What to do with an old house from parents?

Hello everyone,

I wanted to share a little bit my case with you guys, so maybe someone has been in a similar situation. A bit of context:

My parents have inherited 2 old houses (somewhere in Spain). Right now, no one can leave there because the very bad condition. I am not only talking about painting or superficial stuff, but really the upper floor doesn´t seem to be stable and a whole reconstruction may be necessary.

My parents have no resources to make such renovation, and the idea is to keep them so my brother and I can inherit them in the future. They can afford just owning them like that, without making any profit nor selling it (they would sell if needed for some reason).

Now my questions are:

  • Would it make sense from my side to ask them to let me do a renovation on one of the houses already, before inheriting it? I am not even sure I could pay right now for the whole work that needs to be done, but I cannot buy a house myself either. In that case, I could live there, or just rent it while I am working abroad.

  • Does it make more sense to sell one of them and buy a house that does not need such an investment to have it ready to live? The value of the houses, as they are right now, it´s somehow high. Probably around 180K-280K each, which would be enough to buy a modest/ok FLAT in my region.

  • I do my own, try to get my own house, and let´s see whenever it´s the time to inherit (I´m on my 20s and they are on their 60s).

It´s more like an open discussion and get some feedbacks about what makes more or not sense at all.

Hopefully this is the right thread :slight_smile:


first of all : is there any emotional aspect involved for you or your parents ? If not, I would seriously consider selling right now, take the cash for better and meaningful projects. If this is not an option, there is actually no other way than make some proper scenarios and run excel.

Please note that there is also the possibility to inherit before the time (in form of a “Schenkung”). If you are putting own money into it, I would look into this possibility.

For building the scenarios, I would recommend asking those questions to yourself (BTW, I am assuming you are living in CH right now):
-Where are your parents living right now (Spain ? Switzerland ?). Can they help doing refurbishing the houses/apartments because of professional background ? How close do they live to those houses ? If they are geographically far away, it would be a point to sell.
-I would make sure, that the appraisal of the house is correct.
-Is there a market to rent the houses once they are refurbished ? How much could you expect ?
-Is it possible to easily convert it in Multiple appartments ? What would be the costs ?
-How much would a simple refurbishment would cost ? Who can supervise the works ? Get a quote from several local architects and different scenarios (with different scenarios, you might need to pay for a study). Without this info, not much point to go further.
-If renting, who can do the admin work for it ? Do you need someone external ?
-Do you actually see yourself living there? Is it a dynamic region in Spain ? A lot of regions are having trouble with depopulation, and actually also desertification).

Personally :

  • if renting is difficult, renovation costs are not bearable I would look into selling. Especially if there is no emotional value. Let your parents take the cash and have the possibility for a nice end of life (and maybe you will inherit something in the end as well). A 360 to 560k€ windfall is always nice to take and would be the end of a lot of headaches
  • if it would be easy to rent out, than it might be a go-for. The caveat would be a lot of effort, and as far as I know, renting out in Spain as a foreign resident has some defavorable tax implications. To be checked.
  • I would avoid to let the houses just sitting like that. The condition will only go worse, especially if no regular work is done.

My 2 cents.

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Leaving aside sentimental feelings, it is all about assets allocation.

First, where are you parents living?

I guess the second thing that you should do is to guestimate how much the value of the houses should grow in the future, ideally in inflation adjusted terms, in 2 scenarios: leave them as they are and repair. Then of course compare with the expected growth of other assets which your parents are realistically ready to invest into. Or consider transferring money from the potential sell of houses to you and your brother.

My base hypothesis is that you are better off selling them and invest proceeds in stocks, but I am kind of stocks maximalist and stuff-owning minimalist :laughing:


First, where are you parents living?

They live in the area, and all the supervision of potential renovation work but not doing it themselves since they don´t have related background.

Do you actually see yourself living there? Is it a dynamic region in Spain ?

Definitely. The region is dynamic, and renting it would be rather easy.

is there any emotional aspect involved for you or your parents ?

I guess there is. Plus my parents are the typical old school Spanish who would rather keep property than investing in something they can’t see.

how much the value of the houses should grow in the future

Luckily? I would say the value of the houses will keep growing, not only by inflation but house market in my area itself. And my parents also see that. Maybe that’s why they are not so worried because at any point selling the houses will come with a nice windfall.

Thanks for you comments. I agree, i know that real numbers must be done, specially on how much money should be investment on the refurbishment and how much could I expect from renting it. Also, I will definitely have to take a look at tax implications due to my current residency abroad, but that will change mid-term, so I am not really worried.

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I meant, do they live in another place they own? Would be weird to have some money stuck in an unused property while paying rent.

Sorry I did not get it. Yes, they own the house they are living in.

If you are an experienced builder and can do it yourself, why not?


Here I also meant paying myself for a renovation project, but I can’t do really anything construction-wise :sweat_smile:

I agree with @Patirou who made many good points/questions.

My quick take:

  • Your parents already live in their own owner-occupied property. Owning and keeping additional properties in dire need of renovation and management for their emotional value is irrational. Especially if the don‘t have the means to renovate.

  • Do you have a concrete plan of moving to Spain and live in one of these properties? Is there a compelling reason for you to live in one of these houses rather than somewhere else? If not, keeping them for your own use seems irrational (from your perspective), too.

  • Do you want to become a landlord that wants to invest in and rent out a property in Spain today? Owning a house is a money sink and takes away attention and focus and complicates your own life (figuring out and surveilling renovation works, how to account for the resources you invest, figuring out the tax consequences of the money you spend on it etc.). Your post doesn’t sound like it. You rather sound like the son of our parents who‘s just trying to figure out what to do with these properties, now that you (your parents) happen to have inherited them.

