California probate homes

For California real estate agents, there is a lot of money to be made helping heirs in probate

According to some predictions, median Southern California home prices (Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, and San Bernardino counties) will fall 10% in 2023. And then, another article made rounds on social media stating that 37% of real estate agents in the US couldn’t afford to pay their rent in November of 2022.

Are things this bad? Probably not, but there’s no doubt that the real estate market keeps changing. As always, the most creative and resilient real estate professionals are best prepared to weather the storm. If you haven’t thought about it yet, perhaps 2023 is when you should consider working with heirs in probate.

What is Probate in California?

Too often, complex legal definitions of probate and estate planning, as well as common real estate myths, trick real estate professionals into believing that probate is challenging, extremely unpredictable, risky, and flat-out not profitable. 

Probate may take a long time to complete, and it may sometimes be frustrating. Still, the truth is that in California, most of the complexities are handled by attorneys, and the long waiting game affects the heirs, not real estate agents on the listing side. 

Real estate agents in California can make money through probate by representing the estate as the listing agent and helping to sell the property. Probate is the legal process of administering the estate of a deceased person. If the deceased owned real estate, the property will typically go through probate before it can be sold.

As the listing agent, the real estate agent will be responsible for marketing the property and finding a buyer. The agent will typically receive a commission based on the property’s sale price. The commission is typically a percentage of the sale price and is paid by the estate.

Real estate agents can also make money through probate by representing the property buyer. In this case, the agent will work with the buyer to find a suitable property and negotiate the sale. The agent will typically receive a commission from the buyer as compensation for their services.

It’s essential for real estate agents to be familiar with the probate process in California and to understand the specific rules and regulations that apply to probate sales. This includes understanding the role of the personal representative or executor of the estate, the requirements for appraising the property, and the deadlines for completing the sale.

Common Probate Myths vs. Facts

Let’s look at some common California probate myths and counter them with facts.

Myth: It takes a year or more for a real estate agent to sell a house in probate and to receive their commission.

Fact: You can sell a probate home in as little as three months. Probate may indeed take a year to complete. However, you can sell the home in probate in approximately three months and collect your commission. Like any real estate transaction, some may take longer than others, but there’s no legal or procedural reason why a listing agent in probate needs to wait a year or more to sell the home and get paid. This is primarily true when it comes to full-authority probate.

After the home is sold (as fast as three months from the start of the probate), the buyer gets the keys to the home, and the real estate agent receives their commission. The probate may continue for a year or more, but this does not concern the buyer or the real estate agent. The remaining probate process mainly revolves around accounting and final clearances from the judge, which only concerns the petitioner and the beneficiaries. 

Take a look at the probate timeline below.

Myth: Probate requires much more work than a regular real estate transaction. 

Fact: If you are representing the seller, your job is the same as working any other listing: finding a buyer. Probate presents few complexities, save for understanding of basic probate vocabulary and the process. As long as we are talking about full-authority probate, most of the extra work is done by attorneys.  

 Myth: Commission in probate are lower than in regular real estate sale. 

Fact: This is false. In most California counties, the real estate commission for a full-authority case is 6%.

 Few things are certain in real estate, and probate is no exception. However, unlike many other areas of real estate, probate provides a constant and reliable source of leads: sadly, people die, and as they do, many cases will have to go through probate. For instance, in Los Angeles county alone, 300 to 400 probate cases are filed monthly. If you are willing to cast a wider net and work in a few counties, you are talking about 1,000+ leads monthly. 

Will all these probate cases result in an immediate sale? Of course, not. But if you have access to a comprehensive probate system like, you can do much research and due diligence without blindly chasing every probate case. By working smarter rather than harder, every real estate agent who is willing to do the work can add probate to their list of opportunities. 


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