3 Options A Divorcing Couple Has & the 7 Things You Must Know When Selling a House as part of a Divorce

3 Options A Divorcing Couple Has & the 7 Things You Must Know When Selling a House as part of a Divorce

The 3 Options when getting a Divorce and a house is involved:

  • If you do not want to sell, you have the option of possibly buying out your partner’s legal interest and keeping the home.

  • You could negotiate to occupy the home for a period of time. This would typically be an option if children are involved.

  • Sell the house and move on. This way, both parties receive a fair share that could be invested in new properties.

7 Must Knows When Getting a Divorce & Selling a House

  1. Pick an Agent who is objectively qualified in Divorce Sales

It is worth the time to find an agent who specializes in working with separating couples as this situation can present a unique set of challenges. In many cases when working with a divorcing couple, a real estate agent will double as a mediator. 

You need to find an agent that both can trust and feel comfortable with. An agent where neither person feels that the agent is on the other person’s “side”. It is always recommended to pick a fair and neutral Realtor rather than hiring a family friend or mutual acquaintance. Picking an agent where there is no connection will help build each individual's trust that their personal situation is not getting back to their personal sphere. 

It is always recommended that both parties be present for any listing interviews. It is important that the divorcing couple understand that their agent represents both of them equally. Oftentimes when one party selects the Real Estate Agent, the other feels slighted. This sense of mistrust is setting everyone up for a miserable process. If both parties are not able to come together for the meeting, then it is important for both parties to meet with the agent separately. 

  1. Provide Agent with relevant details about Divorce Decree

It’s important that your agent communicates with you, but also very important to communicate with your agent. You will need to share with your agent any stipulations regarding your house that have been laid out by the divorce decree. 

These decrees often involve which spouse has been appointed to act on behalf of the couple. These items typically relate to the listing price as well as any price reductions that are needed at certain points. Another example of a decree is who is responsible for any home repairs. 

  1. Come to an agreement before listing the house

You will want to agree on key details before the property is listed. This will help ensure a smoother process with less issues down the road… Less issues is always a good thing when you are talking about two of the most stressful things a person can go through! 

Some items to consider and agree on are

  • What is the list price and the lowest offer you are willing to accept? 

  • A price reduction strategy if needed

  • How involved in the marketing and process will each person want to be? For example, the person who is not living in the house, do they want to be notified of every showing?

  • What are the responsibilities of each spouse for staging, cleaning and minor repairs?

  • Which spouse (if any) will be staying in the house while it is being sold?

  1. Consider the tax implications

Death and taxes! Life’s certainties. And in the case of Divorce, the tax implications can become more complicated depending on how the sale is handled.

A Capital Gains Tax is a tax you pay on the profit that you get when selling an investment. There are short term and long term capital gains with the rates changing depending on the political landscape. If you can avoid this Capital Gain tax, then you will walk away with more proceeds in the end. 

For Real Estate, there is a capital gain tax exemption of $250,000 per individual or $500,000 for a married couple. If not, done correctly, you could lose $250,000 of an exemption. It is important to structure your divorce and home sale to preserve this exemption.You will want to talk with a tax professional to create a strategy for the best way to ensure that you limit your tax exposure.  

  1. Find a Middle Ground or else... 

Some divorces are where both parties are able to handle the situation peacefully and reasonably. However in many situations the division of property, most specifically the house is not so cut and dry. 

If both parties are not able to agree out of court which includes by yourself and through mediation with your attorney then the court will decide for you. A judge will make these decisions for you and can even allow your spouse to make all the decisions relating to the sale. It’s not often a pleasant experience and the judge very rarely decides like either party would like. 

It is important to know that in most states, if one party wants to sell, but the other party would prefer to keep the house and has the means to do so in order to pay the other partener their interest, then the court will not force the sale, but rather allow the buyout.  

  1. Don’t move (completely) out

Experts recommend that at least one person stay in the house until it sells. Vacant homes don’t show well while it has been proven that staged homes sell faster and for more money.

Having one person stay in the house will mean that there is furniture that remains in the house and will ensure that any maintenance items won’t be neglected. Staging a house can cost thousands of dollars so one person remaining in the house can be a prudent financial decision for both parties. If it is at all possible to keep some nice furniture, fixtures and home accessories then that will help keep a seller's cost down while helping them net more on the sale. 

Not to mention that if both parties move out… Three housing payments each month could get very expensive and may not be sustainable for most divorcing couples. It is always best for a couple to wait until the sale is close to being guaranteed before moving out of the house. 

  1. Don’t give the reason Divorce as to why you are selling

This should be obvious, but it is amazing how many times an agent will provide a prospective buyer this information… And sometimes they disclose this unprovoked! Any agent that discloses this is inexperienced and doesn’t understand that the implications can cost a seller thousands of dollars. 

When a potential buyer hears “divorce”, they assume that they may have some leverage in the sale as a divorce makes people assume that the divorcing couple must sell and must sell quickly. This oftentimes can result in buyers offering less than they otherwise would have. 


Many factors play a role in a divorce sale. It’s important to work closely with your divorce real estate agent, lawyers, and attorneys to ensure selling your house during your divorce will be worth it.

For a free, no-obligation consultation for owners wishing to sell in the greater Boston area, please contact me at 617-480-2600 or by email at [email protected]. I’m ready to help.


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