Advice for Couples Selling a Home Because of Divorce

Home Stager

Advice for Couples Selling a Home Because of Divorce.

I recently read a very compelling and insightful blog post by Scott Hayes on the subject of Divorce and Real Estate.  Scott offers advice that should be required reading for any couple with a home to sell because of a divorce: divorce

"As soon as a couple files for divorce, you instantly form a business relationship. When a home is involved, that is most certainly the case. Although it is very difficult to keep emotions in check, it is imperative that divorcing couples become partners in the business of home ownership."

Selling a house can be quite emotional and difficult for even the happiest of married couples. For those going through a divorce, the process of selling a home can be excrutiating. Often the pain of a divorce is enough to put even the most sane person right over the edge - add the stress of selling a home and you quite often have a situation that's absolutley unbearable....

I know. I am going through a divorce right now and it is by far THE most difficult thing I've ever done. 

Sellers:  If you have to sell your home because of a divorce, take Scott's advice and try to keep those emotions in check.  I KNOW, I KNOW - that's easier said than done - but there's so much at stake!  You could easily end up making a very costly mistake that you'll regret later on.

  • Do whatever you have to do to put that hurt, resentment, hate, fear or whatever else you're feeling aside. Get counseling, join a support group, spend time with family/friends who are positive and supportive, read inspiring literature, exercise, pray, meditate.  Do what works best for you.
  • Don't underestimate the healing power of TIME.  Give yourself TIME to process the many emotions you're experiencing right now.  If possible, take time to grief the loss of your marriage BEFORE you take on the sale of your house.  Remember, it's a process that can't be rushed.
  • Most importantly, hire a competent and reputable Realtor to represent you.  Be honest about what you're going through and make sure that person has experience with your type of situation.
  • Remember the job of an agent representing a couple who's hostile to one another or not communicating well is extremely difficult!  Your agent wants to help you - let him or her do the job and don't make it harder than it needs to be.     

Agents:  Please try to be patient.  If you've never been divorced, then you have no idea the kind of pain your sellers might be experiencing.

  • Your divorcing sellers might be acting strange or childish or unreasonable but please don't judge them.  [There was once a time when I judged people who chose divorce - I believed they just didn't try hard enough to save their marriage and they were taking "the easy way out".  Of course now I can say from experience that belief is NOT true.]
  • If you have been through a divorce and it all went smoothly for you - try to remember not all couples are so fortunate.
  • Make certain both spouses are on board with selling the house.  If one is resisting your chances of achieving a successful sale are quite limited. 
  • Stay neutral and don't even think about taking sides.  Your clients need an emotionally detatched third party that's capable of handling potentially explosive situations
  • Trust your instincts. If you have the feeling a situation might be more than you can handle or more trouble than it's worth, you're probably right.  There's no shame in walking away from a listing if you're not comfortable.  

Finally, when preparing a house for sale, do your best to camoflage a divorce situation - they're typically quite easy to identify.  Buyers who suspect a divorce could assume a financial hardship exists, which could cause them to try to take advantage of the situation and make a lower offer than they would have otherwise made. 

Check out Tony Lacy-Thompson's  post on the subject of Divorce and Your Money - Nine Mistakes Couples Make With Their Finances.  There's some great advice there!


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Karen Bernetti is a Real Estate Stager, Former Realtor®, Author, Speaker, and Owner of Staging4Smooth Transitions - specializing in assisting seniors with their downsize moves and offering Home2Home Transitions seminars. Karen is also the Social Media Manager and Administrative Coordinator for Prudential CT Realty, in Madison, CT and Co-creator of the Ready2Sellin30Days System - an interactive multi-media program teaching do-it-yourself homeowners EVERYHTING they need to know about preparing a home for sale. Stay up to date on the latest staging and home decor trends by visiting Karen & Ann's Home Sale Success Blog.  



Re-Blogged 6 times:

Re-Blogged By Re-Blogged At
  1. Ralph Janisch ABR CRS Broker 06/10/2011 03:20 AM
  2. Michael Collins 06/10/2011 06:17 AM
  3. Gene Riemenschneider 06/11/2011 09:29 AM
  4. Joy Carter & Jeff Booker Brother and Sister Team 06/15/2011 11:57 AM
  5. Charles Stallions 01/22/2013 11:28 PM
  6. Matthew Caulk 05/30/2013 12:41 AM
Real Estate Staging Association
Advice for Sellers
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Karen Bernetti
Southington, CT

Ruby - so glad you found the post helpful, best of luck with both listings! 

Christine - it is easier said than done

Charita - time is a great healer

Marte - tough situations indeed

Cynthia - would you do it again?

