Divorce: Getting an Offer on Your Home

You and your spouse tried to make things work out. Eventually, however, you realized that divorce was the only option. Not only that, you determined that keeping the marital home was in neither of your financial interests. After weeks of sorting through your belongings and prepping the house, it’s finally on the market.

There’s no guarantee that the prospect of an imminent home sale won’t stir up old feelings. But there are some things you can do to protect yourself from letting those feelings set you back financially.

Pricing Your Home to Sell

A common mistake sellers make is overvaluing their home and refusing to listen to the agent’s suggestions when it comes to pricing. This can be a very costly error. The wrong price can cause your home to sit too long on the market, in some cases preventing you from moving forward with a contingency offer or forcing you to make mortgage payments on more than one home at once. It can also cause you to lower the asking price after the house has “cooled down.”

If you’re selling the house during a divorce, the last thing you want is for the house to sit on the market for months. Not only do you need to find an experienced local real estate agent who knows your city and neighborhood; more importantly, you need to listen to that person. A good agent knows the price point most likely to attract interest and get a quick offer.

Conferring with Your Soon-to-Be Ex Over the Asking Price

Once the offer comes in, it may be below asking price. There might be a bidding war with multiple offers top consider. These scenarios cause stress in any home sale, and this is precisely where some divorcing couples dig in their heels and become resistant to the whole process. It’s a dangerous spot to be in because, if the resistant spouse refuses to accept an offer at the onset, you risk leaving the house on the market too long.

Thus, it’s important for you and your soon-to-be-ex to establish clear parameters, with the help of a mediator or your divorce attorneys if necessary, and put them in writing. A couple might agree to accept a final offer up to five percent below asking, for instance. This removes a source of friction in the negotiating process and allows the real estate agent to act in good faith on behalf of her clients.

Avoiding Last Minute Problems

When you listed the home, you may have anticipated some of the things that can go wrong. The house may not sell within the required window of time. The buyer may pull of the sale because the inspection uncovers a problem. The buyer’s financing may fall through at the last minute. You need to develop a contingency plan.

Can you find a buyer who is willing to take the home as is?

Who will be responsible for ongoing mortgage payments, and how will this additional expense factor in the division of the asset?

If the buyer’s inspection discovers problems they want you to resolve before moving forward with the contract, how will you handle these negotiations?

It’s definitely better if you figure out how you will address these scenarios before they happen. Have your agent make a list of the foreseeables and address each one of them in the presence of a neutral party. Put your responses in writing if necessary.

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Understanding the Real Estate Agent's Role

Your agent is an invaluable resource throught the home sale process. Like you, they are motivated to sell your house at the best possible price, in the shortest period of time. It’s their job to understand how to price homes in your local market and negotiate offers.

Finding someone you can both trust is important, since you will sign with the same agent and use that person as a go-between throughout the process. You can use the same agent who sold you the home, go by referrals, or search the top real estate companies in your area. You and your soon-to-be-ex should definitely consider choosing an agent with experience in handling real estate transactions for divorcing couples. That agent will understand the need for short timelines, transparency, tact, and above all, neutrality.

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