For many divorcing married couples, their home is their largest joint asset. While it’s an option to keep the home, most couples decide to sell it and move on from the chapter of life it represents. Divorce is a very stressful time and adding the stress of selling a home can make the entire experience overwhelming. There will be many hurdles for the two of you to overcome together one last time. The small challenges change from person to person but being mentally prepared for the big ones can make a big difference in your stress levels. Before you jump into the process, familiarize yourself with these 7 major challenges that you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse will be facing.
1. Making the Decision To Sell
The family home can represent many things to a divorcing couple, sometimes good and sometimes bad. However, once the divorce is finalized, and sometimes before, at least one partner has to move out. The home’s mortgage may not be sustainable by one income. In the case of children or a partner reluctant to divorce, there must be conversations about the home and its sale. Most divorcing couples find it difficult to communicate or come to a mutually pleasing decision so it can help to have one or two family members or friends mediate the conversations. Because divorce is a legal process, it may be a good idea to also have lawyers help you two hash out the decision.
If you decide not to sell: Maybe there are kids involved or the market is slow, and you decide to keep the home. There are several options available to couples who decide not to sell the home. A couple are: one partner buys out the other, another is renting out the property until an agreed upon time. Both situations, or any other choice to hold on to the home, requires legal, financial, and real estate advice. Be sure to work with professionals to prevent any major problems from occurring, financial or otherwise.
2. Choosing an Agent
When selling your home under normal circumstances, you don’t have to hire a real estate agent. However, while going through a divorce it is not advisable. Divorcing couples often have trouble making decisions together, agreeing on things, and sometimes are no longer on speaking terms. A real estate agent becomes very important when trying to get the house sold without potential buyers being aware of the divorce. If you and your ex-spouse are having difficulty agreeing on an agent, try calling in a trusted friend to help the two of you come to a decision. This agent is going to make a big difference in how smoothly your home selling experience is.
Why you should keep your divorce a secret from buyers: When home buyers hear the news, they jump to the conclusion that you have to sell the house fast. As a result, you will get low ball offer after low ball offer. Whether you are trying to sell the house quickly or not, it’s best to keep that information away from the buyer. That’s one way an agent really comes in handy.
3. Organizing Joint Finances
Although real estate is the largest joint investment the two of you share, your finances are probably linked in other ways as well. Sit down with your financial advisor and possibly your lawyers to separate your finances before selling your home. The equity should be split fairly between you and your ex-spouse–and that isn’t always down the middle. Take into consideration who is paying more of the mortgage payments, among other restrictions. This part can become very difficult if you and your ex-spouse have a difficult time communicating or disagree about how your finances had been used during the marriage.
4. Deciding on an Asking Price
If you are trying to sell the house before the divorce is finalized, you have little control over what type of market you are selling in. If the market is slow, you’ll probably have to sell your home for less than it’s worth. This can be a frustrating development, and often leads to disagreements between divorcing home sellers. You and your ex-spouse must be realistic about your home and the real estate market. It’s best to have your agent present as you make decisions to help smooth out any disagreements and to be the voice of expertise.
5. Making Repairs
As with selling any home, repairs will likely need to be made. These can be as simple as repainting or more intensive like changing the roof. No matter what the repairs are, the two of you will need to decide where the money will come from. If you are having a hard time communicating and agreeing, bring in a third party to help mediate.
6. Preparing for showings
If you are both already moved out of the home when it hits the market, you can leave the home for your agent to stage. But, if one of you is still in the home, that person will have to get the home ready for walk throughs. If this is proving to be difficult, explain to your agent that their help will be needed in cleaning, staging, and giving tours of the home. Understandably, this is the most emotionally taxing part of selling a home, especially if one or both of you still live in the home. Strangers will be walking through, asking questions, and passing judgement on the home. For people who are already undergoing emotional upheaval, this can be overwhelming. It’s best if both of you leave as much of this step to your agent as possible.
7. Agreeing on an Offer
The harsh reality of having to sell a home quickly is that you may not get the offer you want. Whether it’s because of the market or because buyers realized you were trying to get rid of the house, you’re going to have to decide between the offers you do have. It’s important that both you and your ex-spouse understand the implications of accepting a low offer. If you have multiple offers with varying demands, sit down with your agent and the three of you can decide which one works best for both parties’ circumstances.
No matter how the divorce plays out, selling a home while trying to bring a part of your life to a close is a difficult position to be in. The process can be made easier if both you and your ex-spouse understand that it takes a lot of cooperation to successfully sell a home. As this is understandably difficult for two people undergoing a divorce, having a mediator like a First Team real estate agent can make a big difference.
Being realistic about the challenges you and your ex-spouse have faced in the past and will be facing throughout the home selling process is going to be the key factor in how smoothly everything will go. Don’t be shy to ask your agent to help mediate before an argument occurs. Selling homes of divorcing couples is part of the job and they will be able to handle it professionally and calmly.