Kathy & Wende - thank you

Tony - I added a link to your post - you offer some great advice there, Thank you!

Phil - well said

Derrick - our personal experiences sure bring perspective.  I wish you the best.  Things will get better!

Wendy & Jennifer - Thanks.  Sometimes the hard way is the only way

Carolyn - sounds like you've seen it all

Robert - wow - you gave us lots to think about!

Bill - smart choice

Tonda & Steve - they are sad homes to view - it doesn't have to be difficult or expensive to camoflage a divorce situation.

Christine - thanks so much you are so sweet!  You have great instincts and just ooze with compassion - your clients are very lucky to have you.

Larry - great warning there - thanks for sharing

Risa - truly great comments indeed!  Lots of great advice being offered

Scott - aw shucks!  You inspire me - thank you!

Ric - great idea ... in theory.



Jun 11, 2011 12:39 PM #71
Karen Bernetti
Southington, CT

George - I'm sure it's getting a lot harder for people these days to go it alone.  Thanks for checking in

Mike - That's a great way to look at it.  It is hard to come to terms with when you view it as a failure.  We have 3 kids (2 teens) 2 businesses and a house - it hasn't been easy - you're right I'm growing in the process.

Steven - I really don't know how you do it! I'm sure 'drama' is an understatement

Sylvia - great point - it's not something that can be rushed

Lyn - for some people the fighting just becomes a way of life - and that's a lousy quality of life if you ask me

Gene and Marjorie - thanks! 

Thanks you to everyone who stopped by - your kind words and encouragement mean more than you will ever know! 

Jun 11, 2011 12:50 PM #72


I can't think of a more volatile, tenuous, or difficult situation that a realtor can be in. Though difficult, we need to focus only on the business side of the transaction and remain as neutral as possible to the emotion while maintaining empathy.

Good luck and the best possible outcome to you!

Jun 11, 2011 01:51 PM #73
Colleen K. Cotter

Impressive post. Thank you.

We represent several parties in the real estate aspects of divorce and other family law matters. In the case of divorce it is our policy to ONLY represent one person - not the couple. That has served our team well. So far we have not made any exceptions.

Jun 11, 2011 07:17 PM #74
Robin McGinn
RE/MAX Impact - Illinois Homes for Sale - Bloomingdale, IL
Blessed to work with the Best Clients in Illlinois

Great post!  Negotiating with sellers in a divorce situation is tedious.  I am working through one now (I am the buyers agent)  the attorneys had to be consulted to "re-advise" the sellers on the best options.    Emotions running wild.  Time will tell...

Jun 11, 2011 11:35 PM #75
Gary Scardino
Gary Scardino - InvestPro Realty Group - Katy TX - Broker - Katy, TX
Katy TX Real Estate - Traditional and Investment Real Estate

Great information! Sometimes we Realtors do not know how to handle certain situations but when someone such as yourself has first hand experience it sheds a different light on the subject matter and helps us understand how to handle new things that are presented to us... Good luck to you Karen.

Jun 12, 2011 01:29 AM #76
Julissa Jumper
Select Properties of Fayetteville, LLC - Fayetteville, NC
Fayetteville, NC Real Estate

Karen: Wow, what a post, and what comments you generated! I read Scott's post and really enjoyed it, and you have taken it a lot further.

The emotion and stories in these comments highlight the wisdom of your advice. In a difficult time, you've manged to add real value to others in a similar situation.

Great post! I'm a fan and have you on my prayer list.

Jun 12, 2011 01:54 AM #77
Karen Bernetti
Southington, CT

Colleen - that sounds like a good policy

Robin - best of luck to you

Gary - I'm glad I could help

Julissa - I am very grateful for all the comments I recieved, so much great advice and compassion.  THANK YOU!




Jun 12, 2011 09:15 AM #78
DeeDee Riley
Lyon Real Estate - El Dorado Hills CA - El Dorado Hills, CA
Realtor - El Dorado Hills & the Surrounding Areas

Great input Karen!  I'm sorry you have first hand knowlege though!

Jun 12, 2011 07:07 PM #79
Joanna Williams
Prudential Kansas City Realty - Liberty, MO

Awesome post. Great advice for everyone!

Here's an article back at ya about how adversity makes us stronger. Hang in there!

Jun 13, 2011 04:45 AM #80
Carlos Evans
Keller Williams Capital Properties - Washington, DC

 Very sound advise.  I would echo this with distressed sellers as well!

Jun 13, 2011 06:06 AM #81
Marsha Cash
RE/MAX Advantage - Stockbridge, GA

I showed a house today that was mostly vacant.  In the dining room was a clothes basket with wedding photos, the bride's silk flower bouquet and the wedding dress.  Gave me a quick clue as to what was going on at that house!  It's a difficult time for everyone and it takes everyone's cooperation dealing with a divorce sale.

Jun 13, 2011 08:06 AM #82
Joy Carter & Jeff Booker Brother and Sister Team
Keller Williams Parkland/Coral Springs Realty-GreatFloridaHomes Team - Coral Springs, FL
Trust Your Family's Move To Our Expertise!

Karen, Very thoughtful post.  Definitely worthy of a re-blog!

I am divorced 19 years already (not to worry you will recover).  Just keep remembering Life is a Journey.  this maybe a chosen path for some or a bump in the road.  I'm enjoying my chosen path.

The competition between divorced couples is the hardest for agents.  Often feel like I am walking a tightrope.  Joy

Jun 15, 2011 12:01 PM #83
Nancy Makowsky

I am working with 2 different clients going through ugly divorces.  Such a shame to see emotions get the better of them and having it cost them dearly in terms of lost equity.  Greed and their desire to get a certain dollar figure to move on instead of making it happen turned into extended time on market.  Such a shame to see people learn by the school of hard knocks.  

Jun 16, 2011 08:05 AM #84
Gerard Gilbers
Higher Authority Markeing - Asheboro, NC
Your Marketing Master

Sorry to hear that you are going through a divorce. Divorce is one of the hardest issues to conceal as a reason for selling a house. I tried to ask a question from another agent that had clients that were divorcing, he left and went somewhere where he had no phone so communications and negotiations were almost impossible!

Jun 16, 2011 06:15 PM #85
Debbie Lynn
Prudential California Realty - Rancho Santa Fe, CA
Realtor, North San Diego 858.775.9771

Great post and comments.  So many I am bookmarking to read later.  A difficult situation for all, and best wishes Karen in your divorce.

Jun 21, 2011 03:36 AM #86
Mike Henderson
Your complete source for buying HUD homes - Littleton, CO
HUD Home Hub - 303-949-5848

First and most important, good luck personally.  This is the best blog I have read on the subject of real estate and divorce.  You made a great point about the emotional issues.  I've often wanted to market to potential clients this way.  The idea that I have excellent psychological and coping skills.  Hard to claim that without a psch degree though.  I think the psycological issues that can go along with these situations are more/as important as the transaction.  This blog makes all parties aware of it.  Great job.

Jun 29, 2011 04:14 AM #87
Karen Bernetti
Southington, CT

DeeDee - me too

Joanna - LOVED the article.  Thank you!

Carlos - you make an excellent point

Marsha - what a sad sight

Joy and Jeff - yes it's a journey not a destination.  Thanks so much for the re-blog

Nancy - I don't know who its harder on - them or you?  Hang in there

Gerard - yes they're easy to detect

Debbie Lyn - THANK YOU and yes all the comments and advice have been wonderful

Mike - Thanks for your kinid word

Jun 29, 2011 12:39 PM #88
Shanna Day Team Leader AZ & UT - Call 480-415-7616
Keller Williams Realty EV (AZ) & Keller Williams SLC (UT) - Mesa, AZ
Top 0.33 percent of 39,000 Realtors in our MLS

Great Article. 

This is what I recently went through that was extremely difficult that some of you may learn from as well.   I recently sold a home to a divorced couple that the mother-in-law was the lien holder.   Oh boy, that was not easy!   All three people, the wife, husband and mother-in-law wanted to be the "one in charge".   The wife would text me late at night - sometimes all night long.   The husband was an early riser so he would start texting about 5:00am and the mother-in-law in her 80's was on the phone with me all through the day.  This went on forever!   As much as I tried to set some boundaries, they were going through so much emotionally that they were completely oblivious to my needs or wishes.   When we finally got them to a realistic price (which was no small trick because of their animocity to each other), the home finally sold and they have moved on with their lives and everything is so much better - for them and me!   I worked harder on my price reduction scripts than I ever had before.  It was worth it!  They are all my friends because I was kind through the whole process - even though I too wanted to scream at times.  I know that I will be their realtor for life for understanding and being helpful, professional and kind through a very stressful period.    Good luck if you find yourself in this position.  The golden rule applies in all our lives as a realtor - don't you agree?  

Jul 23, 2011 01:46 AM #89
Inna Ivchenko
Barcode Properties - Encino, CA
Realtor® • Green • GRI • HAFA • PSC Calabasas CA

I don't believe in easy divorces( only in movies?). Every divorce is stressful, difficult and ugly.

We all noticed that recently the divorce rate rose( thanks to Depression years), but many couples did not sell their houses during the divorce process since prices were down; finally,  those houses are entering the market.

Oct 19, 2013 05:10 PM #90
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