Split Decision: Buying Real Estate After Your Divorce

One can be the loneliest number. Unless, of course, it’s the number of offers it takes to land that perfect new post-divorce bachelor/bachelorette pad. Few things are positive about the divorce experience, but coming out the other side with a fresh perspective – and a new address – can be just what the doctor ordered.

However, if you’re a newly single person navigating the real estate market, a number of factors merit consideration before you make an offer, including whether downsizing or relocation will offer much-needed change amid your major life transition.

Of course, other factors may also be significant, depending on your unique circumstances. You’ll get a leg up by with real estate and/or legal professionals.

Here are a few factors well worth consideration for post-divorce home hunters.

Location

It’s a good plan to by determining where you want to live, as location provides the real estate agent with a basic starting point for finding suitable properties. If your divorce is particularly acrimonious, you may be inclined to secure housing as far away from your ex-spouse as geographically possible.

However, relocating is not always the best option, particularly if children are involved. More specifically, custody and visitation orders may limit how far ex-spouses may live from one another, and will most certainly contain certain directives in the event either parent the jurisdiction.

Another reason not to move too far away is that relocating suddenly post-divorce may sever the divorcee from a of friends and loved ones. “Fleeing” the scene of the failed marriage can lead to isolation, which can be especially problematic for anyone suffering from depression or anxiety amid this major life transition.

Size

Choosing an appropriately-sized new home is a difficult decision for some. On the one hand, downsizing from a large, single-family home to a smaller condominium or apartment can alleviate many of the housekeeping responsibilities that accompany owning a large house.

On the other hand, a drastic change can bring about an unexpected emotional response, particularly if the marital home was – at one time – the source of happy memories.

Your best bet in the immediate aftermath of a divorce: Consider a moderate rental property while weighing the options. Give yourself some time and, sooner or later, the perfect property will undoubtedly emerge.

Upkeep

Depending on which spouse was primarily responsible for indoor and outdoor upkeep, this could be a significant factor in deciding on a new post-divorce home.

For the spouse without a green thumb, it may be prudent to avoid properties with intricate, sprawling landscapes. Likewise, the spouse who didn’t contribute as much to the interior upkeep of a home may feel overwhelmed by the maintenance of a 3,000-square-foot space.

Other issues to consider when shopping for property as a single individual may include snow removal, general lawn maintenance, and the possible need for significant property repairs in the near future.

Financing

Last, but certainly not least, it is not uncommon for a divorce to leave a significant impression on one’s personal finance outlook. In other words, divorce can be a major blow to the wallet.

For some, downsizing or moving to a different neighborhood becomes a necessity in order to make ends meet. For others, however, a divorce may leave them feeling on secure financial footing for once – particularly for the party receiving monthly support payments.

Federal law from requiring a borrower to list child support or alimony payments as monthly income. However, borrowers often elect to include these payments as part of their regular income stream in order to boost eligibility for a loan.

While it may be tempting to list these payments as income, keep in mind that alimony likely doesn’t last forever; many spousal support orders are only for a limited duration. Furthermore, alimony almost always ceases upon remarriage. Child support payments may also conclude once the child reaches 18 years of age (or upon some other condition as agreed by the parties, such as graduation from college).

When it comes to securing a loan for a new mortgage, the best advice is to stay well within your budget, as you never know when things could change. And it’s always easier to “upsize” later than it is to downsize amid financial crisis or an impending default.

By taking careful, well-planned steps when navigating the real estate market post-divorce, you’re more likely to end up with a new home that suits you. And – difficult as it is – the process of hunting for and deciding on a new home offers the opportunity to embrace change and transition, as it is never too late to start over.

 

By Stephanie Reid

 

 

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