Four siblings have inherited a home/property. The appraised value is around $480k, but in the current market it would sell for much more. One sibling was already living in the house rent free and wants to buy the property. They say that they were promised a lower value by the deceased, but other siblings were not aware of this and the will states split equally. To make it more complex, that sibling also recently took it upon himself to do "improvements" on the property he values at $20k. We now have an appraisal on the house at $480k. That sibling wants us to reduce that value by 9-10% for the seller fees we would see if we sold on the open market. However, on the open market we know it would sell for more than appraised. He also wants us to reduce the value by the $20k of improvements he made...as they were done prior to the appraisal. No one was consulted with or agreed to the improvements. While they would increase the "sellability" of the house...they wouldn't necessarily add $20K of value to an appraisal....or really any value.

Question is should we hold ground on the buyout value being at the $480K.....or reduce by any of the above?

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    Family considerations may well trump maximizing return here, but that is up to you and your siblings. One option is to openly sell the house and split those proceeds. (And where are seller fees in the 9-10% range?)
    – Jon Custer
    Commented May 18, 2022 at 12:45
  • @JonCuster I don't think that is an option, given that the sibling who lives there presumably wants to buy the house and stay.
    – chepner
    Commented May 18, 2022 at 12:48
  • 1
    @chepner - a partition sale is always an option. Perhaps the nuclear option in this case, but always an option.
    – Jon Custer
    Commented May 18, 2022 at 12:49
  • 1
    Your country really charges 9-10% in sellers fees? Mine is 6%, and that's considered high. My previous country charged 2%. Commented May 24, 2022 at 13:49

2 Answers 2


Think of it this way. If the improvements really added $20,000 to the value, then the appraisal without the improvements would conceivably have come in at $460,000.

You are holding out for $480,000, and your sibling is asking you to come down to $436,800. $460,000 seems like a fair (though still weighted slightly in your favor) compromise.

But more important is your relationship with your sibling. Do you value the $15,000 you are trying to save more than your relationship with him, and conversely, does he value the extra $45,000 you are each asking him to spend more than his relationships with you?

  • What about the seller fees (realtor, etc.)? That is actually the bigger value. My thought was to pay back the 20k but not reduce by the seller fees (10%) Commented May 18, 2022 at 13:26
  • Seller fees are only required if you are using an agent. It's not clear you need to do that here. It would probably be cheaper to hire a lawyer who can help you draft a purchase agreement for a flat fee, rather than an agent who works on commission.
    – chepner
    Commented May 18, 2022 at 13:46
  • I must not be explaining it well. We don't plan to use a realtor, so there would be no sellers fees. However, the one sibling is making that argument that IF we sold on the market there WOULD be sellers fees. So he is making the argument that what he pays should be reduced by that amount even though we won't have those fees. Commented May 18, 2022 at 13:57
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    And I'm saying, compromise. Pay less than your brother wants, but more than you want. Both of you are going to be able to come up with intricate arguments about why your desired price is fair, so stop quibbling over those details and pick a price in the middle that you can both live with.
    – chepner
    Commented May 18, 2022 at 14:05
  • 1
    The important thing is, don't try to justify the middle-ground price: each of you can rationalize it in whatever way makes you comfortable.
    – chepner
    Commented May 18, 2022 at 14:13

The will answers the question for you. Split Equally. Period. Currently the house is in the estate of the deceased, no matter who is living in it. Improvements made by anyone are technically irrelevant.

What the house may or may not bring on the open market really should be reflected in the appraisal. A real inside-out appraisal, done by an independent party. Not tax value or a zillow estimate. If you're in an area where homes are selling above asking price, at this point, the appraisal should have accounted for such increase by looking at comparable sales in the area.

Take the result of the appraisal and divide by the number of siblings. That's what the house is worth to each of you. Leave out nonsense like sellers fees, etc. They aren't relevant in this kind of transaction.

If you decide to graciously allow for the money the one sibling spent on improvements, then that's simply out of love for each other and you move on from there. If you don't feel it was appropriate for him to have made those improvements, then stick to the math and go by the official appraisal.

Keep in mind, the contents of the house also belong to the estate. This might be an area where you can negotiate over the improvements. For example, if none of the other siblings have any interest in the furnishings, dishes, silverware, etc., you could hold to the appraised value and let the resident sibling keep some of the contents to offset what he feels is value he added with the improvements.

The real question is whether or not a few thousand in either direction is worth straining the relationship for the rest of your lives.

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