Selling Your Home or Refinancing During Divorce? Use a Divorce Specialist

Using a specialist to sell home or refinance during divorce

Divorce Mortgage specialists…Divorce Real Estate specialists… Who Knew!?

Divorce is so nuanced. It only makes sense that there are divorce real estate and mortgage specialists to help get you through the tangled web divorce weaves.

Of course, you can use any agent you please. Maybe you already have a close working relationship with one.  But the fine-tuning a divorce specific professional can bring to the table is invaluable.

They can get you through a ‘make or break’ situation if/when find yourself up against a wall and hard place at any point during your divorce related real estate transaction.

But whatever you do, do NOT rely on Zillow (or the like) to value your home, which is often your biggest asset. It’s like getting medical advice on the internet – there’s plenty of good information, but you never know what’s reliable.

Zillow Shmillow

When dividing assets, your house being a major one, you need a realistic figure on what’s it’s worth today.

Thus, getting an accurate valuation is critical for two reasons: 1) a fair buy out, or 2) a number that each spouse expects to pocket after a sale (assuming there is in fact equity in the home).

Before agreeing to any settlement, a formal home valuation should be done by a human, not just a free instant online estimate machine.  Those sites can give you a quick snapshot, but it is only a rough, very rough, estimate.

The data entered into their algorithm fails to factor in a number of important factors. Things such as improvements made to the home, where it’s located on the street, if it’s on a busy street, the style of the home etc. A home could be permanently stained with cat piss, but looks pristine online- how can that awful stench be factored into their algorithm? It can’t.

The Zillow model works best for tract homes that are all the exact same. The styles and layouts of Bay Area homes, where I live for example, are far too unique for this to apply.

Case in point- The CEO of Zillow recently sold his home for $40 million below his “Zestimate”.

For any real estate transaction, divorce related or not, you need a real estate professional to analyze the recent and current comps (sales in your neighborhood pulled from the MLS and county title records) with similar characteristics to yours (age, square footage, lot size, rooms, and any additions and amenities).

And remember what matters most are CLOSED sales, especially here in the Bay Area, where most times the final sale price differs drastically from the initial asking price. Homes here can sometimes sell up to $500,000 OVER the asking price (did you throw up in your mouth a bit?).

A skilled professional will recognize trends in pricing in a fast-moving market like mine. As a seasoned agent myself, I like to call other agents who have recently sold or pending homes around my listing and ask them how many offers they received. This gives me a better idea of how many buyers are looking in the neighborhood, and price my listing accordingly.

But, unless it’s an all cash offer (also not uncommon here in Silicon Valley….more throw up?), I have to keep in mind that the price a person is willing to pay must satisfy not just the seller, but the buyer’s lender, as lenders are very careful not to overpay for a property.

You may be wondering… Is a formal Appraisal better than a Comparative Market Analysis?

An agent’s comparative market analysis (CMA) incorporates much of the same data an appraiser would use; but agents are more ‘in the now’ with regards to market trends. After all, they are in trenches working with buyers and seller every day.

Furthermore, there are factors that appraisers do not consider, such as outdated styles, weird layouts, cat urine aromas, or anything other negatives that severely effect the home’s marketability, and make a house less desirable.

Appraisers are mainly employed by lenders to protect lenders. The real value of a property is what a willing and able buyer is prepared to throw-down for it.

Trials and Tribulations of Selling During Divorce

After you BOTH decide to sell the house, because of either heightened emotions, fear, despair, stress, or revenge, there are many opportunities for sabotage, and for things to come undone during the sale and refinance. Emotions and Real Estate do not mix!

Sometimes, the ex who is still living in the home refuses to let prospective buyers come to see it, or stalls signing paperwork, or deliberately makes the house look (or smell) gross.

There’s a saying within legal circles that goes: “criminal law deals with bad people at their best, and family law deals with good people at their worst”.

This is where a real estate agent trained in mediation can really help.

As an agent specializing in divorce, sometimes you represent two people who aren’t even on speaking terms with each other. Most divorce real estate agents are used to having the same conversation twice. Many even deal with clients who have restraining orders in place.

You need an agent to treat both parties with equal respect, help defuse conflicts, objectively listen to each spouses’ grievances, and offer practical ways to resolve conflicts. So it is essential that your agent be a neutral third party.

During any part of your divorce, when you can’t get your ex to cooperate, enlist that dreadful task to others. With the right approach, professional expertise, and an objective stance, they’ll have a better chance at succeeding.

Paperwork Pusher

There are so many documents involved in a real estate transaction, and all parties appearing on the deed will have to sign them in order to transfer title to a new owner.

If your ex’s name is on that grant deed, you cannot transfer title single-handedly, and hence sell the house without their signature.

The only way to bypass their signature is with an ex parte motion from the court, per request by opposing council or the court appointed agent. This means that a court clerk would then sign on behalf of the uncooperative, absent spouse, and the sale will move along.

A specialist in divorce real estate can identify potential pitfalls, such as who is on the tittle and how to avoid or resolve complications.

Discretion and privacy are also important during a divorce related real estate sale. As an agent, you don’t want potential buyers and their agents to ‘smell blood in the water.’ Those sharks equate divorce with a fire-sale. They will think you must be desperate, and they’ll bring you low-ball offers as a result.

It’s best to keep the impending divorce quiet, and not let the market get wind.

Optics are imperative, if the ‘his’ side of the closet is empty, a good agent will make his absence less apparent by hanging men’s attire. Creative agents have their ways.

You want an agent you can trust to keep your divorce under wraps, and who won’t pass judgement in the process.

Divorce Mortgage and Refinance Specialists

Your Divorce Real Estate Agent can also work closely with your Divorce Mortgage Professional. A divorce specific mortgage broker specializes in divorce refinancing and loan transfers.

There are no shortage of mortgage lenders. You probably already know a bunch. Each has their own unique set of guidelines, which are constantly changing.

A Divorce Mortgage Advisor can take the guess work out of the mortgage qualifying process during your divorce, and even afterwards.

They can work closely with your agent, as well as with your attorneys to evaluate any mortgage proposal within a Settlement Agreement.

It’s important to know is and isn’t achievable, and to know as early possible. A Divorce Mortgage Specialist can help you determine this, so you can get through the home sale and refinance process during divorce as seamlessly as possible.

Looking for more great tips on divorce and money? Check out a few of our favorite guides and resources:

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