By Terri Seignious, Guest Contributor
The one designation on my resume that tends to raise the most eyebrows is “divorce specialist." It is usually followed by the question “ Why would anyone need a divorce specialist in real estate?” Well usually when couples have made the decision to go their separate ways the home they live in ends up being their greatest asset. Whether the divorce is amicable or not the spouses usually don’t want their soon to be ex’s best friend or relative representing them in the dissolution of that asset.
Let’s be honest, usually there is at lease some loss of trust on either side coupled with the fact that many times, there are 2 attorneys hired to protect each spouse’s interest from the other.
For these reasons, It is important that the Realtor hired to help sell the house is:
2) not necessarily a friend of either party
3) well versed in dealing with attorneys
As an agent who has participated in a number of home sales by divorcing couples I am adamant in not making it a “fire sale” as many would believe the situation may necessitate. It is usually critical that the home be evaluated by a specialist for value and marketed to sell within a reasonable amount of time so the divorcing couple can divide their equity and move on to the next phase of their lives.
State law governs property ownership and asset division during a divorce. Your state will follow either "community" or "equitable distribution" property laws.
In a state that recognizes "community property," you and your spouse will split divorce assets in half. This could mean that you and your spouse are each entitled to 50% of the equity in the marital home.
In an "equitable distribution" state, a judge will divide your property fairly - this does not mean evenly or equally necessarily. South Carolina marital property laws are, like the majority of states, "equitable distribution" laws.
The date you acquired the house is an important piece of information in a divorce. Both in community and equitable distribution states, a judge can’t award your separate property to your spouse. Property is usually designated as "separate" if it was acquired before the marriage, it was a gift or inherited. Generally spouses get to keep their own separate property in a divorce.
A judge can award the marital home to one spouse as part of a property distribution in your divorce. This assumes that the house qualifies as “marital” or “ community” property and not one spouse’s separate property.
A court will look at several factors to decide who gets the house. These factors may include, but are not limited to the following:
- Each spouses financial circumstances
- Each spouse’s contributions to the marital home
- Each spouse’s age and physical and mental health
- Source of funds for the marital home
- Marital misconduct of either spouse
- Each spouses employability and job skills
- The value of the marital home
It is also highly recommended that the couple have good advice from a professional who is well educated in tax and financial management.
If the sale of the home is necessary, and in some cases court ordered, both parties plus their attorneys must find common ground in order to consummate the sale of the home. If one party wants to be unreasonable and dig their heels in on price or other issues it is going to take much longer and a potential strong buyer could walk. Buyers do not have an enormous amount of patience unless the “ deal” is tremendous.
In my opinion a divorce sale does not have the negative connotation it once had. It is only if the house has been neglected or is in a state of disrepair the value will be severely impacted and probably more from the neglect than from the divorce.
The best advice I can offer is for couples to put aside their differences and work equitably in getting the house ready for market. A pre-inspection is always a good idea so you both have an understanding of the issues that need to be addressed. Once you have a motivated buyer who is qualified it is in everyone’s best interest to move along smoothly to closing.
Divorce and selling the house or other valuable property does not have to be devastating financially, but there are certainly a lot of mixed emotions as both parties leave the family home.
NOTE: A successful real estate brokerage recognizes that every Realtor won't be a specialist at everything. It is important to have a mix of agents that specialize in or carry industry designations in areas such as corporate relocation, investment properties, international property transactions (CIPS), buyer specialists (ABR) or even divorce. So if your buying or selling goals in Charleston SC require a certified specialist, find out what we can do for you.
Planning to sell? Download our "Ultimate Guide to Selling a Home in 2016" and find out what you need to do to begin.
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