Real Estate and Divorce: What Realtors Need to Know

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On average, more than three of every one-thousand Missourians get divorced each year. In many cases, divorcing couples will need to sell their home, and smart realtors understand both the pitfalls and the opportunities inherent in these properties.

Often, the sale of the home represents the last stage in the divorce, making couples eager to sell. But things can get tricky when:

  • One party is determined to make life difficult for the other.
  • Legal documents are not completed or lack sufficient detail.
  • It is uncertain who is empowered to communicate final decisions.
  • Divorce proceedings are still in progress.

Realtors who have their eyes open for possible trouble can get ahead of issues and start working to turn things in their clients’ favor. If you’re working to close on a “divorce home,” here are some ways you can mitigate trouble.

Ask great questions.

Ask the listing agent:

A.    Is the couple together, divorced, or in divorce proceedings?

If the pair is in the process of a divorce, are both names on the listing? If not, perhaps one member of the couple is not aware the other is selling the house. Make sure both are on-board from the beginning.

If the divorce is finalized, ask for a copy of the divorce decree. True Title can review it for you. Since these are usually not written by real estate attorneys, they may lack some of the nuance real estate law requires. We can help determine if there will be issues with the divorce decree and point you to resources to make your job easier.

B.    Whose names are on the title, and is there a quitclaim deed?

A quitclaim deed transfers the ownership of the property and may not be reflected on the title.

If the divorce decree gives one person full ownership of a co-owned property, the other must sign a quitclaim deed to clarify who the owner is and who the final decision-maker will be, even if the title says otherwise.

True Title is your go-to-resource for researching the title’s history. We can take a look at the quitclaim deed as well, ensuring that everything is in order as the deal progresses.

C.    Who speaks for the couple?

If both members of the couple still own the home, whether they are divorced or in the process of divorce, find out: Is there a real estate attorney, a realtor, or another third-party authorized to speak for both members of the couple?

Savvy realtors don’t get too far into a deal without knowing who the contact person is and if this person speaks for both parties.

D.    Are there any outstanding legal or financial issues that will affect how the couple splits the proceeds?

If so, True Title can help to set up an escrow account. We can draft a solid escrow agreement and hold the money until the divorcing couple determines how to split sale proceeds.

Get ready to use your people skills!

From the beginning, prepare yourself for one or both members of the party to stand in the way of closing the deal. Hopefully, everything will go smoothly but be ready to use your skills as a negotiator to motivate each member of the couple into doing his or her part.

Working to Help a Someone Buy a “Divorce Home?”

While some title companies will look for an escape-hatch at the first sign of trouble, True Title’s staff members are willing to roll up their sleeves to help you. Our legal team and title experts are ready to serve realtors who need help when a deal looks like it may go off-the-rails.

Give us a call today so we can guide you through the process, make sure everything is as it should be, and do all we can as a vital member of your real estate team!