The Break Up and the Bargain Hunter

Posted by Carolyn A. Capalbo on Wednesday, March 9th, 2011 at 1:29pm.

If you're a home buyer on the hunt for a great deal on real estate, you probably know that sellers facing troubles like foreclosure or loss of income will oftentimes accept a lower offer in exchange for a quick sale. Divorcing couples are another group of sellers that may present a similar opportunity for a deal.

Those going through a divorce are often eager to sell their home and move on as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, the financial gains you may get as a buyer may be trumped by the stress, risk, and aggravation that go along with buying from a couple that are breaking up.

A couple going through a divorce may have a volatile relationship, which can make negotiations tense. This is especially true if the spouses do not agree in terms of what price they're willing to sell the house for. One person may want out as soon as possible, while the other may want to hold out for a better offer. There have even been stories of one person sabotaging the property to get back at their ex.

What this means for buyers is that they may get caught in the middle of the couple's tug of war, and have their offer rejected by one or both people. There's also the issue of getting both people to come together and sign documents. If a couple's breakup is particularly acrimonious, their hostilities could drag the process out over several months.

Divorce is naturally an extremely stressful time in a person's life and with emotions running high, rational behavior sometimes goes out the window. If a couple can rise above the pettiness and work together to move forward in a positive way, then they're likely to get a fair price for their home. If however, they let their bitterness and hurt feelings affect their decisions, they will not only walk away with serious emotional wounds, but they could also face financial ruin.

If, in your home search, you discover that a separating couple owns the house you want, you need to find out if the breakup is cordial or volatile, and then consider the following questions:

  • Are both parties likely to accept your offer? You stand a much better chance if you offer a price that's close to market value — no low-balling.
  • If they accept your offer, will the transaction be completed in a timely way? If you're selling your own house at the same time, serious delays could cause you problems.
  • Do you trust the homeowners to work together and not sabotage the deal (or the home itself)?
  • Is the house worth the potential headaches? If you love the house and can get it for a good price, then you'll probably find that it's worth it in the end. Just make sure that you have a trusted real estate agent on-hand to represent your best interests, and advise you on the situation.

—from the Carolyn Capalbo Writing Team

Carolyn Capalbo, Best Northern VA REALTORCarolyn Capalbo,
Northern Virginia REALTOR®


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