 4 children and wants only 2 of the children to inherit the home. She signs a deed transfer her daughter, not a lawyer, drew up saying that instead of owning the house only in her name she gives 1/3 interest to one daughter and 1/3 interest to one son.


Mom dies. Son and daughter think they inherit the house 50/50, but that did not happeb. Deed does not say all three own as Joint Tenants. That would have provided the right of survivorship. Not only that, but daughter as executor of estate can’t sell the house. The 1/3 interest of Mom now has to go through probate and since there was no will all 4 children get to split Mom’s 1/3. Daughter has to be appointed by the Probate Court as Administrator of the Estate before she can sell the home.


It gets worse. They have to go through probate, hire a lawyer, and pay court costs for 1/3 interest in a house.


The mistake here was not spending the money up front to get advice on how to accomplish Mom’s wish that only two of her children inherit the house.


Tomorrow I will give you details on other issues that have come up in my Probate sales.


If you have any questions about selling a home in Probate in Half Moon Bay or anywhere else in the Bay area please feel free to contact me.


Marcy Moyer

Keller Williams Realty

Specializing in Probate and Trust Sales


Read more…

Contacting the estate for more probate deals

4359197324?profile=originalWe're often asked what the best vehicle is to make an introduction with executors/administrators that are tasked with liquidating the estate.

Postcards are cheap to print and cheap to mail and they have no barriers to entry - they stare the recipient in the face. But when marketing to probates, in our view, postcards strike as being impersonal or insensitive. The big, glossy "We Buy Houses" postcards are not appropriate for mourning families.

To a lessor extent, I think the same is true for yellow letters that are too informal, again given the gravity of the loss of someone endeared to the family. Our clients have by and large generated a greater response with a professional, computer-generated letter.

As for the content of the letter, it will depend on whether you are an agent or investor, as the messaging will obviously be different. If you are both an agent and an investor - or an agent that works with investors - you have an advantage by offering the dual options of either listing the estate home for top dollar, or selling it in "AS IS" condition for a quick payday, depending on the condition of the estate home and the urgency for liquidity.

Courthouse records will reveal the address of the executor/administrator, and you can pay greater attention to those that live out of state. These people generally do not want to outlay money for repairs, play landlord or travel on their own dime to deal with property maintenance issues and thus, are more motivated by a fast sale to part with the albatross of a vacant home. I know of some investors who have gone so far as to take photos of the estate home if there are issues of deferred maintenance and share those pictures with the out-of-state executor for added incentive to sell the property before any more neglect takes its toll.

Repetition is a key determinant of success in all marketing campaigns, but it's especially important when seeking probate deals. The reality is, the executor/administrator is inundated with many details as they wind down the earthly affairs of the deceased and the timing may not be right at first to sell the estate home immediately after someone has passed. Our experience has shown this is particularly true with a spouse. Diligent court research will bear out the relationship of the executor/administrator to the deceased, and some agents and investors will initially concentrate their outreach efforts on adult children that have been cast in the role of executor/administrator and hold off on contacting the spouse for some time.

To express condolences or not? There are schools of thoughts for and against this. I am of the view that it is a good practice to let the white elephant out of the room in your initial contact, but refrain from mentioning the loss in future correspondence. Inevitably, many families will ask how you found them. A soft sell approach and delicate language is in order, such as, "If your intention is to not sell the estate home, can you keep my information for down the road?" with subsequent touch points inquiring about how settling the estate is going.

Phone numbers of the executor/administrator are sometimes published and if they are not readily available through probate records, certainly there are other means to look up the number and we can delve into phone scripts in future posts and upcoming webinars. 

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By working probates, agents can get ahead of the ball, not behind it or on top of it. With a shrinking distressed property market, many agents are feeling the crunch of fewer selling opportunities. A staggering amount of properties will pass through probates - literally trillions of dollars - and an aging boomer population only stands to increase the number of unlisted, unpublished, and unknown opportunities. 

Yet it begs the question, "how do I profit from probate"? Many agents mistakenly think that probate is a complicated transaction, but it is merely the court-supervised process of liquidating assets in the estate. If a property goes through probate, the heirs nearly always want to cash out - they want the money in the house. 

The first step is identifying probated properties in your backyard.

