How to Sell a House During a Divorce

Published on August 17, 2023 | 13 Minute read



Ortiz Reyes

Content Specialist

Life often presents us with unexpected twists and turns, and one of the most complicated paths it can lead us down is selling a house while going through a divorce. The process involves not only the physical act of transferring property but also leaving behind a shared past. Selling a home is already a multi-layered affair with negotiations, inspections, and paperwork. Add the emotions of divorce into the mix, and it might feel like you're navigating a maze blindfolded.

Whether you're on good terms with your soon-to-be ex or doing your best to street clear from each other, selling real estate while gracefully handling the complexities of a divorce can be tricky. Here's what the process should look like:


Open Communication

Before diving into the logistics, it's crucial to have open and respectful communication with your ex-spouse. Set aside your differences and agree on the main goals of the sale. Be clear about your intentions and expectations, and try to find common ground. Remember, a successful sale can benefit both parties financially, so cooperation is important.

In a situation where communication is challenging, you'll need to adapt your strategy and find alternative routes to achieve your goal. If your ex-spouse is unresponsive, respect their need for space and time and keep your attempts at communication respectful and concise, as pushing too hard could worsen the situation. Here are some tips you're unable to communicate properly:

  • Put it in Writing - While verbal communication might be challenging, putting important information in writing can still be effective. Send emails or letters detailing your intentions, decisions, and any updates related to the house sale.
  • Document - Keep records of all your communication attempts, including dates, times, and methods. If legal matters arise later, having a thorough record of your attempts to communicate can be beneficial.
  • Mediation - Consider using a neutral third party as a mediator. This mediator can help you and your ex-spouse work through the necessary decisions without the charged emotions that direct communication might bring. This could be a friend, family member, or a professional mediator experienced in divorce cases.
  • Seek Legal Advice - If your ex-spouse's refusal to communicate is hindering the sale or causing legal complications, consult your attorney for guidance. They can advise you on the best course of action.

Selling a home while divorcing is a marathon, not a sprint. Even if communication is strained or non-existent, focus on the end goal – successfully selling the property and moving on. 


Hire a Real Estate Agent

One of the primary benefits of enlisting a real estate agent's services is their in-depth knowledge of the local real estate market. This expertise allows them to accurately assess the property's value, taking into account factors such as recent sales, current market trends, and property condition. For divorcing couples, determining the house's fair market value is crucial, as it directly impacts the equitable division of assets.

Selecting the right real estate agent can make a world of difference. Look for a skilled and trustworthy agent with a good track record with home sales, especially in divorce situations. An experienced agent can guide you through the process, offer valuable advice, and help keep emotions in check. 

Agreeing on a real estate agent can be tough, but it's vital to find someone who will meet the needs of both parties. Here are some tips for selecting an agent both you and your ex-spouse can agree on:

  • Set Goals - Identify your shared objectives for the sale of the house. These might include getting the best possible price, selling quickly, or minimizing stress. Having a clear understanding of your goals can guide your agent selection process.
  • Create Lists - Both parties should independently make a list of qualities they desire in a real estate agent. This could include factors like experience, communication style, market knowledge, and expertise in divorce sales. Share your lists of preferred agent qualities and discuss any similarities or differences.
  • Interview Agents - Don't settle for the first real estate agent you come across. Meet with at least three agents to get a sense of their expertise, approach, and how well they understand the intricacies of selling a house during a dissolution of marriage. Try to attend these interviews together so you can both assess the agents' qualifications, approaches, and how comfortable you feel with them.
  • Be Ready to Compromise - Be prepared to compromise. It's unlikely that you'll find an agent who perfectly matches all of your preferences, so prioritize the qualities that matter most and be willing to compromise on less critical factors.
  • Consult a Mediator or Attorneys - If all else fails and you cannot agree on an agent, consider involving a mediator. A mediator can help both parties find common ground and reach a decision that benefits everyone involved. Another option is to consult your respective divorce attorneys for guidance.

Keep your emotions in check when deciding who to hire. Even if communication with your ex-spouse is tricky, now you know there are avenues to explore, whether it's through written communication, third-party involvement, or even legal routes if necessary. 


Set a Price

One of the initial challenges is determining the listing price of the house. With the help of your real estate agent, take the time to gather data on comparable properties in your neighborhood that have sold recently. This will give you a solid foundation for understanding the local market and making informed decisions. Ideally, you'll embrace this research as a team effort – something you and your ex-spouse can collaborate on.

If pricing your home becomes an additional stressor because you and your ex-spouse can't seem to agree, consider doing the following:

  • Hire an Appraiser - Consider hiring a professional appraiser to provide an unbiased valuation of the property. Both parties can attend the appraisal appointment or review the appraisal report together.
  • Use a Range - Instead of insisting on a specific price, consider presenting a range that you both find acceptable. This gives you some flexibility and opens the door for compromise.
  • Select a Strategy - Pricing strategies ensure that the property is priced fairly based on market conditions and objective assessments. This prevents either party from feeling disadvantaged by an arbitrary price decision.
    Here are some creative solutions to explore:
  1. Timeframe - List the property at a higher price initially and agree on a predetermined reduction schedule if the property doesn't receive offers within a specific timeframe. 
  2. Future Equity Sharing - If one party is more invested in selling quickly, consider pricing the property lower but with an agreement to share future equity with the other party once the property appreciates in value.​​​​
  3. Rental - If neither of you is in a rush to sell, consider renting out the property for a specified period while continuing to share ownership. This approach allows time for market conditions to potentially change before selling.

The sale of the property is not just about numbers but also about finding a solution that respects both your financial interests. Explore options, from researching comparable sales and consulting professionals to innovative pricing strategies that can bridge the gap between your viewpoints. It's not about who wins, but about finding a middle ground that respects your past and acknowledges your future.


