Best way to proceed? (long)


#1

Long story here.

My family has owned a piece of property in SW Virginia for about 130 years now. It was an apple orchard for a long time. My great-uncle used to run moonshine during Prohibition that he made on the site. I’ve got a picture of my dad in his hippie days, sitting on a still by a creek that runs through it. It’s great land. Rolling hills, ponds, and has a view of the Blue Ridge Parkway running on the top of the ridge.

When my great-aunt died, she stipulated in her will that the property goes to my dad when her husband died. (Great uncle didn’t actually own the land. As you might have guessed from the moonshine stuff, he had some trouble with the revenuers and couldn’t own property or it would have been seized immediately)

He remarried a woman and asked if she, too, could have a life estate on the property, meaning that she could stay there as long as she lived, if she outlived him. Fine. It all got changed so that, when she died, my dad would own the property. My great-uncle died a while back, but this woman lived there for years.

Dad got a call the other day, telling him that she had died. He also got several calls from people in the area wanting to buy the land. Dad wants to sell the land for an honest price. He doesn’t want to rip anyone off, but he wants to get something for it to give his grandkids. What’s the best way to proceed and make sure that he’s getting the most fair price? Any potential pitfalls?

It’s about 4.5 hrs from Washington DC, about 3 hours from Richmond. Anyone have any experience trying to sell to a piece of property in a big city like that for a hunting retreat? What did you find worked best?

Thanks!


#2

I don’t have any personal experience, but I would highly recommend your dad get a professional in real estate involved, preferably one that is (1) in the area and (2) has experience with the specific type of property he is looking to sell. He may need to interview several by phone. They can help make sure the price is fair as compared with comparable properties in the area.

If people are calling wanting to buy the land, and she just passed away the other day, to me that’s a red flag that they’re looking to scoop up a great, valuable property on the cheap. I remember Dr. Stanley writing in one of his books about people who are essentially vultures looking to prey on people who have recently experienced loss (e.g., new widows).

It could be worth a significant sum of money. Getting the best price isn’t ripping anyone off, it’s about making sure your dad doesn’t get ripped off by someone looking to cheat him.


#3

I’d recommend hiring an appraiser from that area to prepare an assessment of the property value. It may cost a few hundred dollars, but it would be well worth it. If the offers are reasonable (based on the assessment), great! You can avoid using an agent (saving thousands) and know you received a fair price. If the offers are low-balls, at least you’ll be better informed when you interview agents and review the value they calculate as a part of their presentation.

John


#4

I agree with the appraiser suggestion. If the property is large, a sales agent and an attorney or closing agent will probably be required and the closing will probably involve more paperwork. If it’s small, you may be able to sell it yourself to a cash buyer and save the agency fees. I recently sold some property to a cash buyer, and there were almost no costs involved in the transaction other than deed preparation. My only advertising was a sign I put up. I received at least $5000 more than if I had used an agent, but I did a fair amount of research and knew almost exactly what the property was worth.