:question: Is anyone (you?) convinced and has concrete plans to live in one of the properties in the foreseeable future?
:question: … or treat them as investments, invest and rent out as a landlord?
:question: Are the properties going to appreciate considerably in value (due to location?), even if you spend nothing or only the bare minimum in their current dilapidated state?
:point_right:t2: If no to all three questions, I’d recommend to sell to a reasonable offer and get on with life.

PS: I‘ve seen it play out personally in my family with my elderly grandparents: Wasting thousands or tens of thousands over years on a property no one lived in - and then ending up selling it at the worst possible time at a bargain price, just to get rid of it. To top it off it, it was a lakefront property near to the capital of the country.

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IMHO, no, as you wouldn’t be able to deduct the renovation costs from your Swiss income taxes.

I just sold 3 houses in my home country. All of them inherited from my parents, building date 1976 & 1980. My siblings and me were very attached to the houses. It was where we grown up.

However, they were a very bad investment. I was forced to hold it in consortium with my siblings for the last 20 years. Money pit.

I see the 2 houses in Spain you mentioned as similar bad investment and money pit. Throwing good money after bad money. The best is to sell them now and invest the proceeds elsewhere more profitable.

The money from the houses I sold I put direct in VT, the dividend I get is similar to the rent I would get for the house, without the troubles.


Maybe a good way to look at things: if someone gave you or your parent the market value of those houses in cash, what would you do?

If the answer is that you’d go and buy those houses, then you know. If not then maybe you’re just too attached to the “default” option which is to not take action.


You are right. You both made very good points. I agree on the fact that it’s not a good deal making such an investment to only get a rent.

On the other hand, I think I could answer yes to the three questions:

  • I am convinced about living there once I am back from CH.
  • I would rent it while living and working in CH
  • The properties are going to appreciate without spending anything.

The money from the houses I sold I put direct in VT, the dividend I get is similar to the rent I would get for the house, without the troubles.

This would make sense, but after all, the houses are ultimately from my parents, and they will not get convinced about this movement…

Basically, the only way something can be done with (at least one of) the houses and my parents consent is:

  • Tell my parents I would like to renovate, rent and live there.
  • Tell my parents to sell the old house to buy another more modest property ready to leave. And still rent it at first, to end up living there.

This not a given:

1 - Normally real estate appreciates in line with inflation, long term at least. Of course you could be looking at a good location which will appreciate, but how can you be so sure?

2 - Normally properties cost, so you’ll spend something. At least some taxes and minimum up keeping.


Next questions:

  • Does it have to be the very same house they inherited?
  • As @Giff alluded to: Do you anticipate its value is going to increase disproportionately more than costs and other alternatives/investment opportunities? (The principle of opportunity cost applies)

Keeping a house with sale value empty for 20-30 years is madness. The land it is built on may be a a store of value, the property is not it will decay. Especially if it is not habitable to start with

If your parents consider repairing and renting it out it involves a project. As a first step ask a real estate agent how much it might rent for and a builder the cost. They need to be ready to manage all the issues that will occur during the building work and then with tenants , taxes , vacancies etc.

Or sell. 250k invested in the stock market for 30 years at 6-7% return becomes 1.4-2M

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Thanks everyone for all the comments. I will talk to them seriously about considering different options.

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A bit counter to common wisdom expressed by most (which I agree too with, when it comes to evaluate this as investment and opportunity cost).

It’s a bit difficult to see your life trajectory from your 20s, but it is quite probable that you start approaching your 40s with family and kids, and get a different perspective on emotional value of homeownership, place to live, cultural affinity, space availability, kids growing with their grandparents, etc.
(goes both ways - maybe you want to stay in CH or maybe you can’t relocate your kids, etc.)
Moreover your parents will be in their 70-80s and, in several southern european cultures, it is guaranteed that at least one of the children will be heavily involved in caretaking. Proximity makes it a lot easier and cheaper.
Talk also to your brother, he may have different plans than living there :slight_smile:

What I saw in a couple of friends is families sold land/properties when the kids where still small or not living at home, and now they want to go back with their own families and simply cannot afford anything in the vicinity, or much less than what they could have had with renovation costs (regardless of how money was invested earlier). In general I feel the older generation had an easier time acquiring real estate than current generation, and they could afford it sooner in life.

So my suggestion is to consider a plan B, to extract some equity while avoiding removing family real estate assets - and I agree that keeping two unutilized properties makes no sense but equally may not be the best to not be able to get back “home” if needed.
Would it be an opportunity to sell just one of the houses and use the proceedings to renovate the other, that eventually you can rent out? This would be done under your parents ownership so it could be tax efficient.

Ultimately, depends on relative position, cost of renovation, expected appreciation, etc. etc.

Edit: language


That´s also quite a valid point. That´s mainly what I see happening in the future: if they sell those properties, me/my brothers will have hard time to ever be able afford something with similar characteristics.

But yeah, thanks also for your input.

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I own some real estate abroad, and my Swiss tax advisor actually suggested me doing a renovation on it to save on taxes. Here it how it would work:

  • Foreign real estate isn’t taxed in CH, but it’s used to determine the tax rate to tax income and assets in CH. In general, this will be a higher tax rate (due to the extra income/value from/of the foreign real estate).
  • This actually works in both directions: if the income on the real estate is negative (loss), then the tax rate applied to one’s CH income will actually be lowered.
  • The recommendation was to make an expensive (but value preserving) renovation on the real estate over multiple years, creating costs far higher than the imputed income, resulting in a loss, and thus reducing the tax rate applied to one’s CH income.