What to Do With Your House After Divorce

For divorcing couples, what to do with the house is an important consideration. This article reviews your options.

Divorce is an unpleasant topic. But, unfortunately, divorce happens. It’s important to think through the financial and practical challenges arising from a divorce, especially if children and other family members are affected.

One of the key considerations for divorcing couples is what to do with the house that they own and share. After all, it’s most likely the most valuable asset you own. If you’re divorcing, these considerations might result in quickly and simply selling the house, or in one spouse keeping the house and remaining there. Here are the pros and cons of five options for what to do with your house after a divorce.

Option 1. Keep the house

Pros: Letting one spouse keep the house simplifies post-divorce living arrangements — one spouse has a place to live and the other can search for a new place. This can be really beneficial if you have kids and want to make sure their lives are disrupted as little as possible. In addition, this enables one spouse to continue building equity in the home by refinancing the mortgage in their own name. With only one spouse owning the house once a divorce is finalized, there’s a clean slate financially and emotionally for both of you.

Cons: Figuring out which spouse gets to keep the house can trigger an argument in what’s likely to be an already tense situation. Also, it’ll certainly be more burdensome for one spouse to cover the mortgage on their own. On top of that, hanging onto the house doesn’t provide money you’d gain from a sale. Finally, the ex-spouse who doesn’t keep the house will have to go through the process of finding and paying for a new place to live.

See also:

How to Maximize the Lifespan of Your House

Should I Buy or Rent?

2. Rent out the house

Pros: Turning your house into a rental property creates a stream of revenue for one ex-spouse, or potentially both ex-spouses if each of you retains ownership. This rental revenue might help at least one ex-spouse cover post-divorce household expenses. It also means no one in the family has to continue living in a house with emotional baggage.

Cons: On the other hand, owning and operating a rental property is a full-time job of its own, and it might leave you with not one but two monthly mortgage payments. Being a landlord can be lucrative, but dealing with tenants is a burden. If both of you wind up owning the house after the divorce, there’s the matter of deciding which party wears the landlord hat, or whether you divide those duties. Keep in mind that experts recommend against joint ownership of a home following a divorce. Joint ownership prevents you from cutting financial and emotional ties.

Also consider: What to Do if You’re Tired of Being a Landlord

3. Sell the house through a real estate agent

Pros: A good real estate agent knows your neighborhood and knows how to market and sell your home. Hiring a real estate agent takes most of the homework and guesswork out of selling your home at a time when you’ve already got so many other things on your mind.

Cons: There are many. One of the biggest drawbacks of listing your house with a real estate agent is that they’ll take a commission when it’s sold. Typically, a seller pays a total of 5% to 6% in commission to their own agent and the buyer’s agent. Selling with a Realtor also takes time. You may need to renovate or remodel to get the house market ready, and you or your ex will be paying holding costs in the meantime. Then there are the hidden costs of cleanings, staging, and closing costs when you finally sell. Finally, what if the value of the home is below the amount you owe? In that case, selling the home could be a money loser for both ex-spouses. One of the goals in a divorce is to ease financial pains, not increase them.

Read more:

What to Know Before Signing With a Real Estate Agent

How to Calculate Net Proceeds From a Home Sale

4. Do a for sale by owner (FSBO) deal

Pros: Taking on the task of selling your home — advertising, open houses, dealing with buyers — can save you a lot of money. How? You’ll be able to keep all the proceeds from the sale, rather than splitting them with a real estate agent. An FSBO deal also may put more control in your hands, which is no small benefit at a contentious and stressful time.

Cons: Handling all of the particulars involved with marketing and selling your home can be overwhelming. That’s a big issue when you’re going through an emotionally draining divorce. FSBO sales also typically take much longer than traditional sales, which could drag out the process. Plus, you can’t lean on the knowledge of a real estate agent.

Related: How Much Does It Cost to Sell a House?

5. Sell to an off-market buyer

Pros: Selling your house to an off-market buyer cuts out the middleman and speeds up the process, particularly since you’re dealing one-on-one with a cash buyer. It allows you to keep more of the net proceeds, since you won’t be paying commissions to a real estate agent. Selling your home on Sundae’s marketplace means you can pick an offer from a variety of investors who bid on your property. You can also close in as little as 10 days, pay no closing costs, and may be eligible to receive a cash advance to help you with moving or other expenses. Such an expedited process means no repairs or updates to the house are necessary, saving you time, money, and stress.

Cons: One of the downsides of selling to an off-market buyer is that, depending on the buyer, you may be handling many of the details that a real estate agent typically would. Though you will keep more money from the sale in your pocket, most off-market purchases go for a lower price than a traditional real estate market transaction. You’ll need to do a net proceeds calculation to figure out if it makes sense for you and your ex-spouse.

Further reading:

How to Sell a House As Is

What Does It Mean to Sell Your House Off Market?

Pros and Cons of Options After Divorce

Option Pros Cons
Keep the House
  • Simplifies post-divorce living arrangements
  • Low disruption to children’s lives
  • One spouse continues building equity in the home
  • Clean financial slate
  • Can trigger conflict over who keeps the house
  • Higher costs for at least one ex-spouse (mortgage)
  • No revenue/proceeds from a sale
  • One ex-spouse must find a new place to live
Rent the House
  • Creates revenue stream for one or both spouses
  • No one needs to live in house with emotional baggage
  • Being a landlord is a full-time job
  • More than one mortgage payment
  • Joint home ownership prevents clean break
Sell on the MLS
  • Fetches maximum sale price for the house
  • Takes a burden off your hands at a stressful time
  • High costs (agent commissions, fees, holding costs)
  • Need for repairs and renovations
  • Potential long waiting times to sell
  • Need to show the home, open houses, etc.
For Sale By Owner
  • Potentially saves a lot of money
  • Gives full control to the seller
  • Complicated process with a lot of work
  • FSBO houses sometimes carry stigma
  • No expertise to lean on (outside your own)
Sell Off Market
  • Speedy process
  • Seller keeps all proceeds (no fees, transaction costs, etc.)
  • No repairs, cleanings, showings
  • Potential availability of cash advance
  • Potential lower sale price
  • Burden of negotiation on you

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John Egan

John Egan is a freelance writer in Austin, Texas. He has written for a variety of outlets, including HomeLight, Bankrate, CreditCards.com, Credit Karma, Experian, LendingTree and Urban Land magazine.