Today is single parent’s day. (March 20th) I only know that fact from Facebook. I became a single parent more than 8 years ago. I got a divorce after 16 years of marriage. I met my ex when I was 19, and we got divorced when I was 38. We had two kids, they were 8 and 10 years old at the time of our split. Not a great time for us.
I have been considering writing a post about divorce and real estate. I have devoured everything I can find about divorce and real estate, and nothing touches on the emotional side. As real estate agents, we aren’t supposed to be about the emotional side. But MOST of real estate has an emotional side, if looked at the right way.
I have been divorced. I have helped couples divorcing sell their home. My home had to be sold during my divorce. I wish that these experiences had afforded me the great wisdom to make that process easier for even one person, but they didn’t. Also every situation is different…just like every couple is different, and every person is different. There is certainly no one way to do things. The one thing that seems to help every situation is compromise. Compromise by all parties. Even when being asked to compromise so much, selling your home you will be asked to continue compromising…especially when going through a divorce.
Divorcing when there are children in the picture is a whole other thing, and in my opinion makes everything far, far worse. Not only is your heart broken…maybe just from the loss of a dream, not necessarily the person…but your children are hurting too. My son came home school to a for sale sign in our front yard. The agent hadn’t told us he would be doing that. ( I didn’t sell my own house during the divorce…one of my compromises) We hadn’t told the kids yet that we would have to sell the house. My son sat under the sign and cried. Still hurts me to think about that. Divorce is hard on kids too, their family is changing. They are also losing their home. Maybe it is the only home they’ve ever known. Maybe it is the only home they remember. Maybe they are going to have to change schools. Kids don’t understand the big picture, they don’t get all of the details, so they can get scared. They might blame themselves. So even though as parents you are going through hell, you have to put your kids first and try to make them feel safe and loved throughout it all. I think the best way to do this is just by telling them that it isn’t their fault, that you love them, and so does their other parent. And keep telling them. And don’t complain about your soon to be ex in front of them….as hard as that can be, it helps kids to not hear negative things about a parent.
Selling your home and moving into a new one is extremely stressful even in the best situation. Doing this during a divorce feels like a joke. You can hardly keep the kids going as normal, but to maintain that facade in your home…it is going to feel impossible. As a real estate agent I almost always know when the sellers are selling due to divorce…even when I am just a buyer’s agent showing the home. Sometimes it is obvious, half the furniture gone, half of the master bedroom closet is empty. Other times it is just my 6th sense. I can smell it. It makes me sad every time.
Unlike most people, a divorcing couple doesn’t automatically make me think there is a deal to be had when I am representing buyers. I don’t think they will be more negotiable or more willing to make compromises (there’s that word again). Quite the opposite. I know money will be tight. The income that has supported this household now needs to support two households. There are huge expenses looming for the couple, their retirement fund just got demolished. Maybe one of them doesn’t want to leave. Maybe one of them is so angry there will be damage to the property. A divorcing couple doesn’t scare me away, but they don’t make think maybe my buyers can get a really good deal either.
Do you know that there are companies that sell divorcing couples contact information to real estate agents? I am not against the hustle for the agents that are willing to cold call people to see if they can get a deal…but I am when it comes to the divorcing couple. If ever there is a time to use an agent that will treat you as humans it is when you are divorcing. If you are somehow convinced to list your home with an agent that found you by cold calling off a divorce list, what do you think that agent’s top priority will be? Making sure you are both communicated with throughout the entire transaction? Taking the time to explain the process as many times as necessary because you have so much going on you keep forgetting things? Offering suggestions to make the showings go more smoothly, or helping you both compromise to keep the house looking its best (before one clears out their favorite furniture). Find an agent that will be neutral between you two, but also highly involved to help you get the most out of your home sale during this stressful time.
My best piece of advice is one to take with you throughout your divorce. One that I could have used, though I may have been told it and didn’t listen. Compromise. Your life is a series of compromises, and in a divorce you will be asked to compromise more than you can imagine. Let stuff go that you can. Try to focus on the big picture. Keep yourself surrounded by people that want the best for both of you…even if it is easier to surround yourself with people that want the best for just you. You may feel frustrated if you are the one in the house…having to keep it clean for showings, having to deal with rude agents showing up late or not at all…but don’t take that out on your soon to be ex. Communicate either with your agent or your ex, or even family or friends, on how they can help. So often people are willing, but they don’t know what to do. Tell them, ask them. You will need extra help for a while. If you are the one that is out of the house, realize what your ex is having to deal with and offer to take the kids more if you can, or offer to help with hiring a cleaning crew to come in once a week. You will both be the winners in the end with a home that sells for top dollar.