What To Do With Your House When You Get Divorced
So you’re going through a divorce.
I feel ya.
I was there at the age of 40, with three young children, having just moved 1000 miles away from my hometown of Boston to Atlanta.
My entire support network, including my parents and four brothers and sisters-in-law, were all up North.
I was a stay-at-home mom, now learning to navigate being single, how to not screw up my children completely, where to live and what to do with my life to earn a living.
Here's one thing I did know:
I did not want the 6,000 sq ft house in the country club as I knew I wouldn’t be able to afford it.
At the time, I’m pretty sure we were upside down with the value as we totally overpaid when we relocated here.
Thankfully my now ex-husband wanted to keep the house.
How to divide property during a divorce.
The whole “what’s yours and what’s mine” can get very sticky and emotional.
If we just viewed the house as “real estate” it might make it a little easier.
However, the house tends to be a foundational element in the relationship as most couples buy their first home together.
Laws differ from state to state, but the 3 most common ways of dividing real estate in a divorce are:
- Sell the house & divide the equity
- One person buys out the other
- The couple decides to defer the sale to a later date
Sell the house and divide the equity
This is the most common route to take.
The home is put on the market and after the sale, all expenses, from the mortgage to the taxes, are paid off and the remaining equity is split between the two parties.
Buyout your spouse
Refinancing is the best method here.
It removes the other party from the mortgage, pays off the mortgage debt, and frees up cash for the buyout.
Keep in mind that the party who is keeping the house will have to be able to qualify for a mortgage with one income.
It’s recommended you get more than one appraisal to ensure you’re getting an accurate value of the house.
Defer the sale to a later date
This option isn’t that common but circumstances such as upheaval with children or if the couple owes more than the home is worth at the time of the divorce, it can work.
But you must have clear communication about expectations.
The party who stays in the house must make mortgage payments on time in order for the other party to not be affected.
Also there are capital gains taxes to consider down the line.
When the home is sold, you can both exclude $500,000 of the gain from the sale ($250,000 each) provided you both meet the “ownership and use tests”.
This states that both people own the house AND that both have lived at the house for two of the last five years before the sale. Otherwise, the one who has moved out forfeits the gain exclusion.
The bottom line
Consult with an attorney and a tax specialist before any decisions are made about the division of real estate.
Protect yourself and your investment with sound advice from the professionals who work in the divorce space.
Hope this was helpful!
Georgia Real Estate Agent
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