Divorce and REALTOR Selection
You start with one premise in respect to the real estate aspect of a family division: emotion must be in check as it is all about the money. The more people fight over the real estate, the more their legal and other professional bills increase, and their walkaway money decreases.
The money spent on fighting is your money. It belongs in your pocket. For a couple divorcing, each party must decide to get the maximum possible from their real estate.
As I have written in my book on divorce, your ultimate goal should be to get divorced quickly and then to live well.
Here is a simple thought: will the property eventually be sold? If the answer is yes, then the longer that you are involved in the process and holding on, the longer you have ties to your partner and the longer that you have emotional issues.
You have to start by agreeing on who you choose as your real estate professional, as not all Realtors are equal. A professional Realtor who is knowledgeable about divorce understands the law, the emotions and the needs of the parties. It is most important that this Realtor must at all times be neutral and never take sides.
Your lawyers may want each side to have independent appraisals. That is always good advice. The two appraisers should be within a reasonable tolerance and the old standard was within 5% of each other. If there is a wider disparity, a third appraiser acting for both parties may have to be retained. Divorce appraisals range from $500 to $1,000 depending on the house and the appraiser. Custom and more exclusive properties will have higher fees.
When selecting an appraiser find out if that appraiser has experience in defending their work in court. Many appraisers will refuse to attend a trial as an expert.
Besides the two appraisals the Realtor you select should undertake their own market analysis.
A professional Realtor must be an excellent communicator and know how to serve both parties; no secret conversations ever. Every action by the Realtor must be transparent and communication is a must. A professional offers help, advice, service but a true professional does not get involved in the emotional aspects of a divorce situation.
A professional Realtor understands the working of the divorce process in the courts, the need to meet deadlines and that if there are children how to make the situation as favourable for them as possible.
For those who have friends or relatives who are Realtors you may feel obligated to use them but making your choice based on a sense of loyalty can prove to be a mistake. In a divorce, all will be laid bare and do you want your friend or relative to know the details of your financial affairs or personal information? As well, your friend, the Realtor can be biased and take a side, which is very wrong.
In the end, a professional who is unbiased, has the expertise and is well versed in the divorce process is your best bet.
Barry Lebow has been working with divorces and real estate for decades. A good percentage of leading Toronto divorce lawyers know of the professional reputation of Barry and his years as their appraiser of choice. Barry has acted as a Realtor for couples who have selected him and by court order when judges have ruled on Barry being the Realtor of choice.
Being a trained mediator and arbitrator has been of a great benefit to Barry’s clients as he brings the skills necessary for a very intense phase of life. And on a personal level, as a divorced person, he understands the emotional and financial aspects of what people are going through.
You are suggested to download with zero obligation Barry’s book on divorce on this page, “A Guide to Selling a Matrimonial Home.”
There is no obligation, no one will contact you unless you ask
How Do I Find a Qualified Lawyer?
- Do not just check online. Too many disgruntled exes will obviously want to bad mouth the lawyer on the opposing side of their divorce.
- Best bet is to ask friends who have been through a divorce. Some may have found the lawyer who was best for them and some may have found their worst choice. Here is a question to ask, “did you respect the lawyer for your ex more than your own?”
- Ask other professionals, a real estate lawyer, accountant, clergy, your Realtor, who they know as a good matrimonial lawyer.
- Ensure that you and the lawyer are good together. Do you feel that you are being talked down to or that they do not have time for your questions? If so, move on and find the lawyer who is best suited to your needs.
- The Law Society publishes lists of specialities. Matrimonial lawyers can be referred.
- Always look for a lawyer who works in the matrimonial field.
- Look into “Collaborative Practice” as an alternative.
What is Collaborative Practice?
- It starts with the parties signing an agreement to show mutual respect and to be forthcoming to work together to resolve the separation.
- The parties agree not to go to the expense of a court trial
- Each party is open and honest about their financial matters, nothing gets hidden.
- It differs from other actions because the parties are cooperative and the lawyers work and negotiate in good faith, not from adversarial positions.
- One of the benefits of this avenue, besides saving on the legal fees of going to court, is the settlement is private.
- It is a much faster process, and in a divorce or separation, time saved is money saved.
- For more information on this process and to find lawyers who practice collaborative divorce, this site will assist you: https://www.collaborativepracticetoronto.com/
We Own Property, What Is the Process of Division?
- Although the parties may agree to a market price it would be advisable to obtain the services of a professional appraiser to ensure that neither side is penalized.
- Not all appraisers are equal. The appraiser must do a thorough job and if needed, support their opinion in court. Few residential appraisers have courtroom experience and many refuse to undertake a divorce action for this reason.
- Lebow, Hicks Appraisal Services Inc. (www.lebow.ca) has been one of the leading appraisal firms in Ontario since the early 1970s that specialize in partnership division from corporate to matrimonial, from large commercial holdings to a single family home.
- In most cases both partners obtain independent appraisers who should yield pricing within a reasonable tolerance of each other.
- For years it was the standard that two appraisers should not be more than 5% in variance but given the high prices of today and the uniqueness of many properties, a greater tolerance is reasonable. If there is more than say a 10% variable a third appraiser may have to be retained by both parties. The third appraiser can either review the other appraisals or undertake their own independent study.
- Once the parties have decided on a market price, one of the partners either has to buy the other out or if funds are not available or a mortgage is not obtainable, then the property has to be sold on the open market via MLS.
- As stated about appraisers not all Realtors have the expertise to work with a divorce situation
- It takes special skills to be impartial, to remain a neutral professional and to assist both parties to obtain the highest price.
- The Realtor may suggest decluttering, minor repairs, staging to achieve both a sale and the highest price. The parties will have to decide to cooperate to get the property sold.
- Barry Lebow has been assisting couples in divorces for decades and is one of the few Realtors in Canada who has earned three recognized appraisal designations.
- TIP: If the parties are selling to each other, i.e., one is buying the other out, a reduction of about 5% is reasonable as there is no commission payable.
- TIP: If one of the parties is over 55 check into a reverse mortgage which is not the solution for all but can be in special circumstances.
Note: The answers herein are not to be considered independent legal advice or any other advice outside of the expertise of real estate transactions solely. Any party who wants to consider an answer herein should seek independent legal or other professional advice before proceeding.