Can my brother force a sale of our family home?

Recently on our legal forum a user asked, “My brother and I inherited a house when my mother died last year. This home was where I grew up. It has been in the family for fifty years. It has appreciated considerably over the last several years. My brother wants to sell the house. I love this house and hoped that one day my family could live there. Can he force a sale? What are my options to stop this? I have talked to him about keeping it, and he is adamant about the sale.” 

What you have described is a very common issue: well-meaning parents attempting to keep things fair and equal but who create a host of issues for the loved ones left behind. Even if you and your brother have a wonder relationship, disagreement over inherited assets and money can strain any relationship. 

Options for you to keep the home

Now you asked whether your brother can force the sale of the home. Unfortunately, he can, but this doesn’t mean that this is the only option. In fact, assuming you and your brother can come to an agreement, there are actions you could take to keep the home.

  • Offer to buy your brothers half of the house.

Your brother wants to sell your house? Fine, why don’t you offer to purchase his half of the property? It’s likely he only wants to sell because he wants or needs the proceeds from the sale. Assuming you own half of the property, you can get an appraisal and determine how much his half is worth. You can then pay cash for his portion or finance the costs and have him transfer the deed solely into your name.

The downside of this option is you will need a substantial amount of cash or you will need to be able to qualify for a home mortgage. You did not mention your financial status, but for many individuals either of these could be a roadblock to purchasing the home. 

  • Your brother agrees to finance the transaction for you.

The second option is similar to the first option, but it would allow you to keep the home even if you do not have the cash to purchase the home outright or you cannot get a mortgage through a third-party lender. If your brother agreed to finance the transaction you would write a promissory note to your brother for his share of the value of the home. Then he acts as the mortgage lender as you pay him the mortgage payments each month, including interest.

The benefit of this option is that you get to keep the home, which is your goal, and he gets some extra money each month, which is his goal. The downside is he will not get all the money for the sale of the home up-front but will have to wait until the mortgage is fully paid.

Other options if you cannot agree with your brother

Unfortunately, disagreements between siblings often arise with regards to inherited property. While one child may have fond memories of a home, the other sibling, like your brother, may decide the need for immediate funds outweighs all sentiment. So, what can you do if you cannot agree on you keeping and occupying the property? 

  • Sale the home to a third-party

The best option if neither of you can agree on what to do with the home may be to simply sell it. This option can be especially attractive if the home is located in a strong real estate market and has appreciated in value. If you are able to sell the property you and your brother can split the proceeds from the sale in half- less the expenses of the sale. There are also may be some tax benefits of selling the home as close to the time of the death of your mother as possible. These issues, however, need to be discussed with a tax advisor. 

  • Suit for Partition

If the disagreement gets ugly, the law is on your brother’s side. He will have the legal right to force the sale of the home by filing a Suit for Partition. Under this arrangement, the court will order the sale of the home. Unfortunately, this option can get expensive and will reduce the profits that can be realized if you simply sold the house on your own.

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