Selling the house after divorce
THERE’S no getting around it – divorces are rarely pleasant and things often get even more messy when the time comes to sell a couple’s biggest and most expensive joint asset: Their family home.
So what do you need to know when you call time on your marriage and need to sell the house?
Here is some key information on the process.
House falls into a larger pot
Selling a house after a divorce is not simply a matter of flogging the house and splitting the proceeds.
The house is usually a part of a larger group of assets, which are all combined into a pool that is then split between both parties at agreed amounts.
Family lawyer Marion Morrison-Boyd, from John R. Quinn and Co, says if one party keeps other expensive assets, they might receive a smaller portion of the house’s sale price.
“The house is often part of the dividends that have to be sold to be split, so each party can receive part of the assets,” she says.
Most couples sell
Morrison-Boyd says that in most cases, former spouses sell the house and move into their own separate properties, though some do choose to buy out their partner.
“A lot of people just can’t afford to keep the house,” she says. “To buy another house you often have to sell the first house or someone has to remortgage it to pay out the other side.”
Agreeing on price
For a house to be sold, both people must agree on the price. That means settling on a figure if it’s to be sold privately, or agreeing on a price you’ll both be happy with at auction.
Morrison-Boyd says the price is often one of the biggest points of contention.
“The parties have to agree on the amount of money that the house is sold for, so it can be a lot of friction for an agent,” she says.
“It’s a matter of agreeing whether to sell it for the amount that the highest bidder wants, or if it gets passed in, you often have another argument about what to sell it for. The bottom line is the house has to be sold.”
If you can’t agree?
Judges can enforce an order for a house to be sold so the dividends can be split, and can also make an order for a professional, independent valuer to complete a valuation.
“The orders have to be followed,” Morrison-Boyd says. “You should use a family lawyer to ensure that the person gets the amount of money they should, according to the orders.”
It doesn’t pay to haggle
Morrison-Boyd says the worst thing couples can do is argue over their possessions and get the lawyers involved.
“With furniture and goods in the house, if they’re arguing about furniture – which we beg them not to, because they’ll pay us more than what it’ll cost to buy a whole house of furniture at IKEA – people spend a lot of money fighting about a funny little couch in the back room,” she says. “With what they end up paying us, they could buy a new one.”