By Vanessa Saunders, MBA, MIMC, Broker Owner, Global Property Systems
I’ve seen some nightmares in my 18 years in real estate. I once found a dead homeowner at the bottom of his basement stairs during a showing. I interrupted a couple making a porn film in a vacant property I went to photograph. But one of the most frequent nightmares I come across is when a divorcing couple needs to put their home on the market.
Getting buyers and sellers to agree on the details of a real estate transaction is hard enough. Getting an agreement between a buyer and two warring sellers, full of animosity and anger toward each other and who don’t agree on anything, is nearly impossible.
In most circumstances, the sellers want to unload the property quickly as the divorce process moves along. But they also want to get a fair price when they put it on the market. After all, a home is probably the couple’s largest investment, and neither wants to end up with an unfair settlement.
There are a few steps I encourage divorcing sellers to agree to, in both their best interests.
Agree on taking adequate time.
Both selling parties need to agree on a time frame in which offers can be examined and evaluated. The goal is to arrive at what’s called “Highest and Best.” This is the ideal outcome for a house sale in a divorce.
Get an honest appraisal.
It is important for the sellers to have an objective property valuation done by either a professional appraiser or at least, a PSA (certified Pricing Strategy Advisor.) Unfortunately, many listing agents will agree to an unreasonably high listing price just to get the listing, and use your home as bait to capture buyers.
List with a professional real estate local area expert.
Hiring a reputable Realtor to sell your property guarantees you certain rights and levels of protection in the process of selling your home. Realtors are duty-bound under the National Association of Realtors’ code of ethics to work in your best interest and to guarantee fiduciary responsibility at all stages of the transaction.
Hire a reputable divorce attorney and real estate attorney.
Be wary of your divorce attorney becoming embroiled in the affairs of your home. I say this with the experience of divorcing couples being driven into foreclosure and/or bankruptcy by unscrupulous attorneys praying on already stressed clients’ affairs. If a loan modification is suggested by your attorney, be warned. Work with your lender directly, or through a real estate attorney, not your divorce attorney.
Never under any circumstances attempt to sell your home by yourself during a divorce. That route will only put more issues between the warring parties, and often leads to more legal actions, suits, and arguments.
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