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Ask the Realtor: Tips for selling your home during a divorce

Ask the Expert
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. Associated Press

Moving is stressful in itself, but moving after a divorce can be particularly difficult. It’s unfortunate, but divorce is an extremely common reason why people sell their homes.

According to the website smartagents.com, 61 percent of divorces result in the family home being sold. Sometimes one spouse can afford to buy the other out, but in many cases that is not possible.

Selling because of divorce is basically the same as any other sale, but can be much more emotionally charged. It is critically important to hire a professional both parties trust and will listen to. The process may start out amicably but can sour quickly. Things will go more smoothly if the spouses and agent develop a sales plan together. If both partners are not on the same page, it could undermine the sale.

Start by discussing goals and responsibilities with the agent. Once this is done, if possible have one spouse be the point person with the agent — and the other spouse. This will streamline communication and reduce any potentially conflicting information the agent may have to sort through. Also, try to keep the agent out of any personal conflicts that may arise. The agent is there for both of you and does not want to take sides. Emotions can run high in the thick of a home sale; couple that with divorce, and things can get distorted. Quickly focusing on the common goal of walking away with as much money as possible will help keep the process on track.

Additional suggestions:

Determine what larger items you intend to leave “as is’’ and what you are willing to take care of. For example, if the air conditioning does not work and you have no intention of fixing it, make sure it is documented on your seller’s statement or listing sheet.

Fix the small stuff. If you want to get top dollar, your home must show in its best light. When buyers see little things in disrepair, they immediately conclude that the home has not been taken care of and wonder what other larger issues they will find. Replacing missing cabinet hardware, cleaning off scuffs on walls, polishing floors, and fixing leaky sinks will give you a great return for a small effort. This will prevent buyers from calculating the costs to do the work themselves and deducting it from their offer.

If you have pets, decide in advance who will take them out of the house for showings. I can’t stress how many times this is overlooked and causes major problems later on.

Agree on how you are going to pay for items that need to be taken care of prior to closing. Perhaps you need your septic checked for Title V certification (about $650) or the house cleaned weekly while on the market. Addressing these things in advance will ensure that they are budgeted for and will happen on time.

Being prepared is half the battle. The other half is listening to your agent. When emotions are high, remember that the agent wants only what is best for both parties. Taking your agents’ advice will allow them to help you through the process and ensure that things go as smoothly as possible. Remember, you all have the same goal in mind, the highest return on the sale of your house.

Marjorie Youngren is a broker at Century 21 Commonwealth in Lynnfield. Send your real estate questions to marjorie.youngren@commonmoves.com. Follow her on Twitter @MarjorieTeamC21.