Real Estate Options After Losing A Spouse

Guest article from

Losing a spouse is never easy and trying to decide what to do with a home can make life even more stressful. You will first have to decide if your existing home is still the right option for you or if you need to consider finding a new home. Understanding your options and choosing a course of action quickly will greatly reduce your stress so you can focus on more important things. 


Deciding To Stay or Go


Determining whether your existing home is still right for you is a tough exercise to complete but needs to be done. Below are questions you can answer to quickly assess whether you stay in your current home or find a new home.

Factors to Consider:

Is the size of your existing home greater or less than 1500SF? 

What is the condition of the home?

What is the monthly upkeep on the home? 

Who took care of the upkeep, you or your spouse? 

Is the home remodeled or outdated?

Is the home close to family?

Do you currently have any pets?

If you do not have a pet, is your current home feasible for one?


If you answered “Yes” or “Me” to several of these questions it may be best to stay in your current home. If not then you may want to consider a new home.


Understanding Your Moving Options 


If you think it is best to find a new place to live, then what will you do with your existing home? You have options like selling it, renting it or giving it away, however these options require different levels of involvement. Selling a home can require some activity up front to get the home cleaned and emptied out. However, once it’s sold you don’t have to deal with it any longer.  Becoming a landlord requires some attention up front, but then if you hire a property manager to run it won’t require much attention day to day. Lastly, giving the house away is probably the easiest option, however most seniors will need the proceeds from the house to pay for care or housing and can’t afford to give the house away.


Option 1: Selling The House 


Selling a house when a spouse has passed can be a very emotional experience. There are two efficient ways to sell a home 1) Sell traditionally on MLS or 2) Sell to an investor.  If the house is in good shape, doesn’t need repairs or updating, list it with a realtor. Listing on MLS is the most financially beneficial option if you can sell for market value or close to it.  Before you list the property, bring in some help to handle some of the tasks like decluttering rooms, packing what is staying and what is going to goodwill and doing minor repairs. Family members or friends are usually happy to help and can speed up the process of getting the house ready to sell.

If the house needs some major work or has not been updated in many years, consider selling it to an investor. The house would be sold at a discounted price to get rid of it quickly without any stress involved in getting it ready for sale. Most investors will buy the house in the current condition for cash and all you will have to do is take the belongings you want and leave the rest.  A cash home buyer will take care of the fees, cleaning and repairs at the discounted price they pay which is usually around 50 – 60% of the highest possible market value for the house. 

Downsizing from your current home will help you focus on new things in your life and not dwell on the past. There are many benefits to downsizing that can be enjoyable and create happy memories with your family and friends.


Option 2: Renting The House


Becoming a landlord can be very financially rewarding or can be a disaster if done incorrectly. If you follow these steps precisely, they will lead you to the rewarding side of rental property. Once you have moved out of the house see what repairs and modifications need to be made to the house. Sometimes there are city codes requirements for rental property and possible inspections that need to be done. Find out what those are and prep the house. You generally will not need to update everything in a house to rent it, just make sure everything is clean and functional. Research the rental properties in the neighborhood to see what quality finishes they have and copy them. If every rental has laminate countertops and tile floors do not add marble countertops and hand-scraped wood floors. Many people over-remodel when prepping a house for a tenant. During this step you need to find a property management company to handle leasing the home, the day to day operations, and maintenance. You will avoid many issues by hiring a property management company up front. Management companies screen for better tenants than you can, collect rent, and evict if necessary. Management companies also provide a layer of protection between you and the tenant because there is a company in between.


Option 3: Giving the House Away


Gifting a house to someone is fairly easy and the basic steps to gifting a house are pretty straightforward.  Usually a quitclaim deed can be used to gift the home, but any liabilities and liens attached to the home will come with it if a quitclaim deed is used without going through a title change. I would recommend working with a title company to transfer the ownership to ensure there are no unexpected liens or loans on the property. You should also consult with an accountant as there may be tax consequences to consider. 


Take Action


After you have figured out which option is right for you, Take Action! The longer you wait to make a decision, the more difficult this activity will become because files may get lost or the house dilapidates. There are many resources and people in your area who can help like realtors, investors, movers, junk removal companies, family and friends. All you have to do is ask for help!