Finding probated properties is easy for those that want to invest the time to extract the data at the courthouse. While most court houses are in the stone age when it comes to technology, many counties publish this data online. The key is to what to look for, to ensure that real property is attached to the estate. Without this extra step, you can be spinning your wheels getting in front of leads that have no real estate. 

Because of the time intensity, you can easily pay a "leads" provider $5 or more per lead or more, with no guarantee that real estate is tied to the estate. Why not paddle your own canoe, and find probated properties yourself? 

Make no mistake, extracting probate filings can be timely, but well worth it. If you find that you don't have the time to do this tedious task, you can likely find someone locally to do it for you at a less cost than outsourcing it. I've put ads on Craigslist for independent court researchers and have gotten literally hundreds of responses. Of course, the person must be reliable. This is one of the drawbacks to using a probate leads company. They have little control over the day-to-day activities of a remote court researcher. They profess to have many court abstractors scattered around the country. That may be true, but the leads company wields little control over them. Oftentimes, these lead providers cannot find someone to extract data in a particular market, so they call up another provider. Which means they are re-selling someone else's data, with no guarantee of its accuracy. Worse still, the researcher can get frustrated and quit the job, leaving the client hanging out to dry. Better to exert more control by personally meeting with the researcher, have their cell phone number, and know what they are doing in real time. 

There are some companies in this space that sell a lollipop ring and pass it off as a diamond. That is, the probate lead is actually an obituary list. Perhaps you will be mailing to a nursing home. The key to knowing whether the lead is an authentic probate lead or whether or not a case number is included. Every probate file has a case number. If you do not get a case number, it is not probate! Also, you should make sure that the executor information is included, as well. This is the decision maker that has been assigned by the court to liquidate the property. 

Once you ferret out the probate filings in your locale, tenacity is the key as in all other forms of marketing. Those executors have varying times to sell. Some want to sell yesterday. Some want to sell a few months down the road after cleaning house. Some want to sell later on to get closer to the kids. In other cases, the probate process plays out, the property is reverted to the heirs, and the heirs have an itch to sell. Whatever their time frame, we can say that when they are ready to sell the property, they want to sell quick. 

Consider creating a website that is dedicated to probate. See some sample sites that are tailored to probate here. Having a probate site establishes yourself as a probate expert, builds empathy and rapport with the executor, and educates the family on the process. Many grieving families that would not otherwise warm immediately to a stranger would go to a website to access your resources and learn more about why they should work with you. 

In future posts, I'll bounce some ideas around as to what content to include on such a site. 

Till next time, A-B-C. Always be closing!

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Working Probate Is Like Social Work

4359194343?profile=originalIt should go without saying that dealing with probated properties demands a level of sensitivity, beyond the rigors of a traditional sale. 

The executor is not merely feeling the loss of a loved one, but there are other dynamics going on. From my experience, the astute investor or agent that can help the executor navigate through these other issues will be successful. In this sense, you are not an investor or an agent - you are a problem solver and in some cases, a social worker. 

I recently designed a probate site for an agent that made it a selling point that she can secure the home of a probated property to keep out "self entitled" heirs from removing items and valuables from the probated property. She is doing well working probates because she is willing to enter into this frank, heart-to-heart conversation that doesn't couch words. The reality is, when someone passes, there will be family members that sweep in to claim belongings that they may or may not have an equitable right to. It becomes in many cases a free for all. The agent's call to action was to lock up the probated property like Fort Knox. 

In another case, an investor makes it a salient part of their probate marketing campaign to stress that they can remove belongings in a dignified manner, liquidating non-real property assets to generate cash for the estate OR donate items to charity, giving the family a sizable tax write off. 

I can go on about stories, but the quintessential point is that when working probate, you are less a real estate professional, and more social work. Oftentimes being a referee between heir in-fighting, 

When subscribing to a list of probate filings, some clients love us. Some of them hate us. It all boils down to the results. And among the successful agents and investors that are getting more inventory, there is one common denominator, I have found: They have a mindset of solving problems, and not just listing the house or buying the house. Their fundamental value proposition when working probate is to restore normalcy in a thorny process that often wedges family members against each other. As if listing the home - or buying the home - is almost an afterthought. 

