Preparing to Sell

Preparing to put your house on the market during a divorce can be stressful. Tensions are already running high, and there’s a decent chance that you and your spouse are not able to communicate without arguing. This means a process already fraught with anxiety is going to test the limits of your endurance and patience.

You can make it through. The important thing is to make a list of everything that you need to do before you list the house and set aside a dedicated time each day to make phone calls, inventory furnishings, declutter, and get your financials in order. While your real estate agent should have a basic to-do list for sellers, there are a few extra steps that divorcing couples need to consider.

Review the Financials

Although there are exceptions, the marital home is a shared asset even if only one person’s name is on the deed. But there is leeway when it comes to dividing this asset. For instance, in Texas, a community property state, judges will sometimes allocate a greater portion of the equity to stay-at-home parents. Likewise, you might be entitled to a bigger share if you were paying the mortgage prior to your marriage or signed a prenuptial agreement.

Before you list the house, it’s a smart move to think about how you will divide the equity. You may need a mediator or your family attorneys’ help with this step.
You should also figure out who will be responsible for paying off the mortgage after the home sale and how you will continue making mortgage payments while the house is on the market. The best option may be to keep money in a joint account and draw on that for mortgage payments, repairs, and other financial needs.

Whatever you do, though, keep in mind that failure to make timely payments can affect both parties’ credit, so ironing out a solution that you and your soon-to-be-ex agree on is essential.

Prepare to Divide "Big Ticket" Assets

When you sell a house during a divorce, you’re not just going to move your joint assets from one place to the next. You are also dividing the furniture, electronics equipment, vehicles — essentially the entire contents of the home and garage.

Ideally, you can devise a system for dividing personal property that won’t lead to a stalemate. Couples often benefit from mediation at this stage, as a presence of a third party can keep the process objective. Needless to say, dividing the personal property is the ideal time to declutter the house as well.

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Discuss Logistics

There are a lot of details that need to be ironed out in order for the home sale process to go smoothly. You need to decide:

The approximate listing date and ideal timeline to closing.

Whether repairs need to be done and how to (and who will) pay for them.

If you should have a pre-inspection done on the property.

What furnishings, if any, will remain in the house at the time of the sale.

You and your soon-to-be-ex need to consult with your real estate agent to iron out most of these details. Her experience in the local market will guide you in determine the best time to list the house — if you have the flexibility to choose a time.

The agent can be an invaluable resource throughout the home sale process, acting as a good-between in the case of communication break-downs and as an objective pair of eyes. It may be worthwhile to hire an agent experienced in divorce home sales, as they will be sensitive to problems unique to your situation. Nor do you have to worry about bias. The agent only wants one thing: to sell your home for the highest possible price in the shortest amount of time. If you put faith in an experienced agent, you can minimize some of the underlying stress of the process.

You may choose to let just one of you be the primary contact with the agent. That person can make videos on their phone of crucial conversations and walk-throughs so that the other party stays informed.

Prep for Staging

Once you’ve had a pre-inspection, made both structural and cosmetic repairs, and are approaching the listing date, it’s time to stage the house. Your agent will give feedback about how best to show off the home’s features.

If one or both of you has already moved into a new place, and taken some of the home furnishings with you, you might opt to use a professional staging company. Some real estate agents include staging as part of their service. In fact, professional staging can help lessen the emotional impact of selling the home by making the property feel more neutral.

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