Guide to Selling Your Parents House

Tragedy is an unavoidable part of life. Seven years ago, after a mercifully short illness, my beloved mother passed away leaving behind her home of over forty years. Where did I begin?

First, I left it alone. It was not within my DNA to rush from New York City to Philadelphia to immediately begin dismantling the home my mother so lovingly created. It was her nest and she loved it. To touch it was to desecrate her memory. So I just left it alone.

But over the course of the next couple of weeks, the responsibility of owning a house in another state came into focus and the task was clear.

What part of this was easy? None of it.

1. The Personal Stuff: Take It Out

Opening my mother’s bureau drawers and pulling out her jewelry box where her personal treasures were kept felt like a violation. But I did it. Along with the silver service, valuable knick knacks and anything else that fell into the category of family treasure. The keys to this house were going to be made available to Realtors city wide and they were going to be bringing through tours of strangers and this was simply a matter of practicality. Besides, what’s more inviting to burglars than an empty house?

2. It’s Not Yours Anymore: Get It Ready to Sell

The first thing you need to do is depersonalize. Buyers want to be able to imagine themselves living there; not see you and your family. Those family pictures will have to come down.

3. A Good Thing: You’ve Sold It

Yes, you are going to put a monetary value on a house that is no longer your home. It gets exchanged for money. My mother knew I didn’t need a house in Philadelphia when I lived in New York City and would be happy to know that her investment paid off handsomely for me and my brothers, forty years after she bought it. Keep that in mind.

4. Bite the Bullet: Move the Rest Out

You left the big stuff so the Realtor could show the house to it’s best advantage. Now the house is sold and the new owners want space for their stuff. It’s time to get rid of the rest of it. My siblings and I took what we loved and got rid of the rest..Business decisions were called for and we made them. You never know what you can do until you have to do it.

If things go according to plan, we survive our parents. This is good; it’s what you want for your own children. But nothing can ever prepare you for it. In my situation, turning my childhood home into a house for sale was worse than the lose itself. It was the dismantling of an institution; my life; my memories; losing my mother all over again. In fact it was none of those things. The memories are still alive within me and are remembered and retold to the next generation at every holiday table and family gathering just as my parents told me about their parents and grandparents.