According to government statistics, 1,200,000 couples get divorced each year and a whopping 61 percent of all divorcees end up having to list their home for sale. This is an emotional and difficult time to need to sell a home. Keep calm, stay professional and negotiate with both spouses so you can help them to get the home sold and each of them can go their separate ways and start anew.
Get Everything in Writing
Communicate to both parties via e-mail as much as possible, so there’s always a written record. For phone and in-person meetings, you will want to write down everything exactly as you are hearing it. This is a highly emotional situation, and you may be called to prove what you said or did not say.
Keep Calm and Be Patient
Realtors® are used to assessing the “best plan of action” to work with the couple. This includes things such as getting the documents signed, preparing the home to be shown, getting the lockbox and sign in the yard. But in a divorce situation, getting approval on almost anything requires that you exercise extreme patience with two often-disagreeable people.
You Must Listen to Both Sides
Allow clients to talk for as long as they need to talk. Then, repeat what they said and add, “This is what I heard. Is that correct?” Quite often, when they hear their own words, the entire situation calms down, and you can then proceed.
Have a Plan for Sabotage
Many times, one spouse does not want to sell the house, but there may be a court order to do so. Anger may cause hard feelings to come out and ruin parts of the house – or they sabotage an open house by not keeping the house clean. Keep them focused on a new beginning.
Follow Up, Again and Again
You need to let the couple know about what’s happening so they know the selling process and they can remain calm. For highly charged divorce situations, multiply this feeling by 10 or 11.
Don’t Become Emotionally Involved in their Divorce
You getting drawn into their relationship problems is a huge mistake. Make sure you focus solely on getting all the parties to the closing table and on to their new lives. If you feel like you can’t resist getting personally involved, consider referring the work to another sales associate.
The Texas Association of REALTORS® has published two articles on how to tackle clients who are divorcing (Texas REALTORS® Magazine November 2012 and October 2017). The Texas Association of REALTORS® also has a wonderful Legal Hotline you can call with questions (800.873.9155). If you want to take your knowledge to the next level, there is even a designation/certification offered through Real Estate Divorce Specialists™ – more information about this course can be found at http://www.realestatedivorcespecialist.com.
No matter your involvement in the situation, make sure you are always following Article 11 of the NAR Code of Ethics – “REALTORS® shall not undertake to provide specialized professional services concerning a type of property or service that is outside their field of competence unless they engage the assistance of one who is competent on such types of property or service, or unless the facts are fully disclosed to the client”.