As homes in probate come onto the market, buyers are showing that they are willing to pay cash, rebuild and flip properties for profit.
A home in Brunswick selling for $200,000 needs to be totally rehabbed, but investors with cash in hand are snapping up such properties around the state to flip for a profit. Credit: Courtesy of Donna Roberts, Your Real Estate

A residence declared “unsafe for human occupancy or use” by Brunswick’s code enforcement officer two years ago came onto the market this week at a temptingly low price, and it is not for the faint of heart.

The real estate ads do not mask the property’s poor condition, which includes mold, freeze damage and contents tossed about, saying “it will need to be trashed out and needs a total rehab.”

That might scare the average buyer, but not investors willing to pay cash to rebuild and flip the property for a profit, Donna Roberts, a realtor at listing agent Your Real Estate Co. in Saco, said.

“They’re very much accustomed to these types of properties,” she said. “The general response when they tour it is ‘it just needs to be cleaned out.’”

So far, she has about 15 scheduled showings, which tracks with the interest in similar homes that Your Real Estate saw last year, when it sold 72 probate homes throughout the state, about one-third of its total homes sold. Most are sold to local investors paying cash, so they are undaunted by rising mortgage interest rates.

In probate sales, a dead person’s property is sold. Roberts works on the sales with an Augusta lawyer. This property is a short sale, meaning it will likely be sold for less than the estate owes on the mortgage. Short sales are an alternative to foreclosure, which typically take longer and bring in less money, she said.

The probate market is much different than that for mainstream residential real estate, where prospective buyers are once again asking for inspections and concessions for repairs as rising mortgage rates and inflation cool sales. Probate properties are typically sold “as is” to investors.

Squatters may have trashed the garage and contents inside this Brunswick house, which has been empty for three years but now is up for sale. Credit: Courtesy of Donna Roberts, Your Real Estate

The four-bedroom, two-bathroom colonial home on Baribeau Drive is located on a corner lot in a residential neighborhood and is listed for $200,000. Built in 1967, it has eight rooms with 1,700 square feet of space, a two-car garage and two stories.

The owner died three years ago, and the home has been empty since with no maintenance or cleaning. Roberts thinks squatters may be partially responsible for the piles of clothes, furniture and other belongings of the owner scattered throughout the home.

She figures an investor would have to put in at least $125,000 to clean and rehab the home, which she said has a solid structure. An investor still could make a tidy profit if they pay $200,000, since three houses within a half-mile radius of the property sold for $365,000 to $390,000 in the last six months.

The kitchen and living room of a Berwick home, which may have been occupied by squatters for years before realtors were able to show the property. Credit: Courtesy of Donna Roberts, Your Real Estate

She emphasizes that homes like this aren’t for first-time buyers, because they can’t be financed and need to be purchased with cash.

Offers for the home are due March 13.