What can you do to keep the sales process together when the family is falling apart?
Deanna and Randy were embroiled in a nasty divorce, but the one thing they did agree on was that Annette was the right Realtor to sell the family home. Deanna had walked out months before, and Randy was still living in the house. Now the financial struggle had reached its peak, and Deanna demanded that they sell the house immediately so she could have her half of the money.
Annette was caught in the crossfire. Divorce and selling a home are two of life’s most stressful events. Going through both at the same time can be ten times worse. Annette needed to act quickly. Working with her manager, she developed a five-point strategy for keeping her sanity while completing a successful sale.
- Be neutral. Absolute neutrality works for Switzerland, and it will work for you. Never take sides and never try to force the warring factions to communicate with each other. For you this may mean a lot of separate and duplicate communication. However, it’s critically important that nobody has the impression that you are trying to force one person’s agenda on the other.
- Be attentive. Listen to understand. Your clients may vent all their frustrations on you, and they will both have plenty to vent. When someone needs to get something off their chest, just let it happen. If people can express themselves freely, then the frustration level goes down. In addition, listening actively lets you know exactly where they are coming from and lets them know that you understand. You don’t have to agree. You just have to “get it.”
- Be proactive. Having clear agreements about logistics is essential. Put together a checklist of boundaries and understandings that both you and the sellers agree to. This checklist would include days and times when the house is available to be shown, times when you are available by phone or text, how offers and counteroffers will be handled. Also discuss what procedure you need to follow if the two parties cannot agree.
- Be helpful. You may need to go the second mile, or even farther, in getting the house ready to show. Belongings need to be sorted, packed, and stored. Especially if both parties are still living in the house, this could get very touchy. There’s a lot of emotion involved in splitting possessions and selling or giving away sentimental items. You may need to do a lot of handholding through this process. In addition, you’ll need to provide some staging assistance, help clear the clutter, and provide some of the homey touches that neutralize any appearance of conflict or discord.
- Be flexible. In spite of your best efforts, there will be upsets and conflicts to deal with. Be sure you have open lines of communication with the attorneys for both sellers. The attorneys should provide guidance about matters such as deciding equity and how the closing should be handled. They may recommend a real estate appraiser, or ask you to provide one. And if the process reaches an impasse, you will need to communicate through the attorneys rather than communicating with the sellers.
Regardless of what caused the split, both parties have a strong emotional attachment to the home, and selling it is a source of real anguish. History and memories are being destroyed. Owning a home is the American dream, and that dream vanishes when divorce occurs. With a little planning and a lot of luck, you can help both parties move on to a new and different dream.