It's really capsulized in the entrepreneurs creed, a plaque hanging on my wall that says in essence, "We are only compensated to the extent that we add value to other people". 

In other words, when working probates, listing or buying the real estate is the end goal, but what precedes it is building empathy and trust and creating harmony. The rest will follow. 

My job is to craft this message that resonates with executors tasked with the honor and burden of settling their loved one's estate. If you'd like to  have a website dedicated to probate, get in touch. 

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4359194356?profile=originalWhen marketing to probates, the "go to" person you want to contact is the executor, also known as the Personal Representative, among other terms. This is the person that has been given the authority by the Court to wind down the early affairs of the deceased, and is tasked with liquidating the real property attached to the estate. 

Although most people are mailing the executor, some real estate agents and investors are intent on calling them. What to say once you get them on the phone? One idea is to build momentum by getting a series of yes's. I'll explain. 

It's long been a practice of phone sales to ask questions that only lend itself to a yes. By building a series of "yes", "yes", "yes", the sales person asks for the sale and the prospect, having been in a mental pattern of saying yes throughout the call, is more pre-disposed to say yes to the close. Is this reminiscent of the boiler room tactics of the 80's? Maybe a little, but it still works. 

When calling executors in an effort to list or buy their home, one game plan is to simply ask them to verify truths contained in the probate case file. They know this information to be factual, and so they are hard pressed to say no. So for example: 

You: "Good evening, Mr. Smith. I understand that you have been appointed the Personal Representative for the estate of Sally Smith, is this correct?"

Executor: "Yes, that is correct". 

You: "I also understand that the estate has a property located at 123 Main Street?"

Executor: "Yea, that's the property".

You: "Great. I'm curious if I can come by for about 15 minutes on Wednesday to view the property to see if we can make an all cash offer on the property...."

The quintessential point is to not ask the executor for any information, but to merely confirm what you already know. 

It's worth noting that typically, the executor phone number is included roughly 20-30% of the time in the court records. To get more phone numbers, there are other "phone append" services that can take your list and populate phone numbers. You can also do this on your own through services like White Pages. 

If you prefer to take less of a direct approach and want to mail the executor, here's a pdf with sample letter templates. Need a website that communicates with executors? Get some ideas by viewing some sample probate websites

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Marketing To Probate Properties

4359194254?profile=originalFirst, a little background is in order.

With an aging boomer population, there will be trillions of dollars transfer from one generation to the next in the coming years and these probate properties are unlisted, unpublished and unknown.

While every agent and investor should seriously consider adding portfolios to their portfolio, this process is often shrouded in mystery when it need not be. Probate is simply the court-supervised process that ensures that the estate's taxes, expenses and creditors are paid and the remaining proceeds are distributed to the heirs, in accordance to the wishes of the deceased. Sure, there's some nuances and paperwork, but it's not that arcane of a process. 

Once real estate professionals want to enter the probate arena, the question often is "how do I market to them?" As a starting point, consider putting up a website tailored exclusively to probate. A typical agent's site is busy, with myriad links to different audiences. There may be a section to buying a home, selling a home, moving tips, etc, etc. By having a site dedicated to probate, you can speak directly to the needs and desires of families that are going through this difficult process. The goal of such a site is to: 

1) Educate executors on the probate process and offer insights into what their responsibilities are, what they can expect in terms of the probate timeline, and what their options are.

2) Build empathy with those families by having a "heart to heart" conversation. 

3) Establish yourself as an authority in the probate process and convince them to list the home with you or, if you are an investor, convince them to sell the home to you. 

To view some sample probates I've designed for other agents and investors, check out a few examples here

It's been said that there are "riches in niches", and you can gain a distinct competitive advantage by establishing yourself as a probate expert that can liquidate real property in the estate. 

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4359191271?profile=originalProbates are the low hanging fruit because heirs want to cash out. Get an overview of probate investing in this blog post. While every case is different and the executor has their own unique time frame in selling the probated property, the biggest obstacle that blocks the executor from selling is the personal belongings that their loved one has left behind.

It is a gut wrenching process to dispose of these personal belongings. To everyone else, it is “stuff”. To the family, it is a treasure chest of memories. What if the family just is frozen and cannot finish the job? Providing assistance in removing these items in a dignified manner may just seal the deal in a probated property.

