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Selling the Dream (House)!

Oct. 1, 2022

For many families facing divorce, the house equity is one of the two biggest assets to be divided.

Aside from the monetary value of the house, there is often an emotional attachment to the house. For whatever reason, the disposition of a house can be a contentious issue. The ultimate fall-back position in house disputes is to sell it and divide the equity. But there are other options as well. Here are some perspectives to consider if you are looking for a way to deal with your house in a divorce context.

  1. You need to choose a path: sell the house, have one spouse buy out the other or award the house to one spouse in exchange for an equal value in other marital assets. In this brief post, we will focus on the sale approach.

  2. Timing is important. Generally, the sooner, the better. But, starting a listing in Spring or early Summer is obviously preferred since those are times when people are ready to decide and move. Unfortunately, divorces sometimes start up at inopportune times, and the house listing might begin in a low-demand season. For a while, houses moved almost immediately and for above the list price. Now, the market seems to have cooled, which means the house may bring a little less and may be on the market for a while before selling. Given that, it’s probably a good idea to list it as soon as possible.

  3. Fix it up. You will have to decide how much you can spend on a fix up, and you should ask your real estate agent which repairs and improvements will actually improve the saleability of the house. You will need a budget and a plan for how it will be paid for. You could split the costs as incurred, pay out of a joint account or repay the costs off the top of the house sale proceeds. You do need a plan before you get started.

  4. Get help to set the price. There are lots of opinions and sources online. You also have the Tarrant County Appraisal District. Neither is likely to be a good source on your house’s value. You should get your real estate agent’s opinion and you could have other agents run “comps” (values for comparable house sales) to get a good idea. Ultimately, you should probably depend heavily on your agent’s suggestions.

  5. Be patient. The market is no longer red hot. Be prepared to wait a little while for the right buyer. During that time, make sure the house is kept up. If someone is living in the house, that person should keep the house clean, picked up and show-worthy. That includes maintaining the yard, landscaping, pool, etc. They also must cooperate in showing the house and keeping it presentable.

Bottom Line: It’s always a lot of work to sell a house. If that’s the approach you and your soon-to-be ex choose, be prepared for extra work in getting it on the market. Follow that with a dose of patience as you wait for the right buyer to come by. Good luck!