Selling The Place You Jointly Own

The initial impact of a break-up is always a mixture of complex and sometimes conflicting emotions. Confusion, shock, relief, anger, grief, and fear can all be a part of this process and it’s completely normal and healthy to feel all of this. It is also healthy for this process to follow a path where layers of feelings present themselves during different stages of your break up. One stage, which is generally further along the path, is splitting up your joint assets and effects which is both an emotional and labor intensive stage. If you owned a home together, this gets more complicated but we’ve got some advice that may help. First realize you are not alone and that there are steps you can take to ease the process for you both.

The first step is to have a discussion about staying or selling and the options in between.  One of you could buy the other out of the real estate you hold together or maybe a deferred sale might be something to consider if you have kids and want to keep them in place. If you leave it up to a judge the parent getting full time custody is most likely also to get the family home.  You should speak to your council about the complications that come with one of the parties keeping the asset and how the other can get their name off the deed and mortgage.  

This discussion can be with a divorce lawyer or separation mediator or this could be between yourselves. A mediator is there to make sure you both are comfortable with the end result of your negotiations. They will coach you through this difficult time and they will do it with both of your best interests in mind. You make the decisions together but the mediator can help stamp out any potential fires before they start. Read this article with more information on mediation from the American Psychological Association called How to Split as Smooth as Possible.  For other couples, two separate attorneys may be necessary. Sitting and making decisions together sounds ideal but if it’s just something that you both have not been able to accomplish you may need to let lawyers negotiate for you.

If you come to the conclusion you will be selling the second step  is picking your next advocate, your real estate broker.

How do you pick this advocate? Here is what we tell clients no matter why they are selling:

Pick someone that you like and trust. Pick someone that knows the market where your property is located (i.e.– Brooklyn and Manhattan are extremely different markets but Fort Greene vs Boerum Hill  are in the same playing field.)

Pick someone that you know will work hard for you and help you reach your mutual goals. Is it timing, money, stress relief? What is the most important goal you wanted reached at the outcome of this experience? Make sure you discuss your goals with your soon-to-be-ex and your broker. Your broker will want clear direction on your motivating factors. Is getting every single penny out of the transaction more important than having this be quick and easy and painless as possible?

 The third step is getting your property ready for the market.

Since design and staging are big factors when making your home feel welcoming to buyers you may have to simplify and move some of your things out. This means you’ll have to go through the whole rigmarole of figuring out who gets what in the break-up before putting your space on the market. Do not take the staging advice of your real estate agent personally. They are trying to appeal to the target market that they have laid out in their marketing strategy and creating the product your buyer is looking for.  So if they say take down personal photos and swap the desk in the second bedroom for a crib so you appeal to future and young families because a school opened nearby- do it. They want to find and attract the buyer that will help you reach your goals whether it be money or timing they are staging the house to reach your goals so get on board with their requests.

For those that have shared a life for longer, things get tricky when you start to move things out. Objects in the home have become both of yours and there is a lot of gray area when it comes to what belongs to whom. Even the most amicable separation goes through periods where you just cannot agree on something. In fact, dealing with financial questions and the dividing of property can turn an amicable break-up into something less harmonious. Unfortunately, this step of the break-up may be the most difficult for some. Emotionally and objectively it’s the last visceral experience of separating your life with this person you with which you were once attached.

It’s something you’ll get through and when you come out the other end you’ll most likely feel a mixture of relief and wistfulness.  If you can take your time, attain a team you can trust and keep your eye on the proverbial ball, you’ll be on your way to moving on to your own space and your own life. 

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