Yesterday, I spoke with an investor that relayed a story. Without much background on the house he was about to see, the investor showed up at a potential property to meet with a real estate agent. They walked in to discover a treasure trove of furniture and other items. “This is a great REO property”, the investor said to the agent, to which the agent said, “This isn’t bank owned. It’s in probate. The relatives already came to get the things they wanted”.

The investor, who also has a property preservation business, not only offered to remove the items, but to donate the items to charity for the estate to realize a sizable tax write off. The family paid the investor $7,000 to clean house and donate the belongings to charity, and the family claimed over $11,000 in deductions. That adds new meaning to “win win”.

That’s an atypical example, but the quintessential point is that if you – the investor or agent – can oftentimes seal the deal by offering your help in disposing of these non-real property assets. We know of several subscribers to our probate data that make “house cleaning” a prominent benefit of their service by offering to rescue vintage paintings, the 59 Corvette in the garage, the coin collection, the boat on the side of the house, and other prized items that the family simply does not know what to do with. In many potential probate deals, these gems may be the only thing standing in the way between you and a discounted property.


With an aging baby boomer population, the coming years will see the largest shift of wealth transferred from one generation to the next. At, our mission is to pair REALTORS and investors with executors that are motivated to liquidate the real property in the estate. 

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4359191484?profile=originalIn many locales, the attorney’s contact information is contained in our list of probated properties. It raises the question of whether you as a real estate agent or investor should make contact with the attorney involved in the estate.

This provocative question was posed in an interesting forum discussion on Bigger Pockets, raising several arguments for and against reaching out to the attorney that has their footprint in the probate case. To get the global view, read the entire discussion here.

In my own personal view, I believe that if your marketing budget persists, it is overall a good practice to contact the attorney, “leading in” with the probated property in question, but then launching into how you can be of value in other probate cases that come across the attorney’s desk. Some subscribers of our data use this strategy to get future referrals from that attorney. Of course, this takes time and the attorney has to see you in action to truly cement trust, but to the extent that attorney referrals can be a source of leads, I think that it is well worth it to get the conversation rolling with legal counsel.

Of course, if you do decide to contact the attorney, it should be in addition to, and not a substitute to contacting the Personal Representative, better known as the executor, who has the most influence into how the estate is settled because the Court has assigned them with the fiduciary duty of equitably divvying up the estate.

Scratching your head as to what to say to the probate attorney? Here is a sample letter that I came across as food for thought: (Word file)

I will elicit the thoughts of others – including yours – and update this post once the feedback comes in, so check back soon.

Until next time, A-B-C …. Always Be Closing.


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The Time Frame of Probates Explained

4359190712?profile=originalOne of the most often asked line of questions we field as  a compiler of probate data is related to timing. “How long do they take to close?”… “When does the executor want to sell the property”, etc.

Before we address these questions on the merits, a little refresher background is in order. Probate is the process supervised by a surrogate court of competent jurisdiction that determines the validity of a will, itemizes assets including real property, paying taxes and debts to creditors as well as expenses associated with will administration, then finally distributing the assets left over to the heirs that are entitled to them. Depending on the complexity of the estate and the intent of the parties, this process can be short or lengthy, typically ranging from three to seven months and rarely, upwards to a year or more. > Read more about the probate process.

It’s been said that there are riches in niches. Savvy investors and agents understand the benefits of finding probate properties. Among them are the potential for deeply discounted properties, a huge inventory that only stands to balloon with an aging boomer population, the ability to get in front of motivated sellers that have a heightened urgency to sell the property attached to the estate, and less competition from other real estate professionals that seem mystified by the probate process or reluctant to engage in a heart-to-heart talk with grieving families.

Will all of these properties sell? Of course not. For those that will sell, when will they sell? We don’t have a crystal ball – every case is different. But here are some scenarios that span every time frame.

Now vs. Future Business

There is some low-hanging fruit among families that simply want to cash out and move on to create better memories. When you contact these executors that are charged with divvying up the estate, you may find that some of them are motivated RIGHT NOW to sell the property, as if they were waiting for your call and the business falls in your lap. Yet we all know that in most cases, it is not that easy. If only it were.

