How to Navigate a Home Sale Due to Divorce

How to Navigate a Home Sale Due to Divorce

Selling a Home in a DivorceDivorce is a painful experience that many people may unfortunately have to confront. In addition to any emotional stress felt, divorce may also cause or worsen existing financial problems. In many cases, a divorcing spouse may find that keeping the original home acquired during the marriage may become impossible - either because it is no longer affordable on only one income or because it will be sold and the proceeds divided, per the divorce agreement.

Should you sell the house before or after the divorce? How do you sell a house during a divorce? These are just two of many questions you may be asking yourself, and these tips for selling a house during divorce may assist you in making good and thoughtful decisions about selling your home and may help you to move forward more easily.  

Clear Everything with Your Attorney First

The first and most important thing to remember about selling a house in a divorce is that this is a legal matter, and must be dealt with in a legal manner. To avoid creating a potential problem, make sure that you discuss every aspect of selling the home with your lawyer or legal representative and work diligently to follow their advice. 

Get an Accurate Estimate of the Home's Value

In many divorce cases, the proceeds from the sale of the home are split equally among the divorcing parties. However, if you or your spouse are agreeable, and either of you have the income and financial ability to cover the cost, you may be able to arrange for one party to buy the home from the other, instead. This can work well in helping to reduce the amount of stress any other family members may experience during the divorce and eliminate the time and cost of moving. In either case, get an accurate estimate of what the home's market value is before you proceed. 

A good way to get an accurate measure of the homes value, is to work with a neutral real estate professional with a strong track record of successful home sales in the area where the home is located. To do this, you may have to locate an agent that is not a friend or relative of either of you. This will eliminate any question of possible bias. While agreeing to use the same real estate professional is a good way to help reduce the costs of selling the home, your spouse may prefer to also engage the services of their own agent.

The real estate professional or professionals you choose will be able to use current and historical sales and listing data along with market trends to determine the most likely sales price range of the home. Called a comparative market analysis, this report should also be made available to both attorneys, as well as the court as part of the financial records of the case. In some divorce cases, a judge may also request further proof of the home's value in the form of a real estate appraisal. 

Time the Sale to Work with the Process

If after discussing the expected market value of the home, any existing mortgages, and your current financial situation with your attorney, the decision may be made that the home must be sold. If this is the case, then the next thing to consider is timing the sale. In most areas of the country, real estate markets usually have one or more peak times each year, when homes typically sell faster and closer to their original list price. So, if it all possible, try to take advantage of the best market times to place the home for sale.

Work with your real estate professionals and attorneys to have the home actively listed during the expected peak period that most closely aligns with your divorce case. Your attorney can negotiate details of the listing with your divorcing spouse's attorney to help simplify the process. Remember that your spouse will likely need to agree and sign off on all details, including listing terms, price, sales commission, and time frame for the listing, as well as be able to work with you to ensure that the home is ready for sale and can be shown easily to prospective buyers. 

Streamlining the Selling Process

No one wants to be stuck selling their home for longer than necessary, regardless of if they’re going through a divorce or not. If not marketed properly, it’s possible for a home to stagnate on the market for months or even years—both of which are not ideal for the situation at hand. Fortunately, there many different strategies you can use in order to help streamline the process and help it along as much as possible. Here are some of them:

  • Set the price slightly lower than average to encourage buyers to come see the home.
  • Make the home inviting by working on curb appeal. This can be done by mowing the lawn, painting the siding, planting flowers, and so on.
  • Remove any personal items from the home to better help buyers imagine themselves living in the home.
  • Stage the home in order to give buyers inspiration for how they can decorate it with their own furniture.
  • Be as flexible as possible with showing times to allow as many buyers to see the home as possible.
  • Take pets to a kennel during showings so they don’t disturb buyers or get disturbed by buyers.
  • Make sure information about the home is easily accessible to buyers.
  • Use high quality pictures on all listings to give buyers the best impression of the home from the very beginning.

By following these tips, you can help give their home the edge it needs to stand out on the market and find a buyer. For more advice on helping a home sell faster, be sure to consult your real estate agent.

Working Together During & After the Divorce

When selling a house after a divorce agreement, it is important to work with each other before and after the home is sold.

While for sale, the home must be available for showings to prospective buyers as much as possible. The home should be kept clean and tidy, with the good drive-up appeal. Keep the lawn and shrubbery trimmed. All legal documents or evidence of a divorce should be kept away and out-of-sight from prospective buyers. Your real estate agent can discuss with you what information, if any, needs to be told to prospective buyers and their agents regarding the divorce.

After closing, the homes furnishing, belongings and all of the homes contents must be removed before the new owners can move in. Keep an open dialog about these items, who gets what, how the movers will be paid and where any forwarded mail and packages will be sent. Also, agree which former owner will be contacted should any questions arise from the new owners. 

Figuring out how to deal with housing situations in a case like this can be difficult, but your attorney and real estate agent can help take some of the burden off of you by determining what actions will best suit your specific situation.

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