Prepare the House

Getting the house ready for potential buyers is a joint effort. Declutter, depersonalize and make necessary repairs. Aim for a neutral and inviting atmosphere that allows potential buyers to visualize themselves living there. Collaborate with your ex-spouse on decisions related to staging, cleaning, and any necessary improvements.

  • Assign Responsibilities -Allocate tasks to each person based on your strengths and availability. Dividing the responsibilities allows for an equitable distribution of the workload.
  • Respect Personal Space - While working together, respect each other's need for personal space. Designate areas where each person can work independently to avoid conflicts.
  • Consider Professional Help - Hire professionals, such as cleaners, painters, or contractors, to assist with tasks that require expertise. Both parties should agree on hiring decisions.


Deciding what items to keep or get rid of can stir emotions, especially if those items carry sentimental value. The challenge of maintaining civility and cooperation while addressing practical matters can feel like a balancing act. Despite the awkwardness, it's important to remember that both parties want to achieve a successful sale. Finding ways to communicate openly and professionally, even amid discomfort, can help mitigate awkwardness and make the preparation process as smooth as possible.


Plan Showings and Open Houses

Coordinate with your real estate agent to schedule showings and open houses that work for both of your schedules. Communication is vital here, as both parties must be aware of when potential buyers will visit the property. Keep the house clean and presentable at all times to facilitate smooth showings.

Consider doing the following to make the process easier:

  • Set Boundaries - Agree on rules or guidelines for showings and open houses. Determine how much notice is required before a showing, and how frequently they will occur. 
  • Create a Schedule - Work together to create a schedule that accommodates your and your spouse's availability. Consider using an online calendar tool to share potential showing times and allow each party to block off times that are inconvenient.
  • Be Flexible - Be prepared for unexpected changes and requests. Flexibility is essential, as potential buyers may have limited availability or need to reschedule at the last minute.
  • Try Different Methods - Besides traditional open houses, consider virtual tours, video walkthroughs, or even allowing specific showings to accommodate both parties' comfort levels.

Communication remains key throughout this process. Tell each other about showing requests, timings, and possible changes. Effective communication prevents misunderstandings.


Handle Offers and Negotiations Together

To effectively handle offers and negotiations during this delicate time, establish clear communication lines with your ex-spouse. Openly discuss your priorities and motivations for selling the property. This shared understanding can lay the foundation for more constructive negotiations.

When offers begin to come in, approach them with an open mind. Remember that your goal is to arrive at a mutually beneficial agreement. Take the time to review each offer thoroughly, considering not only the monetary aspect but also any potential contingencies or conditions. While emotions may still be running high, strive to keep negotiations focused on the property and its financial implications rather than letting personal issues take the forefront.

  • Be Patient - Negotiations might take time. Patience is needed to maintain a friendly tone. Take breaks if tensions rise, and return to the discussion once you've calmed down.
  • Updates - Schedule regular check-ins to discuss offers and updates. This maintains a transparent and cooperative atmosphere and prevents surprises.
  • Joint Decision - Aim for consensus on significant decisions, such as accepting or countering offers. This demonstrates respect for each other's opinions.

Remember, each offer and counteroffer is a step toward closure. By focusing on the present and future, while acknowledging the past, you can approach negotiations with a balanced perspective that allows you to make clear decisions.


Legal Considerations

Divorce and property sales often come with legal implications. Consult your respective attorneys to make sure that the sale aligns with any court orders or agreements related to the divorce. It's essential to avoid any complications down the line.  

Their expertise can help you navigate potential pitfalls, ensuring that your interests are protected, and your decisions are legally sound. With their guidance, you can approach negotiations and agreements with a confident understanding of your rights and responsibilities. 

  • Review Agreements - If you and your ex-spouse have a prenuptial agreement or a postnuptial agreement, review these documents to understand how they address property division and the sale of the house.
  • Court Orders - If there are court orders related to the property, such as temporary orders for possession or use, adhere to these orders to avoid legal complications.
  • Maintain Records - Keep thorough records of all communications, agreements, and legal documents related to the property sale. These records can be valuable in case of any future disputes.

Throughout the entire process, remember to take care of your emotional well-being. Divorce can be challenging, and the legalities of selling a house add another layer of complexity. Lean on friends and family, or even seek professional support to help you navigate what can be an extremely emotional process.


Sale and Distribution of Proceeds

Once you've accepted an offer, the proceeds must be divided between you and your ex-spouse per your divorce agreement. Work with your attorneys to ensure that the distribution is carried out in compliance with legal obligations.

Coordinate with your real estate agent, attorneys, and any other parties involved to address any outstanding issues and be prepared to sign the necessary paperwork.

  • Taxes and Liabilities - Consult a tax professional to understand any tax implications of the sale and how they might affect your distribution. Additionally, clear any outstanding debts or liens on the property before distributing the proceeds.
  • Change Title and Ownership - Once the sale is complete, ensure that the title and ownership are transferred as agreed.
  • Update Estate Planning Documents - If you had estate planning documents, such as wills or trusts, that referenced the property, update these documents to reflect the change in ownership.
  • Financial Strategy - With the proceeds from the property sale in hand, reassess your financial strategy. Consider your short-term and long-term goals, and work with a financial advisor to create a plan that aligns with your new circumstances.

Selling a house during a divorce requires teamwork, communication, and a clear focus on the end goal. By approaching the process with open-mindedness and a willingness to collaborate, you can achieve a successful sale that benefits both parties and sets the stage for a new chapter in your life. Remember, this isn't just about selling property; it's about moving forward. So, whether you're looking for a fresh start, a clean break, or a mixture of both, take time to reflect on your personal and financial goals and embrace the opportunity for a fresh start.


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