Divorce Home Options: The Path to a Fresh Start
By Ted Ricasa
There are few events in life more difficult and trying than divorce. Even the most amicable divorces can be filled with headaches and hardships. Most couples continue to be connected by the issues arising from their divorce long after their matrimonial bonds have been dissolved, especially those couples who purchased property during their marriage.
One of the most contentious issues stemming from divorce is what to do with the family home. In many cases, it is difficult or impossible for a single spouse to maintain the home on his or her own. In other cases, the couple may choose to sell the home and divide the proceeds, but find themselves bogged down trying to find a suitable buyer. What was once a symbol of a beautiful union can become a lingering – and financially burdensome – reminder of a troubled time.
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What options do I have for my house after a divorce?
The options available to you depend largely on how you and your spouse handle your divorce. In virtually every case, it is in a couple’s best interests to reach a settlement on the division of property before it becomes a matter for the courts. This is particularly true of houses and other types of real estate, as they are usually among a couple’s most valuable assets. Once a judge rules on the division of property, you and your former spouse will have considerably less control over what becomes of your home.
In general, there are three basic options available to divorced couples with regard to their homes:
- They can sell the home – This may be the optimal solution for any number of reasons, the most basic of which is that neither spouse wants to keep the home or that neither spouse can afford to keep the home.
- One spouse can “buy out” the other – If one spouse wishes to keep the house, he or she may be able to negotiate a plan to purchase the other’s share. In such cases, the spouse who wishes to keep the home often has to take out a new mortgage, which adds an element of risk to the transaction.
- The couple can continue to “co-own” the home – This option is often chosen by couples who have children whom they do not want to uproot from their homes. The success of post-divorce co-ownership depends on several factors, including:
- There is a mutual understanding that the full amount of the mortgage on the house will appear on both spouses’ credit reports. If the spouse covering the mortgage falls behind in making payments or allows the home to go into foreclosure, both credit reports will be affected equally.
- Both spouses understand that they are essentially entering into a new business relationship rather than extended the former family relationship. All agreements between the two parties, such as the agreement of one spouse to make payments to the other toward the eventual sole ownership of the home, should be commemorated in writing.
- Each spouse is prepared to accept that his or her financial future will continue to be affected by the decisions of the other, particularly those directly involving the property, for as long as they co-own the home.
I really want to stay in my home. Should I fight to keep it?
Many people want to keep their homes for sentimental reasons, while others simply don’t want to go through the inconvenience of having to move. Whatever reason you may have for wanting to keep your home, be sure to weigh it as objectively as possible against the effect that keeping it would have on your financial future. Can you afford to keep the home? Is keeping the home worth the risk of taking out a new mortgage? Have you considered the other costs that go along with owning the home, including property taxes, maintenance, and repairs? The last thing you want to do is fight to keep the home only to have it end up in foreclosure or force you into bankruptcy.
Understandably, it can be difficult to be objective when faced with such sensitive, emotional circumstances. This is why it probably in your best interests to consult with experienced real estate and financial professionals, such as the team at Fast Home Help, before committing yourself to fighting to keep your home.
Can I sell a home that is in my name only during the divorce process?
No. When you file for divorce, you and your spouse are bound by a temporary restraining order issued by the courts that prevents either of you from transferring property and other assets. Until the divorce is complete, you would need to seek permission from the court to undertake any such transaction.
It is important to note that all property owned by you and your spouse, whether jointly or separately, is part of the divorce proceedings. The fact that your spouse’s name may not be on the deed does not make a property exempt from the proceedings.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of using traditional methods of selling my home after a divorce?
The answer to this question depends on many factors, but essentially boils down to how long you’re willing to – and can afford to – maintain ownership of the home. It also depends on how willing you are to deal with the hassles and headaches that go along with selling your home. In the aftermath of a divorce, you may not exactly feel up to preparing your home to be viewed by potential buyers, dealing with inspectors and appraisers, and having strangers traipsing through your home as you’re trying to get on with your life. It may be the case that a short sale is the best option for you in this circumstance.
Many couples believe that if they go through a Realtor, they will be able to sell their home at market value and walk away from the deal – and from one another – with greater financial security. Unfortunately, a good percentage of these couples end up in even worse financial shape. Often, their homes remain unsold for months or even years while they continue to pay the mortgage on a home in which one or both of them no longer live. In many cases, they end up selling their homes for well below market value, and on top of that, they have to pay closing costs, escrow fees, commissions to their real estate agents, and other costly expenses.
On the other hand, if you are not in a hurry to rid yourself of your home, you do stand a better chance of selling it at or close to its market value if you go through traditional channels. There is also the possibility that you will avoid such common snags as deals falling through at the last moment, and it will sell relatively quickly. If you do decide to sell your house using traditional methods, you would be well advised to hope for the best but be very prepared for the worst-case scenario to occur. Given the erratic state of the current housing market, it is important that you understand the risk that you would be taking.
What can Fast Home Help do for me after my divorce?
By consulting with the real estate experts of Fast Home Help, you will have the peace of mind of knowing that you are getting honest, straightforward information that is presented with only your best interests in mind. We will advise you of your options and help you understand the potential benefits and drawbacks of each. If you decide that you want to sell your home quickly and simply move on with your life, we may be able to make you an all-cash offer. You will have your cash within days and be able to walk away from your marital home with a clean slate, all without having to:
- Pay real estate commissions, closing costs, transfer taxes, escrow and title fees, and other expenses
- Risk having your home sit unsold for an indefinite period
- Clean your home or make expensive repairs
- Showcase your home to a constant parade of strangers
- Be responsible for your mortgage
- Deal with compliance issues
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Divorce is frustrating and confusing enough without having to worry about what to do with your home. You have options, and Fast Home Help can explain them to you in clear, comprehensible detail. Contact Fast Home Help today to learn more about how best to protect your rights and interests as a homeowner.
Selling couldn't have been any easier. He was also flexible with me when I needed a few more days to move out my possessions. I had a whole house full of furniture and a family to move so that was important. I appreciated his honesty and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend Ron to my friends and neighbors. - Eric H.