Should You Keep The House?

Is it worth the time and energy to fight over the house? Is keeping the house still a good idea in today’s economy?

Should You Keep The House Transcript

Should you keep the house? That’s a really big question right now with the chaos we’re experiencing in the housing market.

Hi, I’m Lee Rosen of the Rosen Law Firm. Thanks for watching. The quick and dirty answer is to sell the house and split the proceeds. That way both spouses share the risk of the sale price being less than expected, and neither spouse gets stuck with any lingering and unexpected consequences of home ownership.

Keeping the house can make for a messy divorce. Home ownership is not always as black and white as it seems. There can be hidden liabilities found in a house that come back to bite the spouse that keeps the house. That’s why it’s easier to just sell it and move on, but things can get complicated. Emotions get involved. Sentimental attachments arise. Parents feel compelled to provide their children with some stability.

So what do you do? Well, if one spouse is going to keep the house, then it’s important to be sure you not only divorce one another, but that you are also completely divorced from the house as well. Disconnect. That’s the ticket.

Lots of spouses will leave the house in joint names or leave the mortgage in joint names. That can leave joint liability. That’s where things get tricky. There’s a tendency to assume that the other spouse will always pay the mortgage first and will never let it fall behind. Those ideas, those assumptions have been turned upside down in the financial crisis our country is experiencing. Financial issues are tough to navigate as we face issues we have never faced before.

If one spouse is going to buy the other spouse out, then it’s important to treat this transaction just like you would if you were buying or selling with a stranger. Check the facts. Be sure you know everything about the house. Don’t assume anything.

Here’s what you ought to do. Have a title search done. Check for hidden liens and debts. Have the home inspected and make sure there aren’t any repairs that need making that have yet to be discovered. Be sure that you factor into the value the value of the appliances, the roof, the heating, and the air conditioning systems, and see how much life they have left.

Do a termite inspection. Do everything you would do if you were buying this house from someone other than your spouse. Do your checking before you sign anything. Once the documents are signed, it’s too late to go back and fix things. Get your ducks in a row now before you sign any documents.

One last thing, do a title search again right before you sign the documents. Divorce negotiations usually take longer than people expect. It’s not uncommon for money to be borrowed and a lien to be placed against the house while the negotiations are going on. A second title search will ensure that nothing unexpected affects the value of your home.

Don’t accept a quit claim deed and assume you won’t have trouble down the road. The only way to really protect yourself is to have your spouse refinance the mortgage in his or her own name. You want to be totally off the hook.

If you really want to disconnect from one another, then disconnect from the house. The surest way to do that is to sell it, but if you’re not going to sell it, then be careful. Take the steps I’ve mentioned and do everything possible to protect yourself from your former spouse and your house.

For more information, visit our site at Thanks for watching. I’m Lee Rosen for the Rosen Law Firm.

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