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Secrets to Selling Your Home During a Divorce

Amit Bhuta

Amit Bhuta has been living in South Florida for over 40 years after moving with his family from Mumbai, India.

Jan 24 7 minutes read

By Amit Bhuta - ONE Sotheby's International Realty      October 9, 2017

One of the best parts of my job is helping a family find a home that works for them, that they can grow into and create many new memories. But, sometimes things in life don't go as planned.

Sadly couples get divorced and their happy home they live in is no longer a happy place. It is now a house that doesn't work anymore that needs to be sold. Because of the delicate nature of these types of sales, it is one of the most difficult sales for a real estate agent.

In my thirteen plus years of selling real estate, I've had great success doing these types of sales. The first few were very difficult in the beginning. However, since I tend to do a few every year, I have become a divorce sales expert.

There are many things that I've learned over the years that couples can do to improve their odds tremendously of selling their home for the most money in a timeframe that works.

1. Get Two Independent Appraisals Before Putting Your Home on the Market

When couples are in the process of getting divorced, they are rarely agreeing on anything. Those disagreements are magnified quite a bit when they try and determine the list price of their home.

Rather than argue over and over about the perfect number, it's better to get two independent real estate appraisers to determine a value and average those numbers as an asking price. If the numbers are much different from each other, get a third independent appraisal and choose the two that are most similar. Then average those two.

Any reputable real estate agent that deals with divorce sales regularly should be able to help you get in touch with the top quality appraisers.

2. Determine Specific Days When the Home Can Be Shown

Many times one of the sellers is no longer living in the home when it is put up for sale. Because one person's life is being affected more than the other person's, it is common for that person to get upset every time there is a showing request. Sometimes this will cause the person living in the house to not allow numerous showings.

If it is determined upfront that the house can only be shown certain days (for example, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays), then real estate agents and their buyers' expectations will be in check and they will do their best to schedule accordingly.

3. Do Not Take it Personally if Your Agent Speaks to One Partner More than the Other

A high majority of real estate agents don't do as many divorce sales as I do. Because of this, sometimes they don't  pay attention to some details that may anger you.

Don't lose focus on the fact that the Realtor's main goal is to get the home sold for as much as possible in the timeframe the sellers want. Many agents tend to speak to one of the sellers more than the other. They are not doing this to annoy the other party. They are doing this because that is usually how a typical sale goes.

Unlike most agents that don't do many divorce sales, I make sure to take turns addressing each partner first in texts and emails. 

Whenever I need to speak to the sellers, I make sure to have a conference call with both of them at the same time. Many agents don't pay attention to details that well. So if you don't want this to happen to you, make sure you mention this to your agent before the home is put on the market.

4. Have a Game Plan on What to Do Once the House is Sold

As crazy as it may sound, there are so many people that I meet that have no idea where they are going to live or what they are going to do once their home is sold. I've learned to dig deep into this with the sellers to make sure we have a game plan on what they will do once they no longer have their home.

Many times, this means getting pre-approved to see if they qualify to purchase a home and for how much. Besides the pre-approved amount, the seller needs to find out exactly how much downpayment is necessary and what the monthly payments will be for the mortgage, insurance, and any other monthly fees for the home.

During times of divorce, it is common for both sellers to not have credit good enough to purchase a home. So finding this out sooner than later makes things much easier to deal with in the future. 

If the person has to rent because of poor credit, it is best to find out what they qualify for and what is available within an affordable price range. 

Since there is one less income to pay for expenses, it is EXTREMELY important to create a budget for the future with real numbers.

5. Sellers Shouldn't Attend the Closing at the Same Time in the Same Location

It is best for each seller to sign their paperwork at different times at the closing. One two occasions early in my career, I've had sellers insist that they were ok signing with their soon to be ex-partner (or already ex-partner) in the same room. On both occasions, I insisted that they sign at different times.

I wasn't able to convince any of them to do what I said, and both times the sales almost didn't take place. There were feelings of anger that resurfaced when one partner saw the other. After the second time, I made it mandatory to sign at separate times, not a request.

Every divorce sale has important consequences and represents a difficult blend of emotional and financial considerations. To avoid potential pitfalls this process must be managed at a high level with a seasoned professional armed with a wealth of experience. 

If you’re heading down this path give me a call or text me and we’ll navigate these waters together with the highest level of competency and a sensitive, professional process. 

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