First Time Home Buyer after Divorce?

first time home buyer after divorce

By Staci Yesner, Real Estate Agent, Compass, Chicago

Being a first time home buyer after divorce isn’t uncommon. Maybe you were a homeowner, but you bought your home with your husband years ago. Now that you are getting divorced, you might be buying a home solo for the first time in a long time, or maybe even for the first time ever.  Buying a home for the first time by yourself can feel scary and intimidating, but it can also feel exciting and joyful.

Let’s start with the journey to finding your own place, which can be a wild ride. What makes a first time home buyer’s experience different? And how can you make the most of this emotional but empowering experience?

The Money Hustle:

If you are getting divorce or are recently divorced, you probably feel like you just spent a lot of money on the actual divorce. Add in that now your net worth is likely literally half of what you had when you were married. That’s not a bad thing if you were unhappy in your marriage. All the money in the world isn’t worth it if you are unhappy in your relationship and living with someone.

Then there’s the mortgage stuff. I was in way over my head as a first time home buyer. Filling out all the paperwork, talking about the interest rates (especially now), and figuring out what price range you should start looking in can feel intimidating, even scary. It’s complicated. But not really. Once you understand it, it’s pretty simple, believe it or not.

I would recommend talking to a mortgage lender at the beginning of your divorce, so that you get things rolling to get the answers you need to start searching for your new home. A Certified Divorce Lending Professional is trained in working with those facing divorce, so you might want to consider working with one.


Staci Yesner - Compass - Chicago


Riding the Emotional Roller Coaster:

The thrill of buying your first home is something else, isn’t it? The nerves, the excitement, the dreams of what’s to come – it’s all part of the ride. And if you’re moving forward and are a first time home buyer after divorce, this could be your chance to create a space that’s all about you and your fresh start, whether it is by yourself or with your children. I understand that there is sadness and grieving that could be going on during this time, but if you try to focus on the future and your new life, it can turn into a truly exciting and empowering experience.

House Hunting Vibes:

For me, finding the right place meant thinking about what I needed at the time I was looking as well as down the road. Safety, community, and maybe a little room to grow – that’s what I was after. As a first time home buyer after divorce, room to grow could mean that you might meet someone and he/she might move in with you. The house hunt is all about crafting a living space that fits your new lifestyle and goals.

There’s also a certain feeling you get when you walk into a home and you say “That’s the one.” It’s like a no-brainer, almost. So, don’t settle. Even if it takes a long time to find a home and even if you have to rent for awhile, wait for that home that you see and you can’t wait to go back!

Legal Stuff, Ugh:

Navigating the legal side of things can be a headache, especially if you’re dealing with property division after a divorce. Trust me, I get it. And as a first time home buyer, I had no idea of the ins and outs of the home buying process and those pesky contracts (I bought years before I had my real estate license).  If it weren’t for my real estate agent and attorney, I don’t know what I would have done.   The home buying process, for me was a crash course in adulting.

Remember, if you trust your real estate agent and your real estate attorney, that’s really all you need. We are doing this all day long. But, make sure you understand what you are signing and how things are progressing. In other words, don’t let your attorney say “Sign it. Just trust me.” At least have a basic understanding of the documents.

Lean on Your Crew:

No matter where you’re coming from, having a solid support system is key. A real estate agent who truly understands your needs, goals and wishes, you can make all the difference. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your financial advisor, your mortgage lender, your divorce attorney, your mediator, and even friends who are divorced and who were once first time home buyers after divorce. There’s no such thing as too much information, and there are no silly questions. When you educate yourself, you become empowered, and you can then make the best decisions.


At the end of the day, being a first time home buyer after divorce is both full of challenges and opportunities. Remember that even with the emotions that come with divorce: sadness, anger, fear and confusion, to name a few, buying and owning your own home after divorce is new chapter in your life. And the countless women who have experienced this will tell you how empowering and wonderful it can be.


Staci Yesner
Staci Yesner, Real Estate Agent, Compass Chicago


Having grown up in the northern suburbs, I lived in the city for 20+ years and worked in the northwest, southwest, and southern outskirts of Chicago for decades. I am your ultimate partner and resource. I know the housing markets and school systems in both Chicago and surrounding areas and work with renters, buyers, and sellers to achieve their unique goals.

With a background in social work and special education, I’m a great listener, negotiator and a patient problem-solver. Prior to real estate, I worked as a school social worker and special education administrator for 20 years. Remaining patient, calm, and in command in tense, demanding situations is my strength. So is my ability to help my clients determine what’s most important when making decisions regarding their home purchase or sale.

Raised in Des Plaines, I have lived in Lincoln Park, Lakeview, and Logan Square after moving to Chicago when I finished graduate school. I received a B.A. in Psychology and Human Development from the University of Kansas, then went on to earn two Master’s degrees one in Social Work from the University of Illinois at Chicago, and the other in Educational Leadership from Chicago State University. I am also a licensed clinical social worker.

I specialize in assisting first-time buyers, as well as people relocating to the Chicagoland area domestically or internationally. In addition to my Illinois real estate license, which I acquired in April 2015, I earned the ABR (Accredited Buyer’s Representative) and SRES (Seniors Real Estate Specialist) designations to enhance my services and expertise. I have also worked in new construction, owned a condo that I eventually rented, rehabbed, and sold, and served on my condo board for many years, providing me keen insight into many areas of real estate.

In addition to my real estate career, I sit on the Board of Esperanza Community Services and volunteer at Gilda’s Club of Chicago and serve on the Chicago Compass Cares Committee. In my free time, I enjoy Pilates, strength training, cooking/baking, reading, traveling, and time with loved ones including my dog Wrigley. Learn more here.

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