Tips for Selling Your House During a Divorce

Getting a divorce comes with a long list of difficult decisions that must be made as well as new financial and emotional realities that must be faced. Often, one of the biggest of these new realities is that the family home must be sold. Selling your family’s house has the potential to provide the funds that you and your ex need to get started with your new lives as well as simplify the asset division process in your divorce. In some cases, one or both individuals may wish to keep the family home. In others, your house may be too big and too expensive for either party to afford or need on their own. Here are some key things to consider when preparing to sell your home during the divorce process:

Why Sell?

There are many different reasons to sell your home during a divorce, both emotionally and financially. The most obvious of these reasons being that you and your spouse are going to need the profits from the sale in order to get the ball rolling on your new, separated lives. Selling your family home can also help to disentangle you and your spouses shared finances, making the coming divorce process smoother and simpler. Many find it emotionally necessary to move out of the home that they made their lives together in. Additionally, the house may have an unneeded amount of space for either party individually and may longer be affordable after the split.

Preparing to Sell – Determining Value

If you hope to sell your home quickly during this process, one of the first things you’re going to need to do is establish your home’s market value. If you plan on using a real estate agent to sell your home, they will give estimates based off comparable sales in the area of what your home will be worth on the market. If you aren’t planning on going the agent route, you can contract a home appraiser who will appraise your property and give you an estimate as to what it would be worth. Factors that are going to affect the price of your home include the appeal of your home’s location, its size, the number of beds and baths, any improvements you’ve made, and general condition/wear-and-tear, etc.

House Preparation

In order to get the best appraisal and highest home value that you can, you are going to need to prepare your house to be sold. You are going to need to start by removing any excess clutter and tidying the whole place up so that it looks as presentable as possible. A fresh paint job can go a long way in the appearance of your interior. Considering painting the house a nice, neutral color if your current paint is getting a bit old and faded, or isn’t a color that is agreeable to the masses. If you have pets, you ideally are going to want them to stay with a relative or friend while your house is being shown. While there is no doubt that your cat or dog is likely adorable, you don’t want the place smelling like them while you have potential buyers in the house (or worse, dog poop in your yard). The exterior of your property is also worth putting a little bit of time into to make sure it’s in presentable shape.  You should do some simple things such as pressure wash your walkways and driveways, tidy up any landscaping, invest in some grass fertilizer, etc. If you can handle this house prep on your own, that’s great and you will save yourself some money. If not, it may be worth hiring a professional to save you the time and stress at this hectic point in your life.

The Sale

After you’ve established market value and prepared your home, you are ready to list it for sale. One of the first and most important things you need to do is discuss financials with your spouse. You need to decide what is the lowest offer you’re willing to accept and what your asking price will be. For these things, you likely are going to need to consult with your real estate agent as well as your respective attorneys. They are there to help counsel you and your spouse and avoid unnecessary conflict. Also, don’t forget that your agent will be earning a percentage of the sale as well which needs to be factored into your costs.

Dividing the Proceeds

 Washington is a community property state which means that everything obtained or owned during the course of a marriage is owned equally by each spouse, house included. As a shared asset, the profits from a home sale will be split between both individuals equitably. This doesn’t always mean a 50/50 split, however. If one spouse has been paying a substantially larger portion of the mortgage payments on the home, they may be entitled to more of the proceeds. Similarly, if one individual is set to keep other very valuable assets, the other may get more of the proceeds from the sale of your home. There are also tax implications of being either married or divorced when selling your home. The amount of profit that you get to shield from tax on capital gains is larger when you are married. If you are selling an expensive home, you want to be careful that you don’t lose an additional exemptible amount by being already divorced. These things can get quite involved and you are going to want to enlist a tax professional before the sale of your home or the finalization of your divorce to help you understand the best way to move forward and not leave any money on the table.

Our attorneys regularly speak on family law and parenting plan matters.  Elise has extensive experience in high-conflict parenting disputes.  If you have any questions about Washington state divorce law, mediation or child custody, please contact us at or 206-926-9848.


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