Selling Your Parents’ Home: A Look Inside My 5-Step Process

Don’t judge this advice by the title. 

The process of selling your parents’ home applies to any family property. Maybe your aunt is moving to Palm Springs and needs help selling a home. Maybe a spouse unfortunately passes away and now you’re looking to downsize from your sprawling, Tarzana mountain estate. 

In all these life-changing situations, it’s about creating an easy, stress-free transaction, and as an official Senior Specialist at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties, that’s what my five-step selling process is all about. 

STEP ONE: THE PLAN

This step can take five weeks or it can take five years. It really all depends on your timeline and how far in advance your family plans for the move. If you’re listing as a result of a life event, of course there will be less planning time involved but if you’re not sure about your timeline, our free real estate consultations can help you determine one. 

Creating a plan is all about deciding next steps and establishing a timeline, even if it’s a long-term timeline. People tend to think of a real estate agent as someone for the immediate future – “I’m ready to sell. Honey, let’s call the REALTORⓇ!” – but the truth is, we are consultants and advisors, and we can devise a plan that works perfectly for you. 

STEP TWO: THE WORK

Step two is all about the minor (or major) work involved in getting the home ready for sale, which depends almost entirely on time and budget. Of course, all the pre-sale work will be determined in the plan, but in step two, it’s time to execute. 

The work might be strictly cosmetic – switching out a few lamp shades, putting a fresh coat of paint on the exterior of the house, adding shrubbery to the front yard, replacing rotting patio covers, and decluttering the space. Or, it can be more of an extensive remodel, though major renovations aren’t the norm when selling a family home, unless no one is currently living there. A lot of times, if there’s a resident living at the house, they don’t want to be disrupted, so I advise that we declutter and pack up some of the personal items. Which brings us to step three … 

STEP THREE: THE THINNING

I also always recommend holding off on the estate sale until the very end of the sales process, because sometimes that gorgeous statue you imported from Greece can be used when staging the property. 

As a recent example, I just listed a home that was beautifully remodeled in 1981 with expensive wallpaper, padded walls and custom furniture. The style isn’t necessarily “in” today but it absolutely works for the house, so we went with it. 

During the staging process, I worked with our expert stager to thin out the furniture, declutter all spaces and clear those counters. Then, took photos and marketed the home as a “long-term ownership with limitless possibilities.”

Minimal disruption to the owners, and it totally worked to showcase this gorgeous early 80s home in its best light. 

That is the art of The Thinning. It showcases the space, whether it’s a small or large home, and maximizes its potential. 

To break it down, thinning out usually involves leaving most of the furniture in the home but packing up collectibles and (according to the plan created in step one), doing partial or light staging. This staging is crucial if some of the existing furniture is too bulky; we’ll remove the bulk and bring in additional items to make the home feel open, breezy, light and bright. 

STEP FOUR: THE PRICING

Sometimes I’ll call to make an initial consultation appointment with a seller and they’ll say: “The home isn’t ready! You can come next week!”

The truth is, an experienced agent is like a real estate Superman – we can see through anything and know how a home should be fairly priced in this particular market. It’s why you should never feel like you aren’t ready for us to view a home, because a lot of times, it’s better for me to see the home as it exists now to save clients the trouble of replacing or moving things that may actually be fine to keep because they won’t impact the price. 

A client might say, “Oh, we’ll replace the bed.” But I’ll say, “No, that bed is fine with some new sheets and less throw pillows; what we really need to move is the couch!” 

What does impact the price are those renovations made during step two, especially if you opted for more extensive changes. A recent client, for instance, who lives alone in a 3,700 square-foot home in Calabasas, asked about changing out the grass for artificial turf. He was getting letters from the city warning that they’d turn off his water and he wouldn’t be able to shower if he continued watering his lawn. 

So, I told him to invest in the $11,000 turf renovation, not only because it will provide him peace of mind during our current L.A. drought but also because he’ll recoup that money 3-4x when we price the home. 

That’s just how it is with the right home improvements; they’re investments that exponentially increase the value of your home. But even without investing in changes, after the thinning comes the pricing, which an experienced real estate agent will complete to help you realize optimal value for your property. 

STEP FIVE: THE MARKETING

After a price is set, it’s about the marketing. First, taking photos – daytime, twilight, floor plan images to see the layout – and getting the home online so it can make a shining first impression to prospective buyers. During the planning stage, your real estate agent should’ve outlined their detailed and customized marketing strategy, which can include: digital marketing, social media campaigns, print marketing, listing syndication, email marketing, open houses, broker tours and more. 

The marketing plan for a family home is very different if the home is occupied versus unoccupied. If people are living at home, it’s trickier to market in-person, and open houses should be scheduled around those few times when your family members can be away. (It’s not personal; any prospective buyer will be uncomfortable talking about a house with its owners able to hear their feedback.) 

So, that’s it. That’s your inside look into our general, five-step process for selling a family home, which is subject to change, based on the particular circumstance and client. 

As a Senior Specialist, I’m sensitive to the needs of these homeowners, how much this is NOT a one-size-fits all approach, and how emotional selling their home might be. Even just thinning out a living room could bring back memories. 

And you know what? If mom really wants to keep that statue she bought in Africa 35 years ago on display, I say do it. Selling a family home is as much about making the homeowners happy as it is about getting the house sold.