During a divorce, you’ll have to make countless financial decisions. If you own your home, deciding what to do with it will be one of the largest – and possibly one of the most difficult – financial decisions that you and your spouse will have to make.
Houses are expensive to keep and maintain, and the changing financial situation that comes with a divorce can affect how or if you keep your home.
Regardless of what you decide to do, maintaining your house during divorce is an important step in retaining its value and your peace of mind.
Here Are 4 Tips on Maintaining Your House During Divorce
1. Discuss the House Before You File for Divorce
Before you file for divorce, focus on getting your home and finances in order. You will need to understand what your home is worth given the area, its condition, and the current market, so consult with a realtor to get an accurate assessment of your home.
Next, you’ll need to organize your finances. Understanding your financial situation will affect your decisions in maintaining, selling, or otherwise handling your home during the divorce proceedings.
Start by gathering and assessing your bills, then create a monthly budget to identify how your finances are going to change as you transition into living on your own and having only your income. Use the budget to identify areas where you may be overspending, and start cutting expenses to save money.
Discussing how to handle your house also needs to be on your divorce checklist. When deciding what to do with your home in a divorce, you will need to talk to your spouse about who will remain in the home through the divorce proceedings; if you plan on selling the home; or if one of you will buy out the other’s share in the home.
If you have children and buying out your partner isn’t financially feasible, you may decide to co-own the home with your spouse to give your children stability and to allow them to stay in the home. In some cases, selling a home can offer both you and your spouse a clean break after a divorce. The option that is right for you will depend on your individual situation and your priorities.
2. Invest in Home Maintenance
Maintaining your home during divorce may not be at the top of your to-do list, but it’s important to keep up with it. Doing so can help prevent costly, unexpected issues that will only add stress during this time. And if you decide to sell, if you’ve kept up the maintenance and condition of your home, you’re likely to get a better price for it.
When you’re maintaining your home, make sure that your appliances and your plumbing are all updated. Efficient appliances, like an efficient shower and toilet, can save you money on your utility bills as well as raise the overall worth of the home. Simple changes like replacing your toilet flapper or investing in a low-flow showerhead can also make a difference in your water usage.
It’s also important to make sure that your roof is maintained. A roof leak can lead to water damage and mold in your home, but if you’re able to stay ahead of the issue with roof maintenance and repair, you can save yourself significant repair bills. Similarly, keeping your gutters cleaned and maintained can help keep water flowing away from your home, preventing ice damage to your roof that could occur if that water were to get backed up and freeze.
Some home maintenance tasks, like mowing the lawn, can be therapeutic, but if you’re pressed for time and have room in your budget, consider hiring some home maintenance professionals to help.
3. Prepare to Sell Your Home
If you decide to sell your home, start preparing as early as possible. Selling a home during a divorce is an emotionally loaded process, so it’s important to focus on the fact that this is a business transaction. Try to set aside any disagreements you may be having with your spouse for the sake of the sale, and let your real estate agent act as the go-between when communicating with your spouse, if needed.
Because your real estate agent will play an important role in this process, you’ll need to hire someone whom both you and your spouse can trust. Your divorce attorney may be able to recommend some top-performing agents in your area. If you and your spouse can’t agree on one agent, then make a list of your top picks and ask your attorney to identify any real estate agents that are on both your and your spouse’s pick list.
You will also need to arrange for home expenses until the home sells. The mortgage is one major expense that you’ll need to continue to pay, but also be prepared for closing costs. Your divorce attorney or divorce mediator should be able to help you create an agreement outlining who is responsible for paying which costs until the house sells.
If you’re not able to currently afford your house or are behind on payments, there are ways that you can avoid foreclosure, including declaring bankruptcy. Speak with your attorney to find out about the specific options available to you.
4. If You’re Keeping Your Home, Change Things Up
If you decide to keep your home, don’t be afraid to change things up and make it a little more “yours.” Consider repainting some rooms, redecorating, and even transforming an office into your own peaceful room. Choose a tranquil decor scheme, invest in some comfortable furniture, and decorate with some plants to make this room a peaceful space where you can go to de-stress during the tumultuous time of your divorce.