One instance that we do not see uncommonly is when a living spouse is in the household and decides to sell the property after some period of time. If you contact the spouse or other family member that is residing in the home today, they may not want to sell. Contact these same people 2, 3, 4, even six months from now, and maybe they are ready to move onto another chapter in their lives. Perhaps they are feeling the burden of bills – keep in mind that mortgage payments, utilities, and just about every other expense that an ongoing household has to pay, must continued to be paid when someone passes. Maybe the spouse is emotionally ready to move on after some elapse of time in order to get closer to the kids and get into a new house. In other words, they need time.

In some cases, the probate process plays out and the property reverts to the heirs. At the completion of this process, the heirs have an itch to sell to cash out. Nearly always, the heirs don’t want the property. They want the cash in the property. With the new-found authority and means to sell the property attached to the estate, they are eager to do so.

In some cases, otherwise motivated sellers may not be ready to sell the property until they find out what to do with the personal belongings of their loved ones. Clearly, this is an emotionally charged, gut wrenching job, particularily if the loved one was very close. When someone passes, they have personal belongs and the executor is charged with the often thankless task of disposing of them. To the families, these are a treasure chest of memories. To an outside party, it is merely stuff. Some agents and investors we work with offer to “rescue” classic cars, fine jewerly, antiquest, and other prized items, and we know of at least one agent in Florida that makes this an intergal part of her strategy, as much or more so than selling the property. This is a touchy subject and goes beyond the scope of this article.

In summary,

  • Some probates will be sold immediately.
  • Sometimes, the estate will hold onto the property and sell it after some period of time.
  • Sometimes, the property will be left to the surviving spouse or other family member
  • Sometimes, the spouse or family member will want to sell the house after living in it for a short period of time
  • Sometimes, the family member will be motivated to sell only when the personal belongings of the deceased is disposed of in a satisfactory fashion.
  • Whatever the time frame, once the executor does in fact make an affirmative decision to sell the property, they will want to sell it as soon as possible.

Given such a wide range of time tables, in our view, we can recommend the following:

  1. Whether your probate leads are generated through agent or attorney referrals, by compiling this data yourself at the court house, or outsourcing this tedious task to another provider, it is advisable to make multiple contacts with the executor of the estate to keep your willingness to help settle the estate “top of mind”. Through repeated contacts over a sustained period of time (also known as a drip campaign), you will reach the decision maker at the time when they are nearing an affirmative decision to sell the property, whenever that may be. > View some sample letters you can send.
  2. To the extent that everyone has a different time frame to sell the property, it may be prudent to find aged or archived probate filings. Remember, someone that may not want to sell today, may find it makes sense to sell 2, 3, 4 months later. So, it is not helpful to think purely in terms of freshness or timeliness of data.

It’s a fact of life that trillions of dollars will be transferred from one generation to the next. Stay tuned to future posts where we further delve into some actionable strategies on how to capture your share of the niche probate market. Till next time, A-B-C – Always Be Closing!

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The Probate Process

4359190665?profile=originalI wanted to avail this post to provide an overview of the often overlooked but lucrative niche of probate investing. Literally TRILLIONS of dollars will be transferred from one generation to the next. Enter an aging baby boomer population and this fact of life will only balloon in the coming years.

Probate is the legal process to obtain the legal authority to act on behalf of the estate of a person who has passed (Decendent). The estate is distributed in accordance with:

1) The will of the deceased.
2) When a will is not present, the laws of intestate succession are applied. These laws parcel out property to the deceased person’s closest relatives.

Who’s the decision maker?

The decendent usually spells out who they wish to be in charge of their estate. Yet absent a will, the court will assign a Personal Representative (PR), more commonly known as the executor, who is tasked with the fiduciary duty of divvying up the estate to pay creditors and distribute the remaining proceeds to the heirs. While anyone can petition the court to fill the role of a Personal Representative, most states prefer the surviving spouse or registered domestic partner as the first choice, followed by adult children or other blood relatives. > Read more on the role of the Personal Representative and to familiarize yourself with other vernacular, view a glossary of probate terms here.

As a real estate investor, the main point to grasp from 40,000 feet is that the PR has been awarded the authority to sell the house. Your job is to contract it and buy it, or assign to another cash buyer. This is the crux of investing in probates.

Probates are the low-hanging fruit because the PR often has a heightened sense of urgency to sell the real property in the estate, for a host of reasons:

  • There are taxes and other estate-related expenses that need to be paid, such as ongoing mortgage payments, utility bills and just about every other expense that is typical with an ongoing household.
  • The heirs must pay the mortgage out of their personal finances, and this creates an urgency to sell the property as soon as possible.
  • More often than not, the heirs do not want the house. They want the cash in the house. Heirs may live too far away from the property to play landlord or travel on a regular basis to maintain the property. Better to cash out and move on to build another chapter in their lives, than to be bogged down with the property.
  • The PR may get in the middle of unfortunate heir in-fighting where heirs have disagreements as to their equitable share. This normally brings out the worst of people, and the PR has an increased need to liquidate the estate to end the fighting.

Investors that are able to make an early connection to build empathy and rapport with the PR and explain the benefits of working together will undoubtedly be successful. > See some letters that other investors have used to make an introduction.

The length of the probate process varies on myriad factors such as the complexity of the estate and intent of the parties – every case is different. Sometimes these deals seem to fall in your lap, as if the PR was waiting for your call. If only it was that easy in every case. One phenomena we see not uncommonly is that a living spouse remains in the house and may not be motivated to sell RIGHT NOW. A few months later, when bills are accumulating and they want to build a new life, maybe get closer to the kids, the timing is better to sell the house and move on. Since everyone’s timing is different in terms of when they want to sell the real property attached to the estate, we highly recommend a concerted, sustained “drip” campaign over time to keep your willingness to help settle the estate top of mind.

Generally, while the PR has been awarded the authority to sell the house to investors like you, some states may require the PR to seek the Court’s permission to sell the real property in what’s called a supervised probate process. It is prudent to check the laws and procedures unique to your county and state.

In future posts, I will delve more into the nuts and bolts of probate investing and bounce some other ideas around as to how you can capture your share of this niche market. Till next time, A-B-C… Always Be Closing!


At, our goal is pair REALTORS and investors with executors of probate estates that are motivated to sell by compiling a targeted list of probate filings in nearly every US county. If you found this article to be informative, let's continue the conversation. 

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Sample Letters To Send To Probates

4359190271?profile=originalIn the coming years, trillions of dollars will be transferred from one generation to the next. In real estate, probates are the low-hanging fruit because nearly always, the executor of the estate wants to sell the property at some point to pay for taxes and other estate-related expenses, pay creditors and distribute the proceeds to the heirs.

It's been said that knowledge is power. Armed with a list of recent probate filings in your area, you can identify the best opportunities in your area. Yet it is the application of that knowledge which is more powerful.

We've put together some sample letters that can serve as a springboard of ideas, when marketing to probates. > View the pdf letter samples

While postcards are cheap to print, cheap to mail and have no barriers to get opened, in our view a postcard is ineffective when marketing probates because it strikes as impersonal during this difficult period that the family is going through. 

For the best results, we recommend handwriting the envelope to create a personal look, touch and feel. 

Everyone has different time frames in terms of when they are ready to sell. For this reason, we recommend multiple mailings to keep your willingness to help "top of mind". Although the circumstances are different in each probate case, one thing we can say with a certainty is that once the executor wants to sell the property attached to the estate, they want to liquidate it quickly.

Any feedback or if you'd like to share any material that have produced results, we'd love to hear from you - certainly reach out. 

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4359190173?profile=originalWhat does the Personal Representative, i.e., PR, Administrator or Executor responsible for? Bottom line, all you need to know as an investor is the court has awarded the PR absolute authority to sell the house. Your job is to contract it and buy it or assign to another all cash buyer. This is the crux of Probate Real Estate investing.

In common law jurisdictions, a personal representative is either an executor for the estate of a deceased person who left a will or the administrator of an intestate estate. In either case, a surrogate court of competent jurisdiction issues a finding of fact, including that a will has or has not been filed, and that an executor or administrator has been appointed. These are often referred to as “letters testamentary“, “letters of administration” or “letters of representation“, as the case may be. These documents, with the appropriate death certificate, are often the only license a person needs to do the banking, stock trading, real estate transactions, and other actions necessary to marshal and dispose of the decedent’s estate in the name of the estate itself.

As a fiduciary, a Personal Representative has the duties of:

    1.    Loyalty
    2.    Candor & Honesty
    3.    Good Faith

In the U.S., punctilio of honor, or the highest standard of honor, is the level of scrupulousness that a fiduciary must abide by.

Types of Personal Representatives include:

    •    Executor or executrix (term for females)
    •    Alternate executor
    •    Administrator
    •    Ancillary administrator
    •    Public administrator
    •    Guardian
    •    Conservator

The decedent’s usually indicate who they wish to be in charge of their estate. This individual will be known as the executor of the estate. Sometimes, there is also an alternate executor named in case the executor chooses not to or cannot perform the probate duties.

If the person in charge is female, she is known as the executrix. If the person in charge is male, he is known as the executor. If the decedent did not leave a will, any person can petition the court to be in charge of the estate. However, the court prefers a blood relative to become the administrator of the estate. In this situation if the person in charge is female, she is known as the administrix and if it is a male, he is known as the administrator. 

A couple of important documents you should be aware of are The Petition of Probate and The Letter Testamentary. The Letter or Testamentary gives the PR the authority, and the Petition for Probate gives the exact name and address of the Personal Representative. It’s important to note that these 2 documents will both be found in the Probate case files.


At, our goal is to pair REALTORS and investors with the Personal Representative by compiling a list of recent filings in your area. For expert consultation on how you can capture your share of this niche market by identifying probate opportunities in your market, visit our website or give us a call at 800-307-9124 for expert consultation. 

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4359186526?profile=originalHave you ever worked probate leads? 

Reaching out to the Personal Representative/executor of a property that has recently entered into probate has paid dividends for many investors and agents because more often than not, the executor is motivated to sell, for a host of reasons: 

  • The executor has to pay for taxes, ongoing mortgage payments, utilities and other estate-related expenses. Just about every expense that a household has to pay for, the executor must pay. 
  • The estate has to be divvied up to pay the heir's their equitable share. Normally, the heirs do not want to play landlord, pay for upgrades or repairs, or otherwise be involved in the property, especially under the emotional circumstances. Better to cash out and move onto another chapter in their lives. 
  • Heirs have to pay for expenses out of their own personal finances, and this creates a sense of urgency to sell the property. 
  • Unfortunately, there are some cases of heir infighting, where the heirs have conflict over what they are entitled to, and this brings out the worst of people. The executor gets stuck in the middle, and in order to end the fighting, the executor is driven to sell the property as soon as possible. 

The challenge is in finding these probate filings. You would think that in this digitized world, you can easily log into an online portal and download what you need, right? Unfortunately, unless you are in a very small percentage of counties, it is not that easy. You then have to make a trip to the local courthouse and pull this data yourself, only to find it is tedious and time consuming. To make matters worse, the clerk behind the counter may not be the most supportive person in helping you find what you are looking for. I know of several people that have tried this and didn't have the time or stamina to complete it, and others that have done this but rarely undertook this once or twice more. 

At, we specialize in saving you the time, money and frustration of pulling these records yourself, by performing this task for you. There are variances from county to county, but generally what you get is:

  • Name of the deceased 
  • Property address
  • Value of the real property in the estate
  • Executor name and address
  • Contact information of the attorney, when present

Armed with this information, you can be the first to reach out to the person that has been awarded the absolute authority to sell the property in the estate, show empathy and convince them that you can help them in their time of need. 

Want to bounce some more ideas around? Call us at 800-307-9124. If you found this article informative, let's continue the conversation on Facebook

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It is a common occurrence in the Silicon Valley for homes that are in Probate to also go into default. For many older home owners there is scant cash in the bank, they may still have a mortgage, and without a trust a home goes to Probate. When that happens the bills, including the mortgage do not get paid until a Personal Representative is appointed by the court. This can be a lengthy process if there is a disagreement amongst heirs as to who should be in charge. Unfortunately that is a very common occurrence in Santa Clara probate sales.

So while the relatives are arguing over who rules the Santa Clara Probate roost, the mortgage does not get paid and the lender starts the foreclosure process.  

Once at least three payments are missed a Notice of Default may be filed on the Santa Clara Probate Sale. This notice will give you three months to cure the default. If the owned money on the Santa Clara Probate home is not paid during that three month period a Notice of Trustee Sale can be filed and the Santa Clara Probate home can be sold three weeks after that.

The attorney for the Santa Clara Probate home can go to court and get an order to temporarily stop the foreclosure process while the estate is being settled, but this takes some time as well.

Because the inventory is so low and the demand for homes is so high in Santa Clara, most Santa Clara Probate Sale homes can be sold and ownership transferred during the Notice of Default period. The defaulted loan on the Santa Clara Probate home can be paid off, and the rest of the equity used to pay the other bills and then distributed to the heirs.

Sounds simple, but sometimes it isn't. Once a loan on a Santa Clara Probate sale goes into default it is transferred to the loss mitigation department. Sometimes that is the equivalent of going into a black hole. These departments are overwhelmed and under staffed. It can take many weeks to get pay off information from them. In a traditional sale the title company will order pay off information less than a week before closing which is more than enough time to determine exactly how much is owed by the seller to pay off their loan.

In a Santa Clara Probate sale when the loan is in default it can take many weeks to get the pay off information. The title company should start the pay off demand as soon as there is a contract. That way, maybe 30 days later they will have the figures to pay off the loan.

If it is a short escrow period for the Santa Clara Probate Sale it is possible that everyone might be ready to close and there is still no pay off demand from the lender. When this happens, the escrow can still close and title can be transferred, but the money can not be distributed until the mortgage is payed off, and the estate will have to pay for a mortgage on a home it no longer owns until the bank gets its money.

So if you are involved in a Santa Clara Probate Sale and there is no money to pay the mortgage make sure that the process is started right away to get the pay off demand for the loan or the estate will be paying on the loan after the escrow is closed.

If you have any questions about Probate Sales in Santa Clara or San Mateo County please feel free to contact me.

Marcy Moyer

Keller Williams Realty

D.R.E. 01191194


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If you are the Personal Representative for a Redwood City Home in Probate that has a delinquent mortgage, but there is equity in the home, DON'T BE AN OSTRICH!!!!!!


It is now very common for Redwood City homes that are in Probate to have mortgages. Many homeowners were enticed to refinance in the last decade because of easy money or low interest rates, many seniors have reverse mortgages on their Redwood City Probate homes, and some people did not refinance because of low interest rates, but because they were helping out family members.

When a mortgagee dies the mortgage still needs to be paid. Death does not eliminate the obligation. So what do you do if the mortgage is late, the home is in foreclosure, and the estate has no money to pay the mortgage? It is very common for Redwood City Probate estates to be house rich but cash poor.

The first thing that has to happen in a probate with this situation is that a personal representative needs to be appointed. This sounds like a no brainer, but sometimes there are fights within a family as to who that person is going to be, and while people are fighting the bank could be foreclosing. So stop fighting and get someone appointed. 

Once the Personal Representative is appointed he or she should hire a real estate agent. This agent should have experience in both probate and short sales. Probate experience is a no brainer, but the reason for short sale experience is because that person will know who to talk to to postpone the foreclosure.

You will need to give authorization to your agent to speak with the bank and that takes a few days, so do this right away.

Once the postponement is granted get your Redwood City Probate home on the market and get it sold. Postponements generally are only good for 30 days at a time, and you may not get a second one if the home does not have an offer, so don't delay.

If the home has no equity then you should speak with the bank about a Deed in Lieu of Foreclosure. You may be able to negotiate the bank giving the estate $5,000 to $10,000 if you give them the keys and empty out the Redwood City Probate home. However, prices are appreciating so rapidly right now that you may believe your Redwood City Probate home is underwater when it really isn't.

So, if you have a Redwood City home in Probate and there is no money to pay the mortgage, don't just stand there, do something. Take the necessary steps to get help to make sure the estate's home is not lost to foreclosure. If you hide your head you could lose hundreds of thousand of dollars in equity.

If you have any questions about selling a Redwood City Home in Probate please feel free to contact me.

Marcy Moyer

Keller Williams Realty

D.R.E. 01191194

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