DISCLAIMER: As a friendly reminder, this blog post is meant to be used for educational purposes only, not legal advice. If you need assistance navigating the legalities of selling your home in a divorce, HomeLight always encourages you to reach out to your own advisor.
Dividing assets during a divorce is always unpleasant. And when it requires selling a home, any disagreement in the selling process can escalate quickly.
Battles over setting the list price, scheduling showings, and even accepting the best offer can delay both the sale and the divorce. In worst-case scenarios, these skirmishes may even lead to you selling the house for less than it’s worth.
There’s perhaps no more important scenario to pick the professional with the right experience to sell your home. But how do you find an agent with this type of experience? And should you look for just experience or actual certifications?
We’ve done the research and interviewed several experts to answer your question in this guide.
Top agents Annpauline Creamer, who ranks #8 out of 665 agents in the Mahopac, New York area; and Edward Kaminsky, who has completed over 1,000 transactions in Los Angeles County with 35 years of experience, share their expert insights from the real estate side. Also, Marco Brown from Brown Family Law: Utah Divorce Attorneys shares his expertise from the legal side.
Let’s examine the facts you need to know to find the right agent to help you sell your home during a divorce.
Nothing is more important than finding someone with actual experience in this situation. Someone who can toe the line and represent the fiduciary duties to both parties.
- Edward Kaminsky Real Estate AgentCloseEdward Kaminsky Real Estate Agent at The Kaminsky Real Estate Group Currently accepting new clients
- Years of Experience 35
- Transactions 1086
- Average Price Point $2m
- Single Family Homes 743
Do I need a real estate divorce specialist to sell my home?
If you’re going through the divorce process, selling your home is only one of many crucial, life-impacting decisions you will be making in a relatively short period of time. You may be wondering if your process needs to be any different than the typical selling process.
According to Kaminsky, when choosing an agent to help you sell your home during a divorce, “Nothing is more important than finding someone with actual experience in this situation. Someone who can toe the line and represent the fiduciary duties to both parties.”
Creamer agrees, “you need to have an experienced agent who knows what the challenges of divorce real estate sales are to stop them before they happen.”
An agent that specializes in divorce provides multiple benefits, which include:
- Experience with dual agency and can act as a neutral third party.
- Understands the emotional delicacy of the situation and can navigate it well.
- Knows how to help both parties find common ground in selling for the best price.
- Avoids scenarios and situations that may cause friction and slow down the process.
“Divorce is a challenge all by itself, as is the process of selling a home — that’s two major challenges at once. So you need an experienced agent that you both can trust; an agent who will have open communication with all parties involved. Years of experience make agents better communicators, which makes the transactions smoother,“ says Creamer.
Hiring the right agent who can communicate clearly and calmly with both spouses is absolutely essential.
Do I need both a divorce lawyer and a real estate divorce specialist?
Finding a real estate professional who has experience with divorces does not replace your need to hire a qualified legal professional for all other matters pertaining to your divorce.
If your situation is amicable, you don’t have children, and you don’t have substantial assets, you might be able to successfully navigate the process with just a mediator. But in most cases involving children and substantial assets, such as a home with 6+ figures, having an attorney who represents you will help the process go smoothly while keeping things fair.
“Divorce is like going through a train wreck,” argues Brown, “Our job is to make that as painless as possible. We want to help our clients get in, get out, and get on with their lives.”
Dividing both property and debt during a divorce typically falls to the attorney. This can get tricky, especially in states with community property laws. That’s why gains from the home sale are sometimes held in a trust until the divorce is finalized.
For the best results, hiring both an attorney and a real estate agent is the way to go. Often, your attorney will have several recommendations for agents who specialize in selling homes for divorcing parties.
Brown states, “Hire a divorce attorney who just does divorces, and they will have real estate professionals that they use regularly that they can refer you to.”
How to find an agent experienced in working with divorcing clients
When searching for an agent with experience working with divorcing couples, don’t sacrifice the other important qualifications you should look for when hiring any real estate professional.
Look for an agent with a proven track record of successfully selling homes in your area quickly and for top dollar.
HomeLight’s Agent Match can help you find a qualified agent who has experience working with divorces by combing its database of 28,000 network agents and over 29 million transactions to present you with a few of the top agent matches in your market based on your needs.
Once you’ve compiled a solid list of candidates, both you and your soon-to-be-ex-spouse should interview them separately to narrow down the list.
