For most divorces, the largest asset to settle
is the family home.
Divorce is a time of emotional and financial turmoil. Unfortunately, selling the family home during a divorce can take your stress level and emotional well-being to the next level.
The family home holds sentimental value to both sides and especially the children. For kids, this is their home and possibly the only one they have ever known and lived in. Moving to a new home is difficult for kids regardless of their ages. Families confronted with a move, in addition to a divorce, are dealing with significant life changes.
If there was ever a time to throw your anger to the curb, it’s now. It’s imperative to stay calm, confident, and positive. You will probably find that your kids are more resilient than you think. Like most things, communication is key. Stay positive and talk to your kids. Try to assure them that everything will work out. Give your kids time to adjust on their own terms. Keep the lines of communication open. Be truthful and real about their new reality. Involve the kids with some of the decision-making of their new home/homes. What colour they want to paint their rooms; this may not seem like an issue when you’re overwhelmed by everything you are going through.
Most divorces involving a property dispute are resolved in three ways:
- The family home is sold, and the equity is split between both parties.
- One spouse keeps the use and occupancy of the family home for a pre-determined period of time, most often until the youngest child turns 18, at which point the home may be sold.
- One of the spouses buys out the other and keeps the home.
10 Things to Consider when selling the Family home as a result of Divorce:
- Agree with your spouse on a plan to sell the family home and split the proceeds. It’s far easier than waging a legal battle that can lead to further animosity. Going to court rarely works out as you might hope.
- Don’t move out too soon when selling the family home. The challenge is both spouses are usually eager to move on. But there are often conflict and issues surrounding the “stuff.” Try and remember it’s just stuff. Leaving behind an empty home is less attractive to most potential buyers.
- Staging the home is an option; however, staging is very expensive. Spending thousands of dollars on staging an empty home when you are confronted with a massive changing financial reality may not be prudent.
- Find a new real estate agent to sell the family home. Using prior realtors may add additional conflict. If possible, find a realtor who understands what is involved in working with separating couples, a situation that presents some unique challenges.
- Make sure you agree on a price and timeline before listing the family home. Be patient and realistic. Don’t rush into anything you’ll regret. Going with an experienced realtor who understands divorce can assist both parties to agree on key details before selling the family home. This will help with challenges that may arise mid-sale.
- Before you list the family home, get your story straight. The question that potential buyers usually ask is, “why are you selling?” Avoid revealing it’s a divorce sale, or you could give up some leverage. Buyers may assume you have to sell quickly and offer less than they otherwise would.
- The last thing you want to do at this point is to fork out more money when you are dividing assets. However, it may be worth it to hire professionals to help take care of the preparations for the house, while you deal with more pressing issues.
- Avoid “Bird’s nesting.” This is where parents rotate in and out of the family home to minimize the disruption to the children. It enables children to remain in the family home and spend time with each parent there. It may be an option in the beginning, but it seldom works long-term.
- Don’t sell until you are sure you will receive your share of the proceeds. Depending on how amicable your divorce is and other legal factors, it is possible that the proceeds from the sale may be held in escrow. It is possible that one party may receive their share of the proceeds while the other party’s share is held in escrow.
- Keep calm and try to keep your emotions in check. A fresh start can be good for both parties and the kids. Look forward to closure and endorse the new beginnings wholeheartedly.
Check out the 10-Point Guide to Moving out After a Divorce.