Divorce and Selling the House

There is one asset that is common in thousands of divorces: the marital home. The marital home is frequently the largest asset a couple owns. Many times, the marital home is the one and only asset a couple owns. And as the major or sole marital asset, special attention should be devoted to this issue during a divorce.

In divorce, one of the major challenges is to fairly divide assets acquired during the marriage. Real estate presents a unique challenge. Because of recent changes in the market, real estate has dramatically increased in value. This rapid increase created large amounts of equity for many couples. Large amounts of equity translate into large amounts of money. More important--large amounts of money make it possible for divorcing spouses to create a new life.

Potential uses for the money include:

  • The purchase of a new home.
  • Moving out of the area.
  • Going back to school.
  • Repurchasing lost possessions.

Money makes it possible to become "normal" again. That is why the division of the marital home is such a critical challenge that both spouses must solve.

Most divorce decrees require the sale of the marital home, with the proceeds divided equally by the divorcing couple. This scenario is the simplest solution. A properly written divorce agreement for the sale of a home must address the following issues:

  • A deadline date for placing the home on the market.
  • Who will occupy the house until sale?
  • Which spouse will pay expenses of the home until sale?
  • How the house will be listed for sale?
  • How the sale price will be selected?

Unless the divorce decree addresses all issues there is potential for argument and lost money long after the divorce is finalized.

Even though each divorce is unique, there are some common things you can do to make the sale of the marital home a more predictable and smooth experience. If there is more than five thousand dollars in equity, always invest in a licensed appraisal report. A licensed appraisal report is done by a professional appraiser--not a real estate agent.

Expect to pay between $300 and $700 for the report. If there are simple, cosmetic things you can do to boost the value of the house--do it now. Everything you do to increase the value of the home will benefit you financially and increase the chance of a smooth divorce.

Always list your home with a licensed real estate agent. Pick one that both you and your spouse can trust. Now is not the time to do a "for sale by owner" or use a "friend of a friend." An independent, licensed real estate professional that arranges a sale based on the report of a licensed appraiser is a transaction that is difficult to attack. And when things go bad in a divorce people frequently look for something to attack.

If you are faced with divorce and can agree to sell the marital home, both spouses have the opportunity to walk away with cash. And cash makes it possible to start new lives.

Based on observation of many divorces, the chance of walking away without a bitter fight gets better when each spouse has the opportunity to begin a new life. Finally, if selling is a possibility, do it the smart way. Sell at the proper market price and do it in a way that does not lead to argument. You will have less stress and a better "second life."