You’ll want to ask each agent specific questions about their references, the number of homes sold, and experience selling homes during divorce proceedings. It’s also a good idea to ask hypothetical questions about potential conflicts that might arise and ask how they would handle the situation.
As they answer your questions, home in on which ones offer the clearest communication and highest comfort level.
After you’ve interviewed your real estate agent prospects and verified their experience, you’re in a good position to hire your agent…that is, if you can get your spouse to agree.
Rather than getting into lengthy debates over the merits of each agent, simply rank your top three picks and ask your spouse to do the same. Then — if you can manage a civil discussion — compare your lists and select the one closest to the top on both.
If your divorce isn’t amicable enough to make this decision together, don’t let the selection of an agent become the first of many battles over the home sale. Instead, present both lists to your mediator or attorney, who can impartially make the final call for you.
Another question you may want to ask is whether they have any special training or certification in handling divorce real estate transactions.
What is the real estate divorce specialist certification?
Enlisting the help of an experienced agent is important — but does that agent need to be a certified real estate divorce specialist?
From most angles, divorce home sales look identical to traditional home sales, with the exception of the high probability of interpersonal and emotional friction between the joint owners. So it isn’t required for your real estate agent to have specialized training. If there are any complications that might arise, such as those related to community property laws, it’s your lawyer who’ll be handling the issues.
What you get with a real estate agent certified to work with divorcing couples is specific training on interpersonal communication skills, a knack for conflict resolution, and lots of patience.
“It’s more the soft skills than the technical skills that are required,” says Jordan Bennett, a top 1% real estate agent in Mission Viejo, California, who is a certified specialist in working with divorcing couples to sell their homes. “Being able to deal with high emotionally charged conversations, being able to be diplomatic.”
If you know that your divorce is highly contentious — and the home sale is destined to become a bitter battleground — hiring a real estate divorce specialist with training or certification may be the right move. There are several places where agents can get specialized divorce home sale training:
- Those who train with the Institute of Divorce Financial Analysts earn the designation of Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA). Professionals with this training typically have a background in accounting, finance, or matrimonial law, rather than real estate.
- Agents who study the master course facilitated by the Ilumni Institute earn the title of Certified Divorce Real Estate Expert (CDRE). Unlike CDFA, CDRE certification focuses specifically on the real estate market and training active real estate agents.
- Harvard and Stanford-educated Kelly Lise Murray, J.D., devised her own state-specific training program for divorce real estate. Agents who complete her course receive the designation of Real Estate Collaboration Specialist-Divorce (RCS-D).
- Since 2008, Carol Ann Wilson, recognized as a leader in the field of divorce financial planning, has offered a Real Estate Divorce Specialist program for real estate agents. Agents who go through this training study tax issues in the sale of the family home; maintenance, alimony and child support; divorce and pensions; bankruptcy of divorcing couples; and more. They then earn the Certified Real Estate Divorce Specialist (CREDS) title.
A cash offer may be a good option to sell your home during a divorce
If you’re especially worried about the potential conflict between you and your co-owner as you sell your house, you may consider seeking a cash offer. This process is significantly simpler and can help you avoid most situations that may cause friction or conflict.
HomeLight’s Simple Sale platform can help you find a cash offer fast and avoid the headache of trying to work together to sell your home. Relatively speaking, the slightly reduced proceeds for selling the home for 90%-95% market value may yield dividends multiple times more valuable in terms of emotional and relational health.
The benefits of going this route include:
- Significantly reduce the amount of time you have to work with your soon-to-be-ex to sell your home.
- Avoid the conflict in trying to agree upon and organize cleaning and home repairs prior to listing.
- Remove the potential conflict and hassle of organizing showings on top of everything else going on.
- Preserve your privacy by avoiding things like for sale signs or open houses.
- Remove extra out-of-pocket costs such as appraisal, attorney, and financial advisor fees.
Certified or not, for the best outcome, hire an agent with experience with divorce sales
When a marriage is ending, selling the family home has the potential to get incredibly combative. It takes the help of a patient, communicative real estate agent to keep the home sale sailing smoothly through the rocky seas of a divorce.
The good news is that you don’t have to go about finding this type of agent alone. HomeLight’s Agent Match makes it simple to search for top agents in your area with experience in selling homes during a divorce. This is one of the best ways to ensure the best outcome as far as selling time and profits, and a smoother transition into your new life.
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