Selling or Keeping A House In Divorce

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Real estate markets across the globe are surging to levels last seen over fifteen years ago . In the U.S., average home prices rose by over 10% last year, the highest annual growth in over six years.  With speculation that this housing bubble will burst, deciding whether to sell your home in a divorce is an especially important one.  Yet, making this decision is not simple. 

Homes Are Symbolic

A house is symbolic.  Houses provide not only shelter but security for people. Buying a home as a married couple is a sign of solidarity and success.  If you have children, the house you live in becomes the shell and shield for your family.  Memories are created in a home and tied to it. It is hard to think about doing so anywhere else. 

Emotions Impact the Decision

When divorce occurs, which spouse keeps the family home can be an emotional topic.  One spouse may feel very strongly about staying in the home.  This feeling may relate to not displacing their children.  Kids experience enough trauma and upset when parents decide to divorce. It is normal not to want to uproot them and cause more stress.  One spouse may want the house because moving and changing residences is too overwhelming to think about during divorce.    

Consider Your Finances

In addition to emotional considerations, divorcing spouses must also consider their finances.  Will one spouse be able to qualify for a loan to purchase another home?  Will one spouse be able to buy the other spouse out of his or her interest in the home? In the end, it may not be financially feasible for either spouse to keep the house.  If both spouses’ incomes pay the mortgage, it could be a real stetch for one spouse. Worrying about bills for the house may be worse than moving to a more affordable place.  

Do Not Rush

What to do with your home when faced with divorce is rarely a decision that needs to be made immediately.  The legal process to obtain a divorce takes time – months to a year or more in some cases.  This means that spouses can slow down some and evaluate options.  Selling the house is certainly an option.  Spouses should consider the costs of sale involved (commissions, closing costs, etc.) as well as the potential profit or loss.  If one spouse has already moved out, the other spouse will likely experience managing bills and household responsibilities independently.  He or she may decide that the house is too expensive. Alternatively, he or she may become more confident in handling the household expenses.  Further, spouses may learn how attached their kids are (or aren’t) to the house as the divorce process unfolds.    

Keeping or selling the family home comes up a lot in my conversations with clients.  It is important for them to consider all options.  The decision should not be rushed if there is not urgency at play.

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