How-to-Find-and-Buy-Probate-Properties-in-Florida

How to Find and Buy Probate Properties in Florida

Part of making money in real estate is buying property at a discount to sell it at a profit. But finding discounted property is easier said than done. Given the national housing shortage, homes for sale — let alone homes for sale at a bargain — are hard to come by.

Enter probate properties. These are lesser-known properties that often sell for below-market value. However, buying them can be a long and complex process. 

In this article, we’ll go over everything you need to know about probate properties and how to find and buy them. 

Probate property could include the deceased owner’s primary residence, vacation home, or rental property — all of which could make a great investment on your part!

What Is Probate Property?

For the definition used in this article, we are going to assume the property is already in probate. That means the owner has died, and the heirs have already hired an attorney to put the property through the probate process. The other type of “Probate Property” is catching the lead on the property BEFORE it goes to probate. Many times, the investor has to initiate the probate process. This is an entirely different process and is technically called a “Pre-Probate Property,” and we will discuss this in another article.

In real estate, a probate property refers to any property that becomes subject to a legal process called probate upon the death of its owner. 

Typically, when a homeowner dies, their property is passed to their heirs. But depending on how (and the extent to which) the owner prepared for the legal transfer of ownership of their property, the process may require the involvement of a probate court.

For example, if the deceased owner did not have a will (aka intestate), a probate court may appoint an estate administrator to oversee the estate. However, even if the owner left a will, a probate court may appoint someone to execute it. 

In most cases, probate property is sold to settle the deceased owner’s debts or to split the asset among heirs. For example, if the deceased owner still owed a mortgage on the home, the home may be sold to pay off the remaining loan. Or three surviving children may choose to have the property sold to distribute their inheritance evenly.

Probate property could include the deceased owner’s primary residence, vacation home, or rental property — all of which could make a great investment on your part!

The Pros and Cons of Investing in Probate Property 

Now that you know what probate property is, consider the benefits and drawbacks of investing in it: 

Pros:

  • Motivated sellers. Heirs often want to get rid of probate property quickly to get their inheritance sooner or because they don’t want to manage it. This can lead to negotiations that favor you as the buyer. 
  • Below-market deals. Since motivated sellers may be more interested in a fast sale than maximizing the sale price, you may acquire probate properties at a steep discount. 
  • Less competition. Many prospective homebuyers don’t know what probate properties are, let alone how to find and buy them. As an investor, this can leave you with less competition and help you win a favorable deal. 

Before making an offer, it’s important to thoroughly assess the deal at hand.

Cons:

  • Lengthy buying process. Unlike a typical home sale, a probate sale can take 3-36 months. This is because it’s a complex process that involves lots of documents, court approvals, and various legal requirements. 
  • Poor condition. Given the lengthy probate process (not to mention any time between the owner’s death and when the property enters probate), many probate properties are due for serious maintenance, if not repairs. However, they’re usually sold “as-is,” meaning you can’t make a contingent purchase offer.
  • Limited property information. Executors of an estate may have limited knowledge of a property’s condition and history. Consequently, it may lack comprehensive disclosures, and investors must conduct thorough due diligence to assess the property’s potential risks and liabilities. 

How to Find Probate Property in Florida

If, after weighing the pros and cons, you’re still interested in finding probate property for sale in Florida, here are some tips: 

Learn the local probate system. Laws and regulations regarding probate vary by state. The Florida Probate Code is found in Chapters 731 through 735 of the Florida Statutes, and the rules governing Florida probate proceedings are found in the Florida Probate Rules, Part I and Part II (Rules 5.010-5.530).

Monitor probate court filings. Most Florida counties publicly list probate court filings online. Search your county’s public records website for probate cases by name and case number and look for properties listed as estate assets.  

Partner with a local real estate agent. Some agents specialize in probate properties and may have experience working with estate administrators and executors. Try to connect and work with them to leverage their experience and expert knowledge. 

Search local newspapers, online listings, and auctions. Like regular homes, probate properties for sale are often listed in local newspapers and sites like PropertyOnion.com. They’re also often sold at public auctions. Research the nearest probate home auctions for the opportunity to make a bid.

Buying Florida probate property can be a lucrative real estate investing strategy.

How to Buy Probate Property in Florida

Once you’ve found a probate property for sale, you can start the buying process. This involves the following steps:

1. Conduct due diligence. Before making an offer, it’s important to thoroughly assess the deal at hand. Conduct a home inspection to determine the property’s condition and review any financial details. 

2. Make an offer. A real estate agent or attorney can help you make an offer to the probate executor or administrator to buy the property. Remember that purchase agreements for probate properties typically don’t allow for contingencies, so be prudent.

3. Provide a deposit. If and when the probate representative accepts your offer, you must typically make an immediate deposit, which may not be refundable. 

4. Await court approval. Once the estate representative accepts your offer, they’ll file it for court approval. This can take days or weeks but must be completed for the sale to proceed. 

5. Secure financing. In the meantime, secure any financing you plan to use to purchase the property to avoid closing delays. Just know that it’s harder to get a loan for probate properties since their price is less predictable and contingencies aren’t allowed.

6. Attend the probate court hearing. The court will set a confirmation hearing to finalize the sale. All prospective buyers with accepted offers can attend to make bids. 

7. Participate in the overbid process. The “overbidding” process at the court hearing is like an auction. The probate property goes to the highest bidder. Keep in mind, however, that you must typically make a 10% down payment on each new bid price. 

8. Close the deal. Among other things, this involves signing legal documents, transferring funds, and having the probate court judge record the transfer of ownership. 

The Bottom Line

Ultimately, buying Florida probate property can be a lucrative real estate investing strategy. But you need to know the ins and outs of the probate system and how to avoid common mistakes. To learn more, sign up for our 1-on-1 Probate Course, where we dive deeper into how to make substantial profits with less risk through probate investing.

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Christian Allred

Christian Allred is a real estate investor and freelance writer. He's written for top online publications like VentureBeat and HackerNoon as well as major companies in the real estate and proptech space.

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