Divorce and Property

With one in three marriages ending in divorce, it’s a sad fact that a significant number of property sales and purchasers in the current slow market are as a result of a failed relationship.

George Barkes of Stacks Property Search says, “Selling a house in which a marriage has foundered is a sad process; and the misery often extends to the buying of a new home. Half the money buys less than half the house, and it’s no great surprise that separated purchasers struggle with coming to terms with the kind of house they find themselves in the market for.

“The difficulties can start with the sale of the family home with perhaps one party more reluctant than the other to sell; and both parties wanting to sell for a good price as they consider the finances of their next purchase. Incidentally, buying a property from a divorcing couple can be one of the most challenging processes, with an agreed purchase more likely to fall apart than in any other scenario.

“Our advice to buyers is generally to think long term; but when I’m advising newly separated clients my advice is frequently to do the exact opposite – think short term. Flexibility is the key, keep your options open, give yourself a chance to start thinking clearly before you rush into something.

“The current property market, where prices are either flat or on a downward trend actually plays into the hands of those going through a divorce. I would strongly suggest that newly single purchasers consider renting in the short term, and to be able to do this without the pressure of having to get back into a runaway market is at least one piece of good news.

“As a newly single buyer you will have more questions than answers. What is your new financial situation, and how will this affect your mortgage situation? Do you want to stay in the same area or is this a good opportunity to move to a completely new location? How is the three-way relationship between your ex and your children going to develop; will there be new relationships to take into consideration? Buying a new property when you have little idea about what the next year is going to look like, let alone the next decade, is almost impossible.

“Consider at least a six month rental close to your old family home while you lick your wounds and take stock. Divorce is emotionally and financially draining. If you have children, some continuity in terms of schools and friends will give them emotional stability at a challenging time. If you are going to make big changes in your life, you will be in a stronger position to deal with them if you have given yourself a little recuperation time before you embark on more upheaval.

“If renting really isn’t an option, concentrate on resale issues when buying – try to buy something that will sell easily and won’t lose money in the short term. For instance, don’t buy new as you will be paying a dividend difficult to recoup in the short term, and don’t buy anything blighted in any way that may prove difficult to sell.”

George Barkes also has the following advice for newly separated purchasers:

“Try and make the logistics of your life easier rather than more difficult – so look carefully at commuting runs/school runs. You will have less support, so your life needs to run as smoothly as possible.

“If you’ve been living in a remote area, consider the benefits of living in a community. You will find you need more help, and neighbours are generally happy to help with the logistics of running a house single-handedly, for instance, accepting deliveries and letting the dog out. You will also find it easier to find help with the children such as babysitting and school runs.

“When you come to buy, concentrate on getting plenty of space for your money – this may be at the expense of aesthetics, but it will be thing you miss most when downsizing.

“It’s worth considering the possibility of buying a larger house than you need, or looking at the finances of hanging onto the family home, and gaining from it financially, for example, renting out a room or offering bed and breakfast.

“Finally, consider one of the small benefits – this is a great opportunity to get rid of unwanted possessions. Rent a skip and take some small solace from hurling junk into it, and make sure your ex takes all the hand-me-downs from his/her family that you’ve always hated but had to endure. Start your new life surrounded by things you love.”

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