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Sell a House in Divorce: What You Should Know

Why Should You Sell Your House in Divorce?

Selling a House Getting Divorced

When going through a divorce, one of the first things that may come to mind is whether or not you should sell the marital home. Divorce and selling a house or other real estate are probably two of the most stressful life events.

Going through both at the same time can be ten times worse. Questions about homeownership can become complicated to deal with when facing a divorce.

For many couples, their home is their most significant asset, and it usually holds a fair amount of sentimental value as well. As much as one or the other may want to keep the home, the situation often demands getting rid of it.

This can be due to financial, legal, or personal reasons, but in the end, they must unload the home.

Knowing how divorce affects the sale of a house, including reasons to sell, is essential. As emotionally trying as the divorce is, a wrong move concerning a home can come back to haunt you for many years – long after the divorce is said and done.

Who Gets The House in a Divorce

There are usually one of three scenarios that take place for most couples who go through a divorce:

  • One of the spouses buys out the other legal interest and keeps the home.
  • One spouse keeps use and occupancy of the home for a specified period; typically when the youngest child turns eighteen, then the house can be sold.
  • The house is sold immediately, and the equity, if there is any, is split up in some fashion.

Selling a house and getting divorced is a tricky business that should be thought through thoroughly!

Legal Reasons to Sell a House During a Divorce

Some divorces involve two people who can deal peaceably and reasonably with one another. If this is the case in your divorce, you can discuss the best options for your situation and act accordingly. However, in many cases, the division of property and, precisely, the division of the family home is not cut and dry.

Each of you contributed to the home purchase – even if one did so more than the other – and each wants their fair share. If you cannot agree out of court, either on your own or through mediation with your attorneys, the courts will decide for you.

However, this is not a pleasant experience for most homeowners, as the judge rarely decides precisely what either party would like.

This is why it is always advisable to agree beforehand, if possible. Many times the most straightforward solution is to sell the house. When the family home is sold, the division of assets becomes more comfortable because you are not trying to figure out the house’s future value.

You can get the current market value from an appraiser or competent local Real Estate agent. Selling a property in a divorce is a tricky business that should be thought through thoroughly.

Financial Consideration For Selling a House During Divorce

Divorce and Real Estate Tax Ramifications

Divorce and selling a house create some significant financial concerns. Because you were married, there is an excellent chance that your mortgage is based on both of your incomes. Cut that salary in half, and you understand very quickly why the home you managed to buy required both of you to pay for it.

Even if your income is the higher of the two, house payments, insurance, property taxes, and upkeep can all eat away at your finances. For most spouses, this is too much to handle.

Understanding Capital Gains Laws is Essential

One of the critical financial aspects that should be considered is th  real estate capital gains tax ramifications. The current capital tax gains law says that if you are married and selling a house, you can exclude up to $500,000 in profit.

If you are single, the capi al gains exclusions drop in half to $250,000. You must have lived in your home for two of the last five years to be eligible for this exclusion. The home must also be your personal residence and can not be an investment property.

This is where it becomes tremendously crucial fo  both parties to think this through properly. Essentially, there is an enormous financial incentive to sell the home while you are still legally married.

Selling the marital home will allow up to $500,000 in profit to be excluded from federal capital gains taxes.

Couples can apply for this tax break if they file   joint tax return or if they file separately. When filing separately, each partner can still claim up to $250,000 on their tax return, provided that they again meet the two-out-of-five-years-living in-the-home qualification.

If you have owned your property for a significant amount of time, and there has been substantial equity growth, this can amount to significant tax savings.

If one party chooses to remain in the home but plans on selling sometime in the future, the e could be quite a difference in tax savings. This makes selling a house while getting divorced something that needs to be planned carefully.

Emotional Reasons to Sell a House in Divorce

Divorce and selling a home

Divorce and selling a home usually go hand in hand because of the psychologi al issues stemming from keeping the property. You may have built a happy and fulfilling life in your home, including pets and children, and improvements to make it just like you like it.

With your spouse’s departure, though, the once-happy  ome can quickly become unpleasant to live in. Memories of better or bad times can taint t e comfort you once experienced in your house. Some people are not interested in going through these feelings day in and day out.

This is, in fact, one of the more prominent reasons that one of the parties may decide at some point in the future that keeping the house was not all that it was cracked up to be.

The emotional factor is also s mething that people don’t think about enough. There are so many things going through your mind when going through a divorce that often, your judgment can become clouded.

Think About Liability When Divorcing and Selling a House

Liability is usually enough to seal the deal for divorcing coup es if the first two reasons are insufficient. Even if one person wants to keep the house, the other spouse should understand what that will mean.

There are multiple ways to keep a property and let one spouse remain in it, but each carries difficulties and risks.

Who Takes Over The Mortgage?

If the spouse who wants the home has enough income, they could  ake over the loan and just make the payments. This requires talking to the lender and refinancing the house – meaning the person must qualify – but some can do this.

If you can accomplish this, it removes the other spouse from the equation altogether – therefore eliminating their liability – but not many people have this kind of income.

Of course, you must also answer how much equity the departing spouse has in the home and either buy them out or set up a payment plan. This probably means consulting a divorce attorney unless you are divorcing on the best of terms.

Co-Owning The Home Continues

Divorce and Selling My HomeIf you have children and want to keep them in the same house, you could both stay on the mortga e to create as little disruption as possible. The remaining spouse can make total payments, or you can both agree to a percentage.

This requires considerable trust, though, because should the remaining spouse fall behind or fail to make the payments, the departing spouse will suffer the same credit issues and mortgage problems.

Winning at All Costs in Divorce Can Work Against You

One of the unfortunate things I have experienced in some divorce scenarios is one party’s desire to “win” at all costs.

There have been occasions where one spouse insists on keeping the home even though it is not a prudent financial decision because they see it as winning a significant battle.

In other words, their judgment becomes clouded from going through a traumatic event they may not have wanted.

When one party ends up keeping the marital home, for this reason, there are times when later on down the road, they realize that maybe taking on such a substantial debt and all the expenses that come along with homeownership were not such a good idea.

If you decide to keep the marital home, you REALLY need to make sure you can afford the mortgage payments and all the other expenses that come along with homeownership that you may not be considering.

Many couples getting a divorce underestimate what it will cost them to live once the divorce is finalized.

One of the things you should be doing when contemplating keeping the home is to develop a comprehensive budget before you lock yourself into a divorce settlement.

Don’t think about keeping the home in a divorce as a “win” if it will bury you financially somewhere down the road.

How To Sell Your House During Divorce

Selling a home during a divorce is much like selling real estate any other time, except that you MUST lay the groundwork beforehand that determines who gets what.

A Realtor helping you sell the home for a fair market value should be possible when you follow your agent’s advice. Before this happens, you should have decided how the money from the sale will be divided up.

This decision-making pr cess is best achieved through your attorneys. Let them guide you through the process of deciding equity.

This will involve thoroughly examining the history of your marriage related to the property and  onsulting one or more real estate appraisers. It would be best if you had a good idea of what your home is worth and the value of any improvements you made to the house.

Once this is decided, bring in a reputable real estate agent – one hired based on interviews, credentials, and sale history – and get your house on the market.

Follow their advice  o a T, and be willing to compromise a little. Selling for a little less than you might want can get the home off your hands faster and help you both move on with your lives.

The Divorce Realtor You Select Is Important

Bad Realtor Choice Divorce

When going through a divorce and selling real estate, you will want to work with a realtor with exceptional communication skills.

Given that there could be two parties that might not be getting along that well anymore, you will want to work with someone who understands the nature of divorce and all the emotional baggage that comes with this stressful life event.

The Realtor you choose to work with will have a certain level of patience, as all communications could be repeated multiple times.

The agent you ultimately decide to work with i  a process that should be worked on together. As an agent who has worked with numerous divorcing couples over my thirty-six years in the business, I have found that if one party selects the Realtor, the other feels slighted.

Human nature kicks in, and the natural instinct is to feel that the Realtor will play favorites because of an established relationship with one party.

The Real Estate Agent Should Be Meeting With Both Partie  in Divorce

When I am hired to represent a divorcing couple, I want them to be present for any li ting interviews. I want them to understand that I represent both of them equally.

There is no favoritism involved. My priority is to sell the house for the most money possible in a reasonable amount of time with the least amount of headaches.

Creating an atmosphere of  rust where either party can call me at any time is very important. Getting a div rce is stressful enough as it is. Adding a home sale on top of it can make you feel like your life is upside down. Striving to make the home sale process go as smoothly as possible is always one of my goals.

While going through a divorce brings a different set of challenges, the real estate agent you should work with should have some experience with divorce and a strong track record of success.

When selling a home and getting divorced, selecting a Realtor is an incredibly important decision. Yet, so many sellers do not take the time necessary to really make a sound business decision.  Being in the business as long as I have still puzzles me how lazy some people can be when choosing a Realtor.

You would t ink that selling one’s most significant asset would bring a determination to choose one  f the best agents around. Often this is not the case, and no research is done to make the best selection. Divorce and selling a house at the same time can be very stressful. Make sure you are well prepared for this endeavor.

Final Thoughts

Once your home has been listed for sale, at some point you’ll receive an offer. It is essential for both parties to be on the same  age. Sometimes real estate market conditions are flued. You might not end up with an offer for what the appraiser or real est te agent has suggested.

The comparitive market analysis to establish value could change if the real estate market is in flux.

It is vital for spouses to remain in communication with one another during the home sale process. Things do change often in real estate, so staying in touch is essential to the process. Lean on your real estate agent for advice and listen to them.

Keep an open mind when negotiating offers. Keep in touch with your divorce attorney and let them know when an offer is in hand. Above all else, try to keep the relationship with your spouse amicable. Keeping the process civil will make the process quicker and smoother.

If you have a home to sell in the Metrowest Massachusetts area, feel free to reach out.


About the author: The above Real Estate information on divorce and selling a house was provided by Bill Gassett, a Nationally recognized leader in his field. Bill can be reached via email at or by phone at 508-625-0191. Bill has helped people move in and out of many Metrowest towns for the last 36+ Years.

Are you thinking of selling your home? I am passionate about real estate and love sharing my marketing expertise!

I service Real Estate sales in the following Metrowest MA towns: Ashland, Bellingham, Douglas, Framingham, Franklin, Grafton, Holliston, Hopkinton, Hopedale, Medway, Mendon, Milford, Millbury, Millville, Northboro, Northbridge, Shrewsbury, Southborough, Sutton, Wayland, Westborough, Whitinsville, Worcester, Upton and Uxbridge MA.


Divorce and Selling a House: What You Need to Know

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Divorce and Selling a House: What You Need to Know


See what to know about divorce and selling a house. Learn considerations for keeping or selling the marital home.


Bill Gassett

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Maximum Real Estate Exposure

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