Anyone who has headed down the road to divorce will agree that the entire journey is full of emotionally charged issues. Aside from the children and the associated custody decision, the real estate decision about what to do with family home is usually one of the top issues fighting for second place.
In terms of divorce advice for men, Guyvorce always recommends that as much as you need a qualified attorney to help you through the legal process of divorce, you need a qualified real estate professional to help you through the decisions surrounding the family home.
Options for Dividing the Family Home
In simple terms, there are normally three options for how to divide and settle the family home.
- One spouse keeps the house, the other moves out. This option is usually the one that we see in the movies. It generates great visions of drama, with the potential for a lawn full of clothing and stuff. However, in reality, it can make sense. One spouse may clearly be able to continue owning and managing the house and associated payments or they may be the obvious choice for primary custody of the children. If the kids have spent years in the family home, you both may agree their best interest is served by continuing their residence in that home for stability. No matter the reason, the other spouse usually is entitled to some other property as a tangible asset of equitable value to their portion of the home’s value at the time of divorce. Your attorney will provide you the best options for this offset.
- Sell the house and divide the proceeds. For many, especially the dual income families, the cost of the mortgage, utilities, and home maintenance was managed through both incomes. Once the marriage goes away, and there is a need for two residences, the old family home becomes unaffordable for one. This is especially true for those households that managed the family home on a single income.
- Continue to own the home jointly, then sell and settle the profit division later. This option is becoming much more common as a result of the housing bubble rupture a decade ago. For many families, selling the family home is not an option if the house is underwater, meaning the couple owes more on the home than it is worth. For many, they become landlords, renting the home for a period of time while the rent helps buy down the debt as the property value recovers. At a certain point, the financial situation resolves and the home can be sold.
Making Informed Decisions
Take a look around your home. You see the familiarity, feel the sense of security, and understand the relief that comes when you arrive home from work. With those feelings, you can understand why choosing your path from the options above can be emotionally charged and difficult. That’s the main way a realtor can help you make the best decision. Don’t continue to fight it out between the two of you. Bring in a qualified realtor to give you the best advice for you both. Remember, if you can’t decide together, the court will decide for you. That path will come with a sizable legal bill and time, so you should try to reach a common agreement, even if between your attorneys, without handing the decision to the judge.
Even when selling a home while happily married, the process is lengthy and full of potential slip ups if you try to do it on your own. Missing a few key steps could keep you legally tied to that property, negatively impacting your ability to buy another home later on.
Financial Reasons for Hiring a Pro
During divorce, one poor decision can easily lead to another, making it even more vital you bring in a professional to make sure you have dotted all the i’s and crossed all the t’s. While not all inclusive, here are four important financial reasons you need a hire a professional to guide you through the real property division:
- Closing the mortgage for both spouses. After divorce, you both will likely want to own another home. If you aren’t removed from the current mortgage correctly, you will have that debt on your credit report. The best case outcome will be you will have to find your ex, hire an attorney, and show through much paperwork that you do not have any financial ties to that home. The worst case outcome is you will be denied the loan for your new home. Save yourself the pain and get a realtor to help.
- Clearing the deed. Just as the mortgage, there is a separate process to making sure you are clear of the title and not legally tied to the property. If this action is not handled correctly, you may find yourself owing taxes on a home you thought was off your books, or potentially liable for another’s injury that occurred on this property. Why set yourself up for this nightmare when a qualified realtor can clear it for you?
- Capital gains exclusion protection. This one is huge and often overlooked. When you sell your home, and make money, you may owe capital gains tax. Then again, if you lived there long enough, you may not. And if divorcing, how do you divide the gains and the exclusion? Not sure of the answer? You aren’t alone. But your real estate professional will help you identify the documentation you may need during tax preparation to satisfy the IRS.
- You can also check with the IRS and try to figure it out yourself, but that is NOT recommended!
Added Benefits of Hiring a Realtor
Beyond the financial protection advantages of bringing a real estate professional onto your divorce team, they also will be able to provide you guidance and support relative to your current sale and future property decisions.
- Emotion-free sale price establishment. Setting the sale price for your home is loaded with emotion, even when married. Add divorce to the equation and you can quickly see the arguments starting. A professional takes away that problem. They know your area, know the nuances that affect pricing, and will tell you what the right price is to sell your home. You don’t want it on the market forever, you need it gone and off the books. They will get you to closing.
- Sheltering you from quick sale temptation. There are two dangers here. First, is from one of the spouses, the one that wants a quick divorce and doesn’t care about the bottom line. They just want it sold. The other is from buyers who learned about the divorce and think they can low ball the offer. In either case, the realtor adds the unbiased layer to negotiate a fair price.
- Understanding of the area to help you find your next home. When your home sells, where are you going to live? What is your budget? Your professional isn’t just there to sell your home, but they can guide you to the right area and home for your needs when you make a fresh start. On your own, you may miss a neighborhood or an option that would have been perfect.
About That Commission
Some sellers shy away from realtors because of the commission. These commissions are usually between 5-6% of the home sale. During divorce, though, keep in mind that the commission is applied to the final sale price, so the division of the profit occurs after all expenses, including the commission.
If you’re still worried about the commission, many real estate professionals cite studies that show homes sell for far more than the commission when listed and worked by a realtor. Others suggest that it depends on the type of property and location, and the Realtor vs. FSBO numbers are skewed by lower-priced sales of mobile homes and condos.
In a divorce, the benefits of using a realtor outweigh the small percentage of commission on the sale. The professional will sell your home at the right price and handle the details. You paid for that service. You got sound advice, a fair price for your home, and are able to focus your energy on the myriad of other divorce issues on your plate. You will be free to live your new life without real estate worries hanging over your head.
Tips for Choosing Your Real Estate Agent
A quick internet search will show you tons of qualified professionals from which to choose. In your effort to narrow the search, you may get frustrated, or tempted to go with a recommendation from family or friends. Don’t jump to a conclusion too fast. The circumstances are different now, so you need to pick based on a focus on your upcoming divorce. Stick to these characteristics and you will be on the right path with the right professional.
- There are two facets to experience. The first is overall experience as a real estate professional. Secondly, you are looking for experience working with divorce situations. Some realtors have this listed on their website. You can narrow your search via the web by including divorce in your search.
- Divorce training. Similar to experience, there are specific seminars or training sessions that realtors can attend to help them work with divorcing couples and their property. If you find a large field of realtors that cite divorce experience, see if any cite relevant training to narrow the search further.
- Sales record. You want a realtor that knows how to make money selling houses. Sales record is really what counts. Look for someone who has a proven track record of sales, including sales in your neighborhood’s price range.
- Knowledge of the area. Remember, you are hiring this professional to help you sell your current marital home, but you may also want them to help you find that next home for your new life. Both areas require a solid understanding of the local market.
- Demonstrates no bias. More than likely, your professional will be working with both you and your ex to sell the home. You have a right to expect neutrality from your realtor, and so does your ex. So don’t plan to let your cousin’s husband handle the sale.
- Rapport. Just as with your lawyer, you need to be concerned about whether your realtor “fits” with you. You will be working with them often, reviewing many details about your home, and seeking a common approach to moving the home on the market. If the realtor doesn’t “fit” with you, the relationship and result will be unfavorable and stressful for you.
Emotions are going to wrap their way around so many decisions during divorce. Don’t let the headache of dividing the family home unnecessarily consume precious energy. Hire a realtor, get that burden off your shoulders and move on to the next issue.
What happened to the family home in your divorce? Tell us in the comments below.
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