Divorce and Real Estate

Real Estate and Divorce: What Realtors Need to Know in Ohio

Selling a house can be stressful, but it can be even more stressful if divorce is the primary reason for the sale. Real estate agents can sometimes feel caught in the middle even in the most amicable of situations. Based on a series of interviews with Columbus divorce attorneys, this is the first in a set of articles on what real estate agents need to know to manage the sale best for everyone involved.

Dissolution or Divorce

In Ohio, marriages legally end in one of two ways: dissolution or divorce. According to Jay Babbitt of Babbitt and Dahlberg, a Columbus family law firm, there is an agreement to end the marriage and a separation agