5 min read May 17, 2024

Probate Sales: What Sellers & Buyers Must Know

Most people prepare a will that states the distribution of assets and investments among the heirs after their death. Unfortunately, 55% of Americans don’t have a will. And when a person doesn’t prepare a will, a probate sale is executed.

The probate sale is a court-ordered auction of assets to pay off debts and distribute assets to heirs. Americans spend $2 billion annually on probate. A real estate attorney can help a seller navigate the probate process and ensure that their rights are protected. A real estate agent can help a buyer to get the property at the best possible price.

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With the right guidance, this process can be streamlined. Companies like Houzeo provide you with a real estate attorney and an agent to make the process hassle-free.

What Is a Probate Sale?

A probate sale is the court-managed process of selling a deceased person’s property when there is no will. The probate court supervises the sale and approves all transactions of the decedent’s properties.

There are guidelines to carry out probate sales in real estate. The guidelines involve legal requirements, maintaining transparency, and seeking fair negotiations in the probate sale process.

At the end of the sale, the court will first pay off the decedent’s debts and taxes. Then, the court will distribute the remaining money evenly amongst the legal heirs.

Seller’s Guide: How to Sell a Probate House?

Here are 4 easy steps to understand how a probate sale works for a seller:

  1. Petition the Probate Court: The first step is to file a petition with the probate court in the county where the deceased person lived. The petition will request the court to appoint an executor or personal representative to manage the estate.
  2. Obtain Court Approval to Sell the Property: The executor or personal representative must obtain court approval to sell the property. This may involve a home appraisal and a selling plan.
  3. Market And Sell the Property: The executor will then work with a real estate agent to market the house and sell it. The sellers will list the property for sale, and interested buyers can submit their offers.
  4. Close the Sale And Distribute the Proceeds: Once the property is sold, the executor will close the sale. They will also distribute the proceeds to the beneficiaries of the estate.

Buyer’s Guide: How to Buy a Probate House?

The following are the steps to understand how a probate sale works for a buyer:

  1. Search for a Probate Property: You can look for properties online or consult a real estate agent who specializes in probate properties.
  2. Examine the House: Get a house inspection to inspect the overall condition of the house. The house inspector will create an inspection report summarizing the observations that will help you decide whether to purchase the home or not.
  3. Compare Property Prices: Check the current prices in the neighborhood. Ensure you are paying a fair price for the property.
  4. Make an Offer: Make a final offer on the property. The higher the bid, the more likely the court will accept the offer.
  5. Make a 10% Deposit: It is mandatory to make a deposit of 10% of the home value as a cashier’s check.

Probate Sales vs Regular Sales

Probate sales involve court-supervised transactions of a deceased person’s assets, while regular sales are property transactions. Here are some more differences you must be aware of.

FeaturesProbate SalesRegular Sales
OversightCourt-supervisedNo court oversight
TimelineTypically longer (6-12 months)Typically shorter (2-3 months)
Property ConditionSold "as-is"Buyers can negotiate repairs
Buyer ContingenciesNot allowedAllowed
Sale priceMust be at least 90% of appraised valueNo minimum sale price
MarketingMay be more difficult due to as-is conditionTypically easier
BuyersMay attract fewer buyersMay attract more buyers

Pros & Cons of Probate Sale

Here are the pros and cons of a probate sale:


  • Reduced Price: Probate properties are sold below market value because they are sold in “as-is” condition. This can be attractive to buyers who are willing to take on some risk to get a good deal.
  • Transparency: Throughout the transaction, both buyers and sellers are entitled to precise and clear information. The court protects the executor and ensures a fair sale of the estate assets.


  • Limited Control: You will have less control over the sale process as the executor will be responsible for selling the property. This means that you may not be able to negotiate the terms of the sale.
  • Lengthy Sales Process: The overall home-selling process of probate properties can take up to a year or longer.
  • Potential for Delays: Probate sales can be delayed if there are any disputes among the heirs or if there are any complications with the estate.

Bottom Line

Probate sales benefit both sellers and buyers. For sellers, these sales facilitate the settlement of debts and expenses within the deceased’s estate. Buyers can seize opportunities to buy property at a lower price.

Probate sales offer the chance to acquire property at below market value, but require patience and understanding. Seeking legal advice and understanding the process thoroughly is advisable for all involved parties.

Frequently Asked Questions

What happens when a house goes to probate?

When a house goes to probate, the court supervises the transfer of ownership of the property to the rightful beneficiaries. The court also facilitates its sale to distribute the proceeds among the heirs.

How does probate affect a house sale?

Probate can affect a house sale due to legal complexities, potential delays, and the need for court approval, all of which can impact the sale process and its outcome.

What are the benefits of probate sale?

Probate sales helps sellers in settling estate matters while buyers the opportunity to buy a house at a reduced price . However, you should look for pros and cons before proceeding.

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