Divorce is full of emotional and logistical tangles, and selling your marital home can be one of the most difficult parts. Maybe you and your spouse have both agreed to sell the house, or maybe there’s not enough money to keep it up and you need to sell it so that you can both walk away with something. It’s also possible that you just can’t agree on who gets it, and neither can afford to buy the other out, so the court ordered a sale.
Selling Your House for Couples Navigating Divorce – A Step-by-Step Guide
Some divorcing couples find themselves selling a house and working through divorce negotiations at the same time. Others end up selling the house after the divorce agreement goes through.
Either way, and especially if you don’t know which will come first, you need to have a clear plan for what’s going to happen. Here’s a step-by-step guide to get you started.
1. Talk Numbers
When selling your house during divorce, first you have to figure out how mortgage, insurance, utilities, and other payments will happen before the sale is final. If one spouse is going to be living in the house for any length of time, consider the extra housing expenses that the other will pay. It might be fair for the spouse who stays in place to pay more than 50 percent of the mortgage until the house sells.
Also, take some time to decide how you’ll divide the proceeds afterward. Your escrow company should be able to handle the details, but you need to tell them who gets how much. The lawyers involved can help with that part, but you can also tell them that part of the proceeds will go to paying those lawyers and/or covering other divorce costs.
2. Choose an Agent
Before you get into the asking price and other financial specifics of the sale, choose an agent. Find someone that both of you can agree on to represent your shared interest. Do your homework:
- Get recommendations from friends or neighbors
- Look at online rankings of top agents
- Call agents in your area and ask them about their qualifications
If it’s easier, you and your spouse can go through this process separately and make your own list, then give both lists to your attorneys. Let them pick the agent that collectively ranks highest.
Settling on an Asking Price
Real estate agents are professionals who know homes and home prices. Let your agent suggest an asking price for the home instead of arguing about it with your spouse. If the agent’s estimate seems way too high or way too low, contact an appraiser.
You’ll find qualified appraisers through organizations like the Appraisal Institute, which lets you search their directory by location and property type. The National Association of Realtors also lets you find appraisers through its search tool for real estate professionals.
3. Prepare the Property
If plan on selling your house as quickly as possible during divorce, you need to make it look good.
Before you do anything, decide how you will fund any repairs and cleaning that needs to be done. This includes any minor fixes as well as larger updates that your house needs in order to sell.
When dividing up costs, remember that each person’s time also has value. If one of you has done all of the work, think of a way to compensate that person.
You can also make it simpler by hiring a stager and splitting the cost with your spouse. Again, take some time and search out a highly rated and experienced professional.
4. Consider Your Offers
Once the offers start to come in, you’ll have to put your differences aside and agree on which one to accept. If you’re lucky enough to get more than one, meet with your spouse and your real estate agent to consider which potential buyers:
- Offered not just the most money, but the highest percentage of cash (more cash means an easier closing)
- Are pre-approved for a mortgage; pre-approved buyers are less likely to back out
- Are willing to close on your timeline
- Have offered you “extras.” Common extras include offers to pay part of your closing cost or match another buyer’s price
- Included the fewest contingencies, since more contingencies mean more opportunities to back out
Talk it all over with your agent and rank your buyers by priority, then accept an offer.
5. Close the Sale and Split the Money
Once all of the required payments, such as your agents’ fees, are taken out of the proceeds from the house, the remainder gets split between you and your spouse. (Unless the mortgage amount is more than the house went for, in which case you and your spouse pay back the remaining amount.)
The exact distribution of money will depend on the laws in your state. If your state follows community property laws, you and your spouse will divide marital property equally by value. If you live in an equitable distribution state, by far the most common arrangement, courts divide property fairly depending on each person’s needs and resources.
What If You Don’t Want to Go?
Divorce is enough of an upheaval on its own. Add in selling your house during divorce, moving, and it can be completely overwhelming, especially if you have a family.
If the court or your finances have ordered you to sell your home, don’t despair – you might be able to sell without moving.
It’s called a sale-leaseback, and it’s an innovative new program. It lets you sell your home and remain in place as a tenant. You continue to pay rent until you’re ready to move or buy the place back, whichever best suits your needs.
Taking care of yourself can be one of the hardest things to do during a divorce. If self-care for you means time at home, a sale-leaseback may work best for you.
This article is published for educational and informational purposes only. This content is based on research and/or other relevant articles and contains trusted sources, but does not express the concerns of EasyKnock. Our goal at EasyKnock is to provide readers with up-to-date and objective resources on real estate and mortgage-related topics. Our content is written by experienced contributors in the finance and real-estate space and all articles undergo an in-depth review process.