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Splitting up the Home after a Divorce or Breakup

One of the difficult aspects of going through a divorce or separation is figuring out what to do with your home. Whether you own or rent a place together, you’ll need to negotiate the process of moving from co-habitation to solo living. Here are some tips from real estate agent extraordinaire, Cass Adams, to help with this uncertain time. 

If you owned a place with your ex, how do you go about deciding who stays and who goes? What things do you consider?

C. Adams: It’s always a good idea to create an agreement about who gets what while everyone is happy.  I often recommend to clients that they consider asking their lawyer to draw up a simple cohab agreement when they are buying their home.  No one wants to think they are going to break up, but putting an exit strategy in place “just in case” while things are going well is just like buying home insurance you hope you’ll never need. 

If, like most of us, you haven’t done this, then the best way to decide who gets to stay in the house is to have a real and honest conversation about affordability.  The fairest way for you to do this is for both of you to agree on a value of the house (you can have a professional help you with this), and then whomever can afford to buy the other out, does so.  In some circumstances it may be very obvious who will be the person staying, but sometimes it may not be. If you and your ex cannot come to an agreement between yourselves, it may be time to consult with a lawyer.  Sometimes neither party is able to carry the home by themselves, and at that point, it might be best to talk to an agent about selling.

If you're selling the property, what tips can you share to make this process go as smoothly as possible?

C. Adams: If things with your ex are somewhat contentious, it is a very good idea to consult with a lawyer to find out what your rights and responsibilities are. If you feel as though your ex is being obstructive to the process, it may be necessary to have a court order in place to compel him/her to cooperate.

If you get along well (enough) with your ex, however, the selling process can be somewhat painless.  Hire a real estate professional that you both feel comfortable with, and make sure you explain to him/her how you want communication to work between the three of you.  If the groundwork is laid out from the get go, things will be so much smoother.


If you stay, what suggestions do you have for making the place your own?

C. Adams: If you are the person staying in the home, it can likely feel a bit cold or strange with random bits of furnishings “missing” after things have been divided.  Now is a good time to do a really deep clean, invest in some new paint, take a trip to IKEA and maybe rearrange the furniture and decorations in a few rooms. Something as simple as painting a room a colour you’ve always wanted can have a big impact on how you feel about your home.


What suggestions do you have if you end up moving into a new place?

C. Adams: If you find yourself leaving a home that you’ve owned for a while, I would recommend you take a few months to rent a place before jumping into home ownership again.  If you can convince your landlord (and it can be done!) to sign a shorter lease, it will give you time to settle into your new single life and really assess what is important to you in terms of where you live next. 

Whether you rent or buy, invest a little bit of time and money (if necessary) to create one space in the home that feels like a sanctuary.  Adapting to living alone can be an adjustment, so having a space that makes you feel relaxed and comfortable is so important. 

Home Sweet Home, Round Two

It may take some time, but know that eventually you’ll be in a place that feels like home. Taking the time of transition to let go of things that are no longer useful to you can be a freeing experience. Change is hard to embrace, but if you follow the tips above, the transition from co-habitation to living alone will be that much easier to manage.

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