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7 Tips on How to Handle Real Estate and Divorce

Buying and selling real estate is said to be a largely emotional decision. So when the emotions of a divorce are added to what can already be a trying exercise, moving real estate can be a challenge for everyone involved, especially in areas where the housing market is in trouble. If you are tasked with selling a home for a divorcing couple, or if you’re working with a client who is purchasing a divorce home, it’s important as a REALTOR® to remember these seven tips for navigating the potentially turbulent waters.

1. Always remember that emotions are involved

Your clients are likely going through a trying and emotional period in their lives, made all the more volatile due to the large financial stakes that come along with real estate. It’s important for you to remain calm and reasonable, especially if the divorce is particularly turbulent. Be extra sensitive to everyone’s emotions and be careful with your word choices. Even seemingly innocent words and phrases can be taken the wrong way.

2. Avoid heated exchanges by keeping your clients separated

This means dealing with them on an individual basis, and potentially duplicating some of your efforts. In the long run, the time you put into keeping the divorcing couple separated should pay off and make the process quicker and more logical for everyone involved. Go back to point one — this is an emotional time, so the more pressure you can take off the parties involved, the better.

3. Listen, even if you don’t really want to

Your clients are likely to vent about the divorce. It’s important that they see you as an ally, because if you’re not on their side, well, you’re likely to be perceived as the enemy. Don’t let that happen. Listen to the your clients vent, then move on.

4. Embrace the role of helper

Working with a divorce situation is different than other real estate deals. You’ll do a better job if you are able to see yourself as a guide to your clients’ end goal of getting the deal done and moving on as seamlessly as possible. Let them see you as a facilitator to a new beginning and a fresh start.

5. Work with the lawyers

If the legal implications of the sale are already in place, make sure you’re aware of the work the lawyer has done so you don’t confuse the situation. And if a new disagreement comes up that is outside the bounds of your expertise of responsibility, refer back to the lawyer.

6. Bring clarity to a confusing situation

Despite their current disagreements, a divorcing couple is accustomed to working together as a unit, bringing their own expertise to financial or personal matters, and allowing their spouse to step in and cover their weaknesses. One person might be less adept at finance, for example. Know what your clients can be expected to know, and when you should help explain issues in greater detail.

7. Buyers of a divorce home are at an advantage

Divorcing couples are often anxious to put the house behind them, and are thus willing to accept a lower asking price. If you’re working with a client who’s interested in purchasing a divorce home, leverage your advantage. Likewise, don’t let your divorcing clients be taken advantage of, if possible.

For additional tips on selling real estate in a divorce situation, check out “For Sale by Divorce: A Real Estate Niche” by Sara Lerner at NPR.org.

Do you have experience working with real estate in a divorce situation? What did you find particularly difficult, and what worked best in dealing with such an emotional situation?