There is a thread at Search Engine Watch Forums named Should Search Engines Ban Expired Domain Names? In that thread, the creator believes that search engines remove domain names that reach the status of "pending delete." That fact, I do not know, but I will try to get confirmation on. But what if it was true, a expired domain names is penalized from the index.
The thread creator believes that the domain name should never lose its value. His reasoning, "If you own a good domain name and there's a lot of "traffic" going to it and you lose that domain name I have the right to purchase it and start selling something on it--perhaps the same product. I don't think it's "natural" for a search engine to step in and disrupt the normal "traffic flow" to a location."
Many argue with this and the thread has all the details on it. My thoughts are that if a domain expires, it is a good sign to the engine that they can remove it from the index. No end user wants to end up at a site that does not resolve, it produces unhappy searchers. So if a domain reaches a status of 'pending delete' then it might make sense for the de-listing process to begin.
If in fact you are buying a domain name and Web site from a company, then no devaluation of the site should be issues, in my opinion. The site has earned its reputation and now there is new management in place to operate the site. Businesses are purchased and sold each day, and the day after a business is sold, it still has its previous reputation. The reputation might be good or bad, what happens in the future, is up to the new management. My two cents.