Tips for Selling the Family Home During A Divorce
Let Your Agent Be Your Guide
Are you going through the divorce process and wondering how on earth you will ever be able to sell the family home when you are not even able to decide who gets the large screen television without a referee with a very loud whistle? Let’s face it, not all divorces are amicable. That doesn’t mean the sale of the family home has to be another battle. If you hire the right real estate agent you may find that one of your last financial transactions as a couple is not as stressful as you envision.
Selling a home in the best of conditions comes with a lot of stress. It is normal that you would feel a high amount of anxiety preparing for this sale even if you were not going through a divorce. Give yourself some room to be nervous, and don’t be hard on yourself. It is quite normal to be sad and anxious about selling your home, even if the divorce is something you both want. Many have gone through this process and come out on the other side in one piece.
How do you navigate the sale of your home when going through a divorce? Key to selling your home in this situation is the selection of a competent real estate agent who will sit down with both parties, together or individually, and work to minimize stress points that will come up during the sale of a home. Working with divorcing couples requires an agent with the right skillset who can pilot the process, treat all parties equally, keep emotions in check, and be empathetic to a couple’s challenges, all while finding the best buyer for the home. Interview candidates for the job, and find someone who can be the voice of reason for the sale of your home. What should you look for when interviewing agents select the right agent?
This is no time to give your newly-licensed niece her first listing. Every real estate transaction has bumps in the road, and if you hire an agent with limited or no experience, even your niece whom you love dearly, the agent may become as stressed as the divorcing couple is just trying to keep the deal together! Most people believe the hardest part to selling a home is the marketing. Ask any seasoned agent, and they will tell you that is rarely the case. Negotiating terms, keeping deals together, working through inspection issues, staying on top of titlework, managing personalities and adhering to contractual deadlines is where the real work happens. Interview 3 full-time agents who have helped at least fifty sellers sell a home. You are looking for an agent with experience. The agent will likely have their hands full working with the challenges of a divorcing couple. The last thing you want is someone who is still trying to figure out how to keep a deal from falling apart while you feel like your world is falling apart.
Preparing the Home
Any home, no matter how good the condition, needs to be prepared for market. When two people no longer desire to be together, just the preparation of the home for market can lead to frustration for all parties. Look for an agent who will guide you and your spouse through the process of getting the home ready for market with a plan that works for everyone.
Showing the Home
It is likely that only one spouse will be living in the family home when it goes on the market. Showings will be scheduled, and a home that used to be cared for and cleaned by two adults may now be cared and cleaned for by only one. If the children are still living in the home, this can add more stress to the equation. The challenges of keeping a home in show-ready condition when everyone is pitching in is not an easy task. When only one adult is living in the home it can be an even bigger challenge. Look for an agent who can work with you, your spouse and your children to provide the resources and encouragement to get through the marketing period.
Repairs and Maintenance
You know the saying, “out of sight, out of mind.” Many of our homes appear to be in great condition, but when you dig a little deeper, you may have a faucet leaking under a sink, a furnace in need of a seasonal cleaning, a roof in need of replacement, and a window that doesn’t open and close properly. When selling a home, many are surprised to find the items in need of repair and replacement in their home. Those repairs and replacements will cost, and if you don’t have an agent that works to establish upfront how these will be handled, you may be in for a roller coaster of a ride mid-way through the process. When interviewing agents, ask them if they have a plan in place to help you and your spouse determine the best way to navigate repairs.
Unlike the attorneys involved in a divorce, the real estate agent does not have the luxury of representing only one spouse. The real estate agent represents both spouses as one unit! This can be challenging for the agent as it is not unusual to communicate one thing to one spouse that does not get communicated to the other spouse. When interviewing for an agent, ask the agent what communication plan will be put in place so both parties are receiving the same message within a definitive timeframe.
The stress of a divorce is hard on everyone. For children, having to leave their family home is one of the biggest stresses. In a traditional sale, children may be anxious about leaving their home, but they are leaving that home as a unit and usually going on to something new and exciting as a family. Leaving the family home due to divorce is usually not a new and exciting event for the children. They are grieving the loss of their family unit as they know it while saying goodbye to a place that brought them comfort and protection. Look for an agent who has compassion and empathy for the children. When interviewing for an agent, ask the agent what their thoughts are on changing the children’s room décor. An agent who callously recommends “neutralizing” the children’s rooms, taking all of the stuffed animals off their beds, and putting away the pictures on their wall of them with their friends and family has probably not worked much with families going through a divorce. Children’s rooms do not have to be photographed for marketing and most buyers are able to look beyond a child’s room décor. This is not the time to make a child’s room worthy of its own episode on a home reality show.
When the day comes to close the deal, it is expected there will be a lot of emotion. The last days of packing and loading a home are exhausting and stress-filled. A real estate agent with experience working with divorcing clients will work with the couple to make sure arrangements are in place for the removal of all personal property, the cleaning of the home and the signing of the documents. Ask the agent what they do at the beginning of a transaction to ensure a smooth transition at the end. An agent who has worked with divorcing clients will know that the time to iron out those details is in the beginning rather than the end.
When it is time to move on, the process of moving out can seem daunting. While it is not the easiest thing you will do in a divorce, it does not have to be the most painful. Carefully select an agent with experience, compassion and empathy. Make sure that agent has a solid plan that is executed at the beginning of the listing process so all expectations of the agent and the spouses are outlined and clear. Don’t leave the sale of one of your largest assets in the hands of an inexperienced agent. Do your homework and ask the tough questions. It will make all the difference in the selling process.
Please check out our article Selling the Family Home in a Divorce