Keep Calm And Move On
For most divorcing couples, the number one priority is and should be deciding what’s best for their children. Following close behind, the second priority is figuring out what to do with most family’s most significant financial asset, the house. For most divorcing couples, the family home was the place where they built dreams, what they thought was a dream come true, and maybe the place they raised their children.
As a couple goes through a divorce, deciding what to do with the marital home can be tricky. Sometimes one spouse may want to keep the house by buying out the other spouse. Sometimes the divorcing couple may decide to keep the home and sell it after the divorce is finalized. And other couples choose to sell their home during the divorce. Facing a new and alien emotional and financial reality, divorcing couples often have to make a host of difficult decisions before they can move on with their lives.
Why Do Some Choose to Sell?
Even during a traumatic divorce, there are both personal and financial benefits to selling the family home. The profit gained from the sale of a home might provide each spouse with a solid foundation for a new start. Selling the marital home and eliminating the shared investment can also help provide legal and emotional closure. Choosing to sell before the divorce is finalized provides many divorcing couples with the means to deal with other financial responsibilities and debts. Sometimes there are substantial federal income tax advantages to selling a home before the divorce is final. Some couples, in two-earner families, often have to sell their home because it is no longer affordable for either spouse individually.
It is usually a simple matter to remove one person’s name from the title of a home. However and unfortunately, removing someone’s name from a mortgage loan is a little more complicated. In most cases, especially in today’s two-earner families, both spouses originally qualified for the mortgage. It is possible that neither independently could be eligible for the mortgage, especially in more expensive markets.
That backs many divorcing couples into a corner. In many cases, their only option may be to put their home on the market and sell it.
Not a good situation. Talk about stressful! According to Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale, a mental health tool used by professionals to categorize taxing life events, divorce is the second-most-stressful life-event, and moving is among the top 30. Put the two together, and you’ve created an almost overwhelming amount of stress to handle all at once. According to Sean Brooks, a Keller Williams The Trembley Group Real Estate Professional, “The last thing a divorcing couple wants to do is let the stress of divorce impact the marketability of their home.”
Brooks offers a few selling tips to divorcers selling their home to make help make the sale quickly, successfully, and without creating any more strain than is necessary for what is an already-trying time in their life.
Don’t Move Out Too Soon
Often, divorcing couples are ready to move out of the home they’re selling and move on. Sometimes, that can be a mistake. “Usually, I think it’s best for one of the spouses to stay in the house,” he/she explains.
When the divorcing spouses move out, they often take their stuff with them. That leaves an empty house, usually hastily vacated, that’s not very attractive to buyers.
The divorcing couple could stage the home, a strategy that most agents agree greatly decreases time on market. National Association of Realtors research supports that conclusion. “But there’s a catch,” says Brooks. “Staging is quite expensive. Clients often spend thousands on staging empty homes. If it’s possible to keep some nice furniture, fixtures, and accessories in the home, expenses are immediately reduced, and the house is almost guaranteed to sell faster.”
A major benefit of having the home occupied until it sells is that it keeps monthly housing expenses in check. For most divorcing couples, making three housing payments every month is typically not sustainable.
On average, homes in Myrtle Beach spend about 140 days on the market. That’s a long time to pay two monthly rents plus a mortgage. Plus, a home could take even longer to sell depending on the local market and the specific house.
Couples should wait until their trip to the closing table is guaranteed before both moving out of the house. Divorce isn’t cheap. The average mediated divorce costs couples $5,000, and the average contested divorce is more like $15,000-$30,000.
Save where you can! Money saved today is money that will be available for starting over.
Find an Agent Experienced with Divorce to Help Sell the Home
When selling any home, the first step is finding a Real Estate Professional to help market the home. If going through a divorce, it’s worth the time and effort to find someone with experience working with separating couples. It is a situation that presents some unique challenges.
One of the most important considerations is finding a real estate Professional that will double as a mediator. “People going through a divorce require more hand-holding,” he/she says. “People are usually coming to the table with mistrust, fear, and anger.”
“Finding an agent that both spouses trusts and feels comfortable with is so, so important, says Brooks. “As the selling process proceeds, it’s imperative that neither spouse feels that the agent is on one person’s ‘side’ or the other. Sometimes the soft skills are more important than the technical skills,” he explains. “A Real Estate professional has to able to deal with highly emotionally charged conversations and still be diplomatic.”
Find the Perfect Real Estate Agent
Even in the best-case scenario, even when a divorce is entirely amicable, the sellers need a Real Estate Professional that understands the unique communication challenges of this situation.
In a typical situation, an agent can tell one partner about an open house and expect them to relay that to the other partner. In a divorce, agents have to realize that couples aren’t communicating reliably.
“In a divorce situation, generally every single communication needs to be doubled,” he says. “Every text message, every email, every phone call, every voicemail, has to be replicated, so one spouse doesn’t feel like they’re in the dark.”
One spouse feeling alienated from the process or having the sense that conversations are happening behind their back, can make the entire sale a more anxious experience for everyone involved, creating unnecessary drama and hurt feelings.
Couples will want to hire an agent who is going to be an advocate, someone who is going to go above and beyond and outside of the traditional scope, because you’re dealing with that added anxiety.
Parties in a Divorce Need to Agree On Price Before Listing
Another great reason to list with a Keller Williams The Trembley Group Real Estate Professional experienced in divorce is that he or she will urge you to agree on crucial details before the home is listed, so you don’t hit a bump in the road mid-sale.
Before listing their home, the parties should decide:
- The lowest acceptable offer they’ll consider.
- Who will remain to stay in the home and who will leave?
- How staging costs and repairs will be paid?
- What services like cleaning, minor repairs, and painting will be hired out?
- How much each party will be involved in the day-to-day marketing of the home?
- Will the nonresident spouse be satisfied with not knowing all the details about every appointment, or do both parties need to be kept informed about every aspect?
- What are each spouse’s specific responsibilities?
- What real estate agent will be used, and do both agree on the fee?
- What pricing strategy will be used?
- How much notice does each spouse need for a closing date?
- What attorney will close the sale?
Emotions Can Get in the Way of the Home Sale During a Divorce
For most people, their home is their biggest financial asset. But home is also a place that was the answer to a dream or the place that dreams were created of the place the children were raised. Selling a home can raise a lot of emotions, especially if one partner wishes they didn’t have to sell the house.
Unfortunately, a home’s financial dimension and emotional dimension are often in conflict, even when the parties are not involved in a divorce. The emotional size of a divorce often undermines the sale of a home. That’s a situation neither spouse should want since they’re both relying on the cash from the home sale to start their new life.
“I’ve heard horror stories of divorcing couples fighting and stopping a closing because of some disagreement unrelated to the real estate closing,” says Brooks. “Sometimes things go downhill, purely out of spite,” he says. “Sure, emotions are running high, but the divorcing couple needs to keep their eye on the prize. You only get one chance to get the best price for your home.”
Don’t Rush into Anything You’ll Regret
“Divorce is emotionally stressful and people in distress, people make bad decisions,” says Brooks. “When people are stressed, emotional, and not thinking clearly, they shouldn’t rush into things.”
Once the parties decide that a divorce is going to happen, they can suddenly feel suffocated and stuck in limbo. That’s one of the ways an experienced real estate professional can really help. They can make sure their clients are doing things right. Of course, before selling a house, it is recommended for clients to speak to their lawyer or mediator, financial planner, and tax professional. They need to be certain that they understand all the financial implications of the sale.
In a divorce situation, the parties need to take time assembling their real estate team and make sure all parties are in agreement before doing anything that can’t be taken back.
During a Divorce, Expect to Hire People to Help Sell Your Home
Yes, it’s just one more unwelcome expense right now, but it might be worth the cost of paying professionals to take care of some of the house prep while dealing with other responsibilities.
“It’s imperative to work with a broker that offers full, professional-level service,” says Brooks. “This isn’t the time to go hire your cousin or uncle or friend that does real estate part-time.”
A top real estate professional will coordinate vendors like cleaners, handypeople, stagers, window cleaners, painters, and movers. “Under the best of circumstances, some home sellers are stressed,” says Brooks, “there’s no need to add one more job—or one more negotiation—to their plate.”
Divorcing couples generally need extra help. Usually, rather than working together to coordinate getting the house ready for sale, they’re at odds, or their attention is focused elsewhere.
With all the other things that need to get done when working through a divorce, both emotionally and logistically, it’s smart to consider letting a full-service agent hire a team to help make the sale.
Get Your Story Straight With Potential Buyers
One thing that buyers like to ask is, “why are they selling?” Sellers need to be sure they have a good answer ready; otherwise they might lose a little negotiating leverage. Buyers might assume they have a seller that needs a quick sale and offer less than they otherwise would have.
No one is suggesting sellers lie, but it is advised that clients should work with their Real Estate Professionals to think of a more positive spin, so the buyers don’t think there’s a lot more room for negotiation. “Mine is, ‘Oh, they’re downsizing,’ which is in fact true,” says Brooks.
Consider the Tax Implications Of Selling Your Home in a Divorce
The capital gains tax is a tax paid on the profit received from selling an investment. This tax rate can be as high as 23.8%. The tax can be avoided legally with a little advanced planning, and the home seller can walk away wealthier as a result.
The federal tax code gives real estate a capital gains tax exemption of $250,000 per person when selling a primary residence. For a married couple, each partner gets a $250,000 exemption for a total exemption of $500,000. It’s a real possibility that a sale after a divorce, will lose $250,000 of the exemption, half of the possible total available to married couples.
“Divorcing home sellers should look at is trying to structure your divorce and home sale to preserve that exemption,” says Brooks. “A tax professional will be able to help you understand the best way to do that, so make sure you consult with someone before moving forward with the divorce or the sale.
Remember: Selling the House in a Divorce is Stressful; Keep Calm and Carry on
The combination of simultaneously selling a home and getting divorced can be challenging and fraught with emotion at best. Never-the-less, as difficult as it might seem in the midst, if emotions stay in check and you’re surrounded with the most professional possible team, it’s possible to get through it with your head held high. In ten years, the perceived slights will be long forgotten. The money lost on a home sale is another story.
A Keller Williams The Trembley Group Real Estate Professional is the perfect addition to a team to close this traumatic and nerve-wracking chapter of your life and help you focus on moving on to the next one. When making an initial call to the company, be sure the individual answering the call knows your situation. They will treat the request with discretion and connect you with the Sales Professional most qualified to offer professional advice.
At Keller Williams The Trembley Group, we pride ourselves on being the experts at more than just selling real estate. We are local residents, some of us have been here for a lifetime. The rest of us will be here until the end of time. We love living, working, and playing in the diverse backyard of Coastal Carolina, and look forward to helping you live and love your dreams soon too. Please reach out to us by phone or email for personalized service and one-on-one advice.