Selling the Home During or Right After a Divorce: Tips and Traps

Many divorcing couples fight over home ownership, but those who prefer to move on to new residences face an equally difficult process: selling their once-shared home and splitting the proceeds. Selling property causes significant stress in the best of circumstances; during a divorce, it has the potential to unhinge the conversation. Follow these tips to keep the real estate drama to a minimum:

Selecting an Agent
Sellers occasionally choose to forgo real estate agents, but this is not a wise idea when divorce prompts the sale. For one thing, this strategy opens the door to bickering about who controls aspects of the preparation/marketing/selling process. It’s also extremely challenging to pay attention to key details (such as closing deadlines and rules regarding escrow) when you’re distracted by divorce negotiations.

If possible, select the agent who sold your last home or helped you purchase the property you now intend to sell. Otherwise, aim for somebody recommended by a mutual friend. Do not work with a relative, especially if that person is closer to one spouse than the other. The more neutral your real estate agent, the better.

Timing Is Everything
In general, the sooner you can sell your home, the sooner both of you can move on with your lives—and the less you’ll waste on mortgage and utility payments. Industry experts point to April, May and June as the best months for selling. Keep this in mind as you determine when to file for divorce and when to put your house on the market.

Minimize Signs of Divorce Or Separation
Homes with obvious signs of separation (such as entire sections of the closet sitting empty) tend to sell for less than those that appear to house a happy family. Buyers assume that divorcing sellers are desperate to offload their property; these clever individuals may hold out longer for a good deal, or include difficult contingencies when they finally make an offer.

Present a Unified Front
In addition to minimizing the physical signs of divorce or ceased cohabitation, maintain a united front when meeting with prospective buyers. Save disagreements for mediation or the courtroom. If you cannot get along, choose one party to take the lead, and conduct the bulk of the negotiations with your real estate agent.

Property sales can complicate any divorce, but they also free you up to pursue your dream life after separation, unencumbered by your previous family home.

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