Meet Stephanie Hofman, who I am calling “The Divorce Realtor.” Stephanie has a niche in her business, working with divorced couples. If you’re selling your home during divorce, Stephanie is who you want to call!
When I asked Hofman, (who is happily married, by the way) why she chose to specialize in divorce, she told me that early on in her real estate career, she worked with a divorced couple.
“I found that I had a knack for being able to play the delicate and impartial role necessary between the two parties,” she said. “It’s gratifying to help people through such a trying time and know that I’ve made something easier for them when so much is complicated. I also realized that there aren’t enough real estate agents who are making it a priority to address the specific needs of this segment of home sellers.”
I asked Hofman to offer some tips to make selling your home during divorce easier, quicker, and of course, an experience where you get the most cash.
Do’s and Don’ts of Selling During Divorce by Stephanie Hofman
There are few situations in life more complex or emotional than getting a divorce – throw in selling your home during that time, and you’re adding a thick layer of stress to the situation. Keep these “dos and don’ts” in mind – they can help make the process go more smoothly.
DO hire a professional Realtor – DON’T sell by owner. Selling by owner is tough in an ideal time – there are disclosures to complete, processes and laws to be aware of, plus huge decisions to be agreed upon – but doing it while navigating the waters of divorce can add a myriad things to disagree about. You’re much better off hiring qualified real estate broker who can be a neutral party and guide you through the transaction. Choose someone without close, personal ties to either individual; someone who will communicate equally with both soon-to-be exes – as well as with attorneys/mediators – and facilitate collaborative decision making. Don’t undertake this complex and important task without professional guidance.
DO treat it as the business transaction that it is – DON’T let your emotions take over. Selling your home is, at it’s core, a business decision – ideally, you want to get the most for your home in the shortest amount of time. Your home’s value is not determined by your emotional ties to the home but by the current marketplace. During divorce, especially one that’s contentious, emotions are heightened and decision making can be affected by anger and sadness. Don’t let your emotions get the best of you and you’ll be able to make the best decisions possible.
DO have a pricing plan – DON’T try to figure it out along the way! Your Realtor will provide you with comps and advise on the best list price for the home. Once you have decided – or compromised – on this, work with your agent and attorney/mediator to have a schedule in place for price reductions, should they become necessary. For example, if you are pricing your home at $600,000, determine when you will have a price adjustment, say, every 30 days, and of what amount – perhaps 5% of the price. Name what a reasonable offer would be to accept, such as an offer that comes in, or is negotiated to, within 5% of asking. These are things that even the most happily married sellers don’t always agree on, and it only grows more difficult if there’s animosity between the the sellers. A firm pricing plan will clarify steps and eliminate the need for costly court visits and additional discussions with attorneys/mediators. Don’t start the process without making sure both parties have the same expectations with regard to pricing – knowing in advance what moves to make will keep the process running as smoothly as possible.
DO stage a happy home – DON’T leave clues that there’s a divorce pending. When half of the furniture is gone or the master bedroom closet is half empty and only contains women’s clothing, the red flags go up in buyers’ brains. They will infer that the sellers are “desperate” and will be tempted to low-ball. You may consider professional staging to fill in the places where furniture is missing and ask a friend to store his off-season clothing in the closet to make it look full. Also, have a plan in place for showings. The home must be accessible to buyers – they won’t buy what they can’t see! – so ensure that you and your soon-to-be-ex both understand this and, if necessary, put a “showing plan” in writing. Don’t give buyers the wrong impression about your willingness or level of motivation to sell.
DO understand what selling your home will cost you – DON’T be surprised at the closing table! There are a variety of costs associated with selling your home – including paying of the mortgage of course, but also transfer tax fees, attorneys fees, title insurance, property taxes, and commission to your brokerage. Ask your agent to prepare a list of closing costs so you will know exactly what your proceeds will be and can determine if and how they will be split. Good news: if the divorcing couple retains co-ownership, each are eligible to claim up to $250,000 in tax-free profits from the sale, even in one of the spouses isn’t residing in the home, as long as the residing spouse meets the 2 of 5 year occupancy test when the home is sold.
Stephanie Hofman is real estate broker with Coldwell Banker in Highland Park who acts as her clients’ guide, advocate and educator throughout the entire home buying/selling process. Stephanie specializes in helping homeowners sell their homes during the difficult transition of divorce. Find out more at www.realtor.com or call: (847) 652-1902.