Dividing an Inherited Property

Dividing an inherited property. How do you split a property when one person gets 80 percent and the other 20 percent?

By Ilyce Glink and Samuel J. Tamkin

Q: I inherited 20 percent of a home with a mortgage. The person who owns 80 percent wants to keep the house. How do we divide the property? Should I get 20 percent of the appraised value or 20 percent of the equity of a house? There are enough other assets in the estate to pay me either way.

Dividing an Inherited Property

A: Thank you for the question. You didn’t give us much detail or background information. We will make a few assumptions so that you’ll understand at least the basic options and opportunities. 

Let’s start by saying that it would be quite unfair for you to get 20 percent of the appraised value of the home unless there was no mortgage on the home. Even then, the whole process can be more complicated than simply dividing the total value of the inherited property between the two heirs.  

To illustrate, imagine the property is worth $100,000 and the mortgage balance is $100,000. Technically, the home has no value. If this were the situation, you and the other owner sold the home, you both would have to put money into the sale to get rid of the home. 

Selling a home costs money

Why? Well, selling a home costs money. There are brokerage commissions, transfer fees, closing costs and the various other costs that come into play. Let’s say those costs are $10,000. 

If you sold the property for $100,000, and there was a $100,000 mortgage to pay off, you’d have to pay 20 percent of those costs and the other heir would pay 80 percent, or the estate would cover all of the costs, if it has the assets. 

Now, in an opposite scenario, if the home has no mortgage and you sold the home for the same $100,000, the two of you would split the proceeds from the sale according to your percentage interests. If the costs of sale were $10,000, the net proceeds from the sale would come to $90,000 of which you would get $18,000 and the other owner would get $72,000.

Determining the home’s value

Now in your particular situation, the home has a mortgage and the other owner does not want to sell the home. Well, you now have to agree on what the home is worth. Then how you’re going to come to that value. Some people simply agree on a value and use that. Others may need real estate agents to come see the home and give them an analysis of what they think the home would be worth if it was sold in the current marketplace. Other heirs may want to hire a professional property appraiser to come in and provide their determination of the value.

Whichever method of valuation you choose, you and your co-owner will have to agree on a value for the home. Once you agree, you’ll then have to determine the balance owed on the mortgage. Lastly, you’ll have to determine what costs to deduct from the “sale” of your 20 percent ownership of the home.

Let’s say the value of the property is $100,000, and the balance of the mortgage is $50,000. You should figure out what the closing costs would actually be on the property. Once you have that information, you can do the math and then see if your co-owner wants to buy you out of the property. Here’s a simple equation: Use the value of the home ($100,000), less the mortgage ($50,000), less the closing costs (10,000). In our example, that leaves $40,000 from the sale of the home. Your share of the proceeds would come out to $8,000.

Consider a rough estimate of the property

Of course, we know that there are other factors that go into figuring out what the property is worth and how you might be able to get more out of the property. For example, if you choose to keep a 20 percent ownership share of the property and the co-owner puts money into the property for repairs, maintenance fees or other items, your share of these expenses should come off of the amount that is paid to you in the end.

Our suggestion is to ascertain a rough estimate of the value of the property. Then look to see how much it would cost to sell. Allowing the estate to simply pay you that value. You may find that the estate is willing to eliminate some of those expenses that would have to be subtracted from your share to save the trouble of doing the work, and you’ll net more than you would otherwise.

©2021 by Ilyce Glink and Samuel J. Tamkin.