Selling a house after divorce
Selling a house after a divorce or relationship breakdown can be one of the most stressful situations you can find yourself in. This useful guide will help you understand the process and consider what your options might be.
Should I sell my house after divorce?
Going through a divorce or relationship breakdown is deeply upsetting. This upset is often exacerbated by finalising the separation of joint assets.
The marital home is often considered the largest joint asset, and as such, many divorcing or separating couples will need to sell in order to complete the dissolution of the relationship.
How you and your ex-partner split your assets after a divorce can often be decided without a solicitor, but this will depend on how easy the two of you find it to discuss financial matters. The decision to sell a house after divorce will vary from couple to couple.
There are a few possible options to consider when it comes to working out what to do with the house in a divorce:
Keeping your home after divorce
Depending on the circumstances of your separation, it may be that you choose not to change the legal or financial status of the house, even if one of you decides to move out. This could be the case if you have children nearing 18 who will be leaving shortly for college or university.
Alternatively, if you don’t think it’s a good time to sell, you could consider keeping the property and renting it out. This would, however, keep you tied to your ex-partner until you choose to sell the property. You would also need to speak to your mortgage lender to enquire about the possibility of changing your current residential mortgage to a buy-to-let mortgage.
Mediation can be a valuable service if you choose to continue to jointly own the property or if you need help with dividing your assets. You can find a local mediator on the Family Mediation Council website.
Selling your house after divorce
If you both, amicably, decide that selling is the best decision, there are several options for you to consider. Whilst selling on the open market with an estate agent is likely to get you the highest price for your property, timescales are unpredictable. You may want to consider quicker options such as a property auction or selling to a professional home buying company.
Once you’ve sold the property, the money will be divided between you. Whether it’s a 50-50 split or a different arrangement will depend on your circumstances and any agreement that was put in place when you purchased the property.
Buying your ex out of the house
If one partner from a marriage wants to remain in the home, there is the option of buying your ex out of the house. Whether or not this is possible will depend on your financial circumstances and the lender’s criteria. It a good idea to speak to your lender as soon as you can to find out what your options are.
Whichever option you decide is right for you and your situation, it’s important that you try to reach a voluntary agreement. If both parties cannot agree on a way forward, you will have to go to court, which can result in neither party getting the result they had hoped for. Getting a court order to sell a house after divorce will also have additional cost and time implications.
Who gets the house in a divorce if I go to court?
If you and your ex-partner are unable to reach an agreement, you can obtain a financial remedy order from the court. This means the judge will decide the outcome of your shared assets.
Before applying to court, you will need to attend mediation sessions through a legal representative. The only exception to this is if you are a victim of domestic abuse or social services have been involved. In these circumstances you would be allowed to apply directly to the court.
A financial remedy order, also known as an ‘ancillary relief order’, allows you to challenge your ex-partner and settle your financial disputes. If you cannot reach a voluntary agreement, a financial remedy order may enable you to:
- Gain ownership of the marital home
- Get a lump sum payment
- Get a regular payment plan set up to help with childcare and living costs
- Gain a share of your ex-partners pension
There are many factors that will influence a judge’s decision on a settlement. The biggest consideration will be children. A judge will usually award property ownership to the primary caregiver. If there are no children to consider, other factors such as age, ability to earn and length of marriage are taken in account before a settlement is agreed.
It’s worth noting that a financial remedy order from court can take between 6 and 12 months to finalise.
Divorce and children – putting the family first
When going through a divorce or separation, it’s important to place your family at the heart of all discussions and look at what is best for any children involved. You should, therefore, ensure you keep up with mortgage repayments in order to protect the house from repossession. If the change in your circumstances has made it difficult to keep up with necessary payments, you should contact your lender immediately and make them aware of this.
How to sell your house quickly after divorce?
It’s natural to want to sell a shared house quickly to enable you to move on with your life. However, the traditional home selling process can be slow and may not be the best option for you.
If you both agree to sell the property, there are a few questions that may help you get started:
- How much is my house worth?
- Will I use a high-street estate agent or sell online?
- Should I take my property to auction?
- Should I contact a house buying company to see what they offer?
A good starting point is to have an idea of how much your house is worth. In the event either party disputes the valuation, a court may order a local surveyor or estate agent to carry out an additional valuation.
Decide on the method of sale
- Selling on the open market with an estate agent: Selling with an estate agent will enable you to achieve the highest price for your property, but the timescales are unpredictable. Home.co.uk suggests that you can expect your property to be on the market for an average of 90 days before you accept an offer, and the government’s website advises that it takes an average of 8-12 weeks to complete a sale once an offer has been accepted. This means it takes, on average, a total of 5-6 months to sell a house on the open market.
- Selling on the open market with an online estate agent: Selling with an online estate agent can often be cheaper than selling with a high street estate agent, but they don’t always have the same level of local knowledge and may offer a less comprehensive service (eg. you may be expected to conduct your own property viewings). The time taken to sell via an online estate agent is likely to be similar to the time it takes with a high street estate agent.
- Selling your house at auction: Selling at auction is seen as a quicker option than selling via an estate agent, and it can work well for some, but it’s important to note that there is no guarantee that your property will sell at auction and properties usually sell for less than market value. If your property fails to meet its reserve price, and therefore doesn’t sell, it can be difficult to attract buyers on the open market afterwards. Your property will usually be marketed for around a month before the auction takes place, and then completion of the sale will be required within 28 days, so if your property successfully sells at auction it is likely to take around 2 months.
- Selling your house to a professional home buyer:
Selling your house to a professional home buyer can offer you a quick and guaranteed sale, but you will need to be willing to accept less than market value for the property. The real benefit of selling to a professional home buyer is that you can complete the sale on a date of your choice, often in as little as 7 days if necessary.
Find out more about:
- Why can’t I sell my house?
- How to find out how much a house sold for
- A guide to property indemnity insurance
- Freehold vs leasehold – what’s the difference?
- House completion – the process
- Buying a house with subsidence
- Can I sell my home and rent it back?
- Structural survey – all you need to know
- What is a memorandum of sale?
- What are title deeds?