If you wish to get caught up, click here to read "Episode 1" of the 'Selling My House' series. To briefly summarize, my wife and I had resided in Flemington Borough for about the last ten years. With two children (and a large Rough Collie) the house started to feel increasingly cramped. So we rented a home in Raritan Township and then placed our home in Flemington on the market. In my prior blog post on my attempt to sell our house, I discussed how it was teaching me additional empathy for my clients. Although I have assisted many clients in divorces who have sold or must list their homes, I didn't personally realize all that went into the process as I have never sold a home before. When we left off, we had just listed our home for sale. I will now discuss what has happened since my last blog post on this subject.
Showings and Offers
Here's the thing: they came! They really did! We honestly didn't know what to expect when we listed our home. But with the assistance of our talented realtor, Carol Ann Sudeath, we quickly had many Zillow "saves" and even a bunch of viewings. We probably listed our home for less than it was worth or could go for, but we wanted to move quickly as we were not planning to stay there any longer. Every month that goes by is additional taxes, upkeep, interest, and insurance costs for us to absorb.
We eventually got four solid offers and were in the positive position of being able to choose which offer we would accept. We actually went with a lower offer as we liked the terms of it better. There was not a great deal of negotiation because I have to negotiate in my job all day and in my personal life negotiations feel like "asking your mail carrier to take a walk."
My wife and I are lucky to be in a long-term and intact relationship. We really respect each other's opinions and have solid communications skills. There were moments where we had to understand the other's position as to which way to go. For instance, we needed to agree on a listing price and a minimum acceptable offer. We also needed to agree, when we were pleasantly surprised with multiple offers, on which offer to accept. This was so much easier to do as we are often on the same page and we are in an intact relationship.
For those going through a divorce, however, each of these decisions might be a hiccup (or worse) in the deal. You would have to agree on which realtor to choose (not always easy to do in a divorce situation). You would also need to agree as to when to list, how to list, how to stage, which repairs to make before listing, and so on. When deals came in, you would have to agree as to which deal to take. The parties might have conflicting desires in such a setting. For instance, if one spouse wishes to remain in the home for as long as possible (perhaps because the other spouse is paying the bulk of the bills as part of the pendente lite process), then that spouse may refuse to comply or agree to deals in a timely fashion. They might seek the larger offer that has a bigger chance of falling through because they like the status quo (whereas, conversely their spouse would not). If a spouse wishes to buy the other out they may attempt to dissipate the marital pot by refusing repairs on the property, refusing showings, insisting on an unreasonable price, or otherwise allowing the house to fall into disrepair.
Again, I was quickly led to feelings of empathy for anyone who has to go through these types of negotiations, particularly as part of a divorce. The sale of a house is, (along with the purchase of a house) one of the largest and most important financial decisions the average person will make in their lifetime. There is a lot of pressure to get it right, and that pressure could only be exacerbated in a difficult situation such as adding the pressure of a divorce into the mix.
Attorney Review and Inspections
After we accepted the deal and all parties signed off on the realtor contract, under New Jersey law each side has three business days to get through "Attorney Review," which helps to clarify the precise terms of the real estate deal. Here there was back and forth about what types of easements and permits were associated with our property, what exactly our shared driveway means legally, and so on. Even though I am a lawyer I believe in using people who are expert at what they do so I hired my former partner's law firm to handle the real estate deal. They have a great deal of experience in their real estate department and I trust them, which is very important in choosing a lawyer. The process of attorney review went smoothly and as of this writing, the inspections have recently been completed.
So, that is where things stand as of today. Hopefully everything will continue to go smoothly. However, I have seen many instances where things would likely not have been so smooth if my wife and I were not on the same page. I will continue to learn increased empathy from the sale of our house, and a better understanding of the nuts and bolts of listing and successfully selling a home in New Jersey. Hopefully our next installment in this series will be the last! Knock on wood! Until then, I am New Jersey Divorce Lawyer Carl Taylor saying thanks for following along with the sale of our home.