In the 13+ years I have been selling real estate I can say that working with divorcing couples is when I feel I can bring the most value to my clients. Understanding the emotion, the upheaval and often the uncertainty that comes along with divorce has allowed me to develop strategies to help the process go more smoothly and to ensure that all parties feel heard, respected and a valued. As a founding member of The National Association of Divorce Professionals I am always learning about the nuances of divorce law, finances, psychology and more and I am heavily connected with top-notch professionals across many industries that can help you through this transition. If you need a referral to any professional, please feel free to reach out to me.
To make the sales process go more smoothly here are 5 tips that will save you time, alleviate stress and hopefully net you more proceeds from the sale:
#1 HIRE A DEDICATED REAL ESTATE ATTORNEY
It may seem odd that this is my first tip but trust me this one is often overlooked by sellers and I frequently get pushback on this. Long before you have an offer on the table you should know who your real estate attorney will be. Couples will often select an attorney based solely on price opting to search for the lowest cost. While I understand the financial strain during a divorce hiring an attorney based solely on cost can cost you a lot more in the long run. I’ll cover tips for hiring the right attorney in another post but for now just know you and your partner will be best served to be in agreement on who your attorney will be for the transaction and how the attorneys fees will be paid amongst you long before we have an offer on the table.
#2 BE CLEAR AND HONEST ABOUT WHO IS LIVING IN THE HOME AND WHEN THEY WILL BE THERE
All too often sellers don’t understand the importance of being flexible when showings are requested. This can become challenging during a divorce situation especially if a rotating schedule is in place to accommodate children (an approach called Nesting). To ensure the home can be shown often and with ease I work with my clients to understand the living arrangement and to set expectations for how the home needs to be maintained during this period when it is actively for sale.
Every family is different, there may be adult children living in the home, there may be a new significant other residing at the property or there may be no one living consistently at the property. Each of these scenarios requires a clear understanding of expectations to ensure the home is maintained in its best possible condition.
Who is responsible for lawn care? Snow removal? Can an agreement be reached about who is taking the trash out? Will each party be willing to agree to keeping the kitchen clean, laundry off the floor and the furniture in place to show the home in its best light? Who is responsible for keeping the utilities on?
When I work with clients I set up a system in which myself and both clients get showing requests sent automatically to each of us and then either seller can confirm the request based upon who is in the home on what day. This helps a lot with keeping schedules clear, ensuring one party is not intentionally blocking showings and keeps a line of passive communication open between all parties without requiring direct communication.
#3 USE AN ELECTRONIC KEYBOX
An electronic keybox keeps a detailed log of which real estate agents show the home and for how long. This log has been helpful during contentious divorce transactions when sellers are at odds about who has been in the home. This helps keep a clear documentation of access and avoid accusations.
#4 AGREE TO IMPROVEMENTS IN WRITING
It’s not uncommon to have a list of improvements to complete before a home comes to market. When going through a divorce often this list can create tension between parties who are in an adversarial mindset and are focused on things being “fair”. What I suggest (and what has worked well with my clients in this situation) is to sit together and review the list determining which improvements will translate most directly into an increased value. Once we can agree to those items we then determine who will be responsible for each improvement; if it is a DIY project we set clear expectations for quality of work, timelines and agree to a budget for the project as well as share copies of receipts, if it requires a contractor then we set a budget and each of us, myself and each seller selects a contractor to bid on the project. We move through each part of the process with clear communication and document expectations along the way.
Sometimes one party wants to do a major improvement that will cost a substantial amount. In this case we write up the plan and I recommend the sellers present the plan to their divorce attorneys and/or their financial advisors to help them determine the overall impact a large expenditure will have on the divorce itself.
#5 KEEP THE KIDS IN THE LOOP
If you’ve got children of any age and they live in the home I recommend a group meeting once we have worked out the details of the sale. It is helpful for children to meet me, understand the process, understand that they are safe in the home and to have expectations about what may be packed up or staged, who has access and what the timelines might be. Keeping young children involved can help them feel a sense of control and participation in an otherwise turbulent time.
#6 BE HONEST WITH YOUR AGENT ABOUT RESTRAINING ORDERS
Sometimes divorce can lead to legal issues or violence. If this occurs it’s important to let your agent know. This is so your agent can determine how to maintain communication with both parties in a safe manner without causing one party to violate the court order. Sometimes this involves sending all correspondence via email directly to both divorce attorneys rather than to the property owners.
If you’re in the process of divorce and need a consultation to help you understand your options about your home, its value and how long inventory in your area is taking to sell please contact me. I am here to help you move forward.