Market Wise Q&A: How Do Adult Children Sell the Family Home While Keeping the Peace?


Pat Kapowich for the San Jose Mercury News Market Wise column


Q: We have been trying to sell a deceased parent’s large vacation home for almost a year. We received one low offer within the first few weeks.  The trust states all personal property is to be distributed within six months. The sibling, who is currently acting as trustee, insists all of our parent’s belongings stay in the house until it is sold.  After the sale, we’ll divide up the personal property per the family spreadsheet which was circulated over a year ago.  The listing agent stopped asking that we remove all personal belongings, stage the listing professionally, and lower the list price.  It seems her advice is unheeded.

Group emails between all the adult children have been infrequent, unproductive and often heated. The eldest daughter is suggesting we replace the listing agent. The youngest son has been pushed aside even though he is a real estate agent in another state.  He secretly visited the property, even though the property is declared off limits by the trustee, and was just appalled by how poorly the property was being presented. What can our family do to get this listing sold while keeping the peace?  



A: Brainstorming is the most powerful tool a family has at their disposal and unfortunately often goes untapped. The trustee or co-trustees should brainstorm, preferably in-person and on-site, with their listing agent. Asking another sibling or family members to attend these meetings is super helpful. Creative and constructive brainstorming always results in smoother relations, a fresh set of ideas, which results in fewer Days on Market.

Sellers can easily do a combined $80,000 in price reductions because they were unaware that $10,000 to $20,000 toward moving out, renting an interim residence, placing their belongings in storage, painting, correcting deferred maintenance, etc., would have sold the home.

The worst thing a seller can do is unnecessarily stigmatize his or her property.  Sellers who blaze through agents act on only 25% of first agents’ advise, 50% from the second and, no surprise here, 100% of the third and final agent. Replacing a competent listing agent will not go unnoticed by the real estate community.  This telegraphs that the sellers and/or the property are problematic. Conversely, using the same listing agent through thick and thin shows they are “a team” and therefore a real business partnership with which their buyer(s) can safely enter into a legally binding contract.

Market Wise Column published Sunday, January 12, 2014

small_0233 copy

REALTOR® Pat Kapowich, owns Kapowich Real Estate and instructs quarterly Saturday forums in real estate at De Anza College. Contact him at (408) 245-7700 or via