Should I Be Selling My House After OR Before Divorce?

Written by Myles Hemingway

Myles is our self-confessed ‘word nerd’ and property geek. You’ll find him mythbusting everything from house repayments to maisonettes, as well as giving you our spin on the latest property news and industry trends.

How does a divorce house split work? Are you better selling your house after divorce or before? We reveal all…

A divorce house split is rarely easy – we get that. Especially if one of you is eager to get selling the house before divorce, while the other wants to wait and sell the house after. Heck, sometimes your partner may not even want to sell, which could make the job of releasing your equity slightly more complex.

With over 107,000 divorces going through in 2019, the issue of a divorce house split is sadly becoming all the more common. Therefore, being well equipped to deal with all the twists, turns and technicalities ahead is essential, as with divorce house sale, there’s many.

So many that you’re probably reading this because your mind is crammed with questions like: How is equity split in a divorce? Who pays capital gains tax after divorce? Can you sell a house if one partner refuses? And if we do agree to sell, what’s the easiest way of selling a house in a divorce? Well, if that’s the case, keep reading, as we’re not only going to reveal the answer to the ‘sell house before or after divorce’ debate, but also give you some expert guidance on how to get your property sold fast.

Here for something specific about how a divorce house split works? Use the menu below to navigate to the most relevant information quickly…

How is equity split in a divorce?

When divorcing or ending a civil partnership equity, particularly home equity, is split depending on the situation between you and your partner.

If you and your partner are willing to negotiate a split or have come to a divorce agreement, then splitting your equity, including your house, could actually be pretty simple. This route eradicates the need for a court hearing or mediation. Although, you’ll still need to make this agreement legally binding through something called a consent order. Essentially a posh legal term for the document prepared for your solicitor, outlining the terms of the agreement. This will then be put to the court alongside what’s called a ‘Statement of Information’ form that outlines aspects of your finances like the value of your property, pensions, stocks, bonds and so on.

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Can you sell a house if one partner refuses?

In the case you cannot agree on whether you should sell your family home after divorce, the process may not be quite so simple. You see, in order to sell you need both yours and your partner’s signatures. Fail to get these and you’re on a one way ticket to mediation.

If an agreement is reached here you can then get their signature, apply for a consent order and carry on from here. However, if mediation doesn’t work and your ex-partner is still refusing to sell the house, you may have to escalate the case to the court, who can in some circumstances intervene and force the sale of your house.

If this was the case, you’d be given a strict timeframe in which to sell your property and the proceeds would then become part of the split.

But like we say, how easy or hard it would be to sell your house and split your equity during a divorce ultimately depends on your situation. If your ex decides to take an uncooperative tone around other aspects of your divorce besides the sale of house, you may be left straighten out your finances long after your divorce legally goes through.

FYI: Your finances, including the sale of your house and the distribution of your savings etc., are all dealt with separately to the divorce itself. So in legal terms you could be separated, but still left with financial ties.

Who pays capital gains tax after divorce? (don’t get caught out!)

Just a heads up, before you dive into our pros and cons of selling your house before or after divorce, it’s important you know this.

On April 6, 2020, the rules around who pays capital gains tax after divorce tightened. Previously, the spouse who moved out of the house would have 18 months in which their share in the property before it would become liable for CGT - currently charged at 28% for any gains off residential property! Now this 18 month period has been reduce to just nine.

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Selling your house after divorce or before? The Pros and Cons.

Choosing when to sell your property in a divorce house split is no easy decision. In most cases it's actually a pretty tough one to call, so to ensure you make a well informed decision, here's our pros and cons of selling a house before or after divorce...

Selling house before divorce: the pros

Negotiating who gets what – Selling your house before divorce isn’t a bad idea, especially if you don’t want to get dealt a poor hand last minute. Not only does a pre-divorce house sale allow you to more accurately split your assets, but it also hopefully reduces the amount of disagreements and stress you feel during the process. As we know, situations where the stakes are high that are hemmed by a tight deadline often don’t make for a pretty picture.

Time – Selling your house before divorce also comes with the added perk of time, but not just to negotiate. The time to scout about for an onward purchase, arrange things with your children and of course make sure you’ve dotted the ‘I’s and cross the ‘T’s in terms of the paperwork. Besides, a divorce isn’t something you can rush – usually they take around 4-6 months according to Citizen’s Advice. So, you could say selling your house or at least finding a buyer before you start the proceedings would be a good use of your time.

It doesn’t drag on – As we all know, houses are sizable assets, so selling your house before divorce does mean that the sale won’t hinder your ‘space’ so to speak. You’ll be able to wrap up your past relationship and hopefully kick-start the process of moving on pretty quickly. Something that could be postponed if you’re still in discussions about the house months, maybe even years after your divorce has gone through. Not ideal.

FYI: If you’re feeling a bit shaken up and just getting used to ‘doing you’ again, aim to push yourself and try something new. While we’re by no relationship coaches, we do for personal experience that working on yourself in these types of situations is the way forward.

Capital Gains Tax – Another hidden perk of selling your house before divorce that a lot of couples often forget about is the cruel mistress that is Capital Gains Tax. In case you haven’t read our advice above, CGT is a tax paid when you dispose of an asset that’s appreciated in value. It isn’t cheap either – CGT on a residential property is charged at a whopping 28%!

So in other words, if the value of your property has risen since you first bought it, then you could be liable to pay CGT unless you dispose of your assets to your spouse before your divorce becomes official (i.e. legal). And with the majority of divorces occurring after 12 years of marriage (ONS), there’s a good chance this amount could be pretty large, especially after the COVID house price ‘mini boom’ in 2020.

Selling house before divorce: the cons

Housing market hold ups – As you’ve just discovered above, financial factors like CGT and more personal can be a solid reason to sell before divorce, however don’t be fooled, because there is a flip side.

Just like any market, the housing market has plenty of peaks, but it also comes with a good amount of troughs. Troughs that have the potential to hinder the pace of your sale. So you could well have a property that would sell in a heartbeat for a pretty packet above the asking price if demand was high, but if it was low then you and you could be sat on the housing market for some time and wind up being practically forced to accept a lower offer. An issue that selling direct to a cash house buyer like us can completely eradicate… just saying.

FYI: Before putting your house on the market, do a bit of research. Quiz your local estate agents on how fast properties are selling in your area. Wondering how to go about that? Invite a couple of agents around to appraise your property and ask them these 30 questions. We guarantee it'll put a smile on your face!

Emotional turmoil – Hey, we get it – for a lot of couples divorce is stressful, and traumatic too. Both emotions that are also associated with selling a property on the open market, so unless you plan on a stress-free sale through a cash buyer like us, you’re probably best holding off. At such an emotional time in your life, you need to relax and ‘do you’, not be stressing about viewings, offers and the other technicalities of a house sale.

Rash decisions - As great as selling your house before divorce is, it’s important it’s not because of a rash decision. By that we mean a decision that’s been made in the heat of the moment and not properly thought through. So to avoid this from happening, before you do put your property up for sale, ask yourself these 3 questions…

  • Does the home mean anything to me? – If the home holds a special significance, maybe it’s been passed down the family or despite your situation, is what you consider to be the ‘ideal home’. If so, giving it some thought and looking to sell after divorce may be a better option.
  • Would the value increase if I held onto it? – If demand is low in your area, consider if your property would be worth more if you were to keep it. Perhaps playing the long game could pay off?
  • Am I comfortable living here despite my divorce? - Answer “yes” and selling your property before divorce may not be the smartest idea. Although something like this will entirely depend on your situation, plus how and why your relationship ended – but we won’t go into that here.

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Selling house after divorce: the pros

Less awkward moments – It’s no secret that in a good handful of divorces, partners aren’t what you’d call on the best of terms, hence why selling your property after divorce could be a better option.

After divorce, typically the heat of the situation has begun to fade. With less emotions at play, you can often reach a resolution faster and usually in a less stressful manner. Why? Because you’ve both had the time to some extent unpick the connection you previously shared. So when it comes to negotiating who gets what, that’s no longer clouding your vision.

Condition of the market – Contrary to what your local estate agent will tell you, NOW is not always the best time to sell.

If selling your house before divorce would mean it’s sat on the market receiving very little interest because demand is low, then waiting until after divorce probably wouldn’t be a bad idea. Heck, even if prices dipped, you’d probably end up achieving pretty much the same price, providing it triggers an increase in demand. But how? Well, the reality is that buyers want what’s hot. So if your property’s not receiving any interest and been on the market a while, in their eyes it’s only worth a cheeky lowball offer.

But ultimately it’s up to you to assess whether this would be a viable strategy.

Time’s on your side – By selling your house after separating from your partner, you have longer to consider your options. After some thought you may actually decide to carry on living in the property. For instance, if you have children and that’s all they’ve known, it might actually be the best course of action. Plus, if both you and your ex-partner can move on without selling, it could be fashioned into a profitable as a buy to let, providing of course you left on good terms.

Selling house after divorce: the cons

Potential speed bumps – While at the time selling your house after the divorce may seem an appealing prospect, it could in fact become a burden in the future. For anyone going through a divorce, the time afterwards is valuable. It’s a time to cool down, reflect, build yourself back up and muster the confidence to eventually (pardon the cliché) ‘get back out there’. Something you’re unable to do fully if your property is still tying you to your ex-partner.

CGT – We mention it a fair bit in this blog, but Capital Gains Tax can be another unfortunate cost of leaving the sale of your house until after your divorce. If your partner isn’t entirely keen on selling the house before you divorce, then it’s important for you to factor in CGT as a potential expense. Useful to know when you’re shopping for your onward purchase.

Should I sell be selling my house after divorce or before?

As you’ve discovered, selling a house when going through a divorce isn’t the easiest thing since sliced bread, neither is it all that pleasant, be it just on the horizon or already in motion. It’s also rather risky.

Put your house on the open market when demand is low or just before a market slump and you risk achieving a lower price, whether that’s via a cheeky offer or being gazundered. Plus, if your sale doesn’t go through until after divorce, you could also have to factor in CGT, which could drastically affect your offer on your onward purchase. And even if you do manage to sell early, avoid CGT and achieve a strong price, there’s still all the swings and roundabouts that come with an open market sale for you to negotiate.

Things like viewings, offers, surveys and conveyancing - all tasks that can be made even more difficult by the fact, as a recently divorced couple, you've likely got some conflicting opinions. Something that could pretty easily hike up the difficulty of achieving a sale. Not to say that it can’t be done though.

In fact, if you’ve managed to maintain a somewhat steady relationship with your partner during the divorce, persisting with an open market sale as normal could be the way to go. Although it’s not to say it's the only way to go. There’s a variety of ways in which you can sell a house – so question is now, which is the most suited to a divorce house split?

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What’s the easiest way of selling a house in a divorce?

Ultimately, what happens to a house in a divorce largely depends on how you choose to sell. And this is important because selling a house during divorce comes with slightly different terms to a usual house sale. You see while price is indeed a major factor, speed and the overall ease of the sale typically tend to be of a higher priority. So with this in mind, what method of selling is best suited to a couple who’s going through a divorce…

The open market

Out of all the methods of selling a house, the open market is the most popular, but that’s not to say it’s the way to go. Open market sales can often be rather slow, unpredictable and come with a lot of baggage for you as a seller. By this we mean: instructing an agent, conducting viewings, negotiating offers and navigating your way through the maze that is conveyancing. All of which can easily turn what could’ve been a sprint (more on that later) into a lengthy marathon.

Going to auction

Then there’s selling your house through an auction, which you could argue is a valid way to get a quicker result… some of the time. You see, auctions do come with some pitfalls. Firstly fees, which at auctions don’t come cheap, hence why they’re usually expressed as a percentage. While a figure like 2-3% doesn’t initially sound all that expensive, convert it into pounds and you’ll see what we mean - a 2% fee on a £200,000 sale would be £4000!

And then of course that’s if you sell, as just like on the open market, you’re not guaranteed to achieve a certain figure. This all rests on the auction house attracting the right sort of buyer. A risk that perhaps in this situation wouldn’t be wise to take.

A private divorce house buyout

After the most divorce friendly way to sell your house? We’d say you’ve already found it.

As a cash buyer of property, we’ll buy your home in record time (just 7 days!) and do our best to take its weight off your shoulders. By that we mean we’ll pay for your solicitors, schedule your surveys and even help you negotiate on your onward purchase. The only thing we ask of you is to give us your verdict on our cash offer.

So, you can kiss goodbye to awkward viewings, taxing negotiations, any uncertainty over a sale, lengthy property chains, a painstakingly slow conveyancing process – we think you get the picture. And say hello to a private 7-day divorce house buyout with no hassle or fees (of any kind), conducted by a team with well over 50 years’ experiencing in purchasing property, tucked firmly under their belts.

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