By MICHAEL EDLEN | Special to the Palisadian-Post
When a relationship between spouses has ended, they need to move on, and when they own a house together, it usually results in many challenges. Not only is the situation already emotionally charged by the circumstances, but the home itself usually carries enormous value and sentimentality.
Choosing a divorce Realtor can be a delicate process, and it’s essential to choose someone experienced and sensitive to your specific situation. Here are some of the key considerations for hiring an agent.
- Experience with Divorce Sales: Many agents are not well-equipped to handle your divorce-related home sale. Some agents may not grasp the severity of the circumstances or are not skilled in handling emotionally challenging family situations.
- Handling Conflict: The Realtor should be comfortable handling potential conflicts that might arise during the sales process. Many agents will prefer to avoid controversy. High-conflict divorces require a specialist who can act as a mediator and work professionally with both parties, keeping the process civil and in everyone’s best interest.
- Impartiality, Good Communication and Trust: Select an agent that both spouses can trust. It is crucial for both parties to have trust in the process and the agent representing them. If the agent does not demonstrate empathy or support, one may feel quite isolated and alone. The agent must communicate evenly and openly about the sale’s details and keep both parties updated. If both spouses do not trust the agent, the entire process can become an endless and emotional battle. A good divorce specialist knows how to communicate with both parties without creating waves and has the courage to pursue what is best for all concerned.
- Discretion: The fact that you are going through a divorce should not be public knowledge during the sale process. Unless you give your consent, your divorce should remain confidential. If possible, it will be ideal if potential buyers do not know of the divorce.
- Local Market Knowledge: The Realtor must have comprehensive knowledge of the local market. Understanding neighborhood issues, amenities, trends, transportation, shops, restaurants and possible future developments can be essential for effectively pricing and marketing the home, as well as responding appropriately to any questions or concerns brought up by potential buyers about the neighborhood and comparable sales. A Realtor from five to 10 miles outside your area may not be as effective. Best will be one who has successfully represented at least three sellers in your area in the last year.
- Good Negotiation Skills: You should verify that the Realtor has excellent negotiation skills and will be effective. They must be able to negotiate with other agents, about home inspections and even the divorcing parties themselves. One way to assess this is to ask about their sold-to-list price ratio, which will indicate their track record of getting a price close to what their clients are asking. That in turn directly relates to their understanding the market well enough to help price it accurately, as well as provide professional counsel on how to get the house ready to sell.
- Interaction with Legal Professionals: In some cases, the Realtor may need to interact with one or possibly two attorneys. While obviously this should be kept to a minimum to avoid unnecessary legal expenses, they should be able to efficiently and impartially communicate if and as needed.
- Temperament: Remember, hiring a Realtor is not just about their professional expertise. They ideally will have a temperament that aligns with your needs during this challenging period. You need someone calm, cool, collected and not afraid to be involved in a potentially challenging situation.
- Reviews, Testimonials and References: You may have been referred to a particular agent for representing you in the home sale by a friend, attorney or other agent. Check them out on your own to assure that your selection seems like a good fit. Often there is ample information on their website to help compare experience, details and level of services. Google and Zillow reviews can also give anecdotal insights.
A word of caution: There are potential economic and emotional costs if both owners are not on the same page in selecting their divorce real estate agent or during the sale process. Sometimes the parties are in complete conflict, and one of the owners may intentionally make the agent’s job a lot harder, trying to hurt the spouse.
In the long run, preventing the agent from doing their job usually will impact the overall return that could be realized from the sale. Fighting also costs money and time.
If a divorce attorney has to get a court order to move the home sale forward, the costs can add up. It does happen, and sound business decisions will require a Realtor who is a very good listener.
If there are children in the household, the emotional cost to them due to their parents divorcing is already very challenging. Adding more conflict to the situation may only lead to increased anxieties, animosity, feelings of guilt, etc. Empathetic agents will make every effort to be considerate of the feelings of everyone in the family and be mindful throughout the entire sale process.
A home sale during a divorce often differs from traditional sales, given the type of communication necessary to have with both parties. There may be times when a divorce listing agent might communicate with the spouses separately, and other times when it’s necessary for both parties to make decisions together in some way.
While not necessarily relevant to the agent selection process, each spouse would do well to consider other issues involved, both short-term and long-term, and consult with the appropriate professionals. Examples of these include preservation of net proceeds after taxes, considerations regarding subsequent purchases, minimized possible adverse impacts on future finances, etc.
Michael Edlen and his team have earned the trust of dozens of divorcing couples, and can be reached at 310-600-7422 or email@example.com.
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