Sorting Out the Housing During a Divorce

June 10, 2016

In a divorce, real estate matters can get complicated quickly. There are several options that couples may consider when deciding on what to do with their home, such as selling and splitting the profit, buying out the other spouse, or having a delayed buyout.

Selling the home together and then splitting the profit may be the least complicated of the scenarios, according to a recent article at realtor.com®. “A lot of financial advisers and attorneys recommend that clients just sell the home,” says attorney Brette Sember, author of “The Complete Divorce Guide.” “It can often be the simplest way to solve all the problems. Everyone gets their share, and there is no lingering joint debt to resolve.” Also, if selling the home for a profit, the money may then come in handy in paying off the legal expenses from the divorce.

For others, some exes may opt to buy out the other spouse and stay in the home. They may have an emotional attachment to the home or choose that option for the sake of what they believe is best for the children. But sometimes the spouse needs to work through what is really financially feasible for their new situation.

For example, Natalya Price, a real estate professional with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in New Jersey, says she had a client who wanted to remain in her five-bedroom home, but in two years her children would be leaving for college. “I asked her, ‘Do you really need this big house with all these rooms? Would it be smarter for you to sell your home and rent an apartment or a condo within the same community?’”

In buyout situations, the parties need to tread cautiously too and be sure to get an appraisal.

“With a buyout, you have to be very careful,” Price cautions. “Because there’s no actual sale involved, the figures can be very subjective. Think about how many homes are listed and don’t sell at that number. Until there’s a buyer willing to pay actual money, it’s just a number and you’re banking your future on that.”

Some divorcees opt for a delayed buyout, such as if one spouse wants to stay in the home and aren’t in the position to buy another home at the moment. The spouse would then continue to make monthly mortgage payments until he or she can afford to buy out the other.

“It can lead to a lot of potential issues if people aren’t careful,” says Nicholas Kensington, a real estate professional with The Matheson Team in Scottsdale, Ariz. “Since this arrangement can last years, there can be plenty of fights about how the house is being cared for.”

Also, “the biggest issue is your name remaining on the mortgage,” Sember adds. “If your ex doesn’t keep up the payments, you’re liable. It could ruin your credit rating if payments start to be missed or if the home is foreclosed on.” Plus, it might affect your ability to buy another home.

Some real estate professionals specialize in helping divorced couples work through real estate issues. If you’re curious about learning more about the divorce niche, check out: Real Estate Pros Discovering ‘Divorce Niche.’

Source: “How to Divide a House When You’re Getting a Divorce,” realtor.com® (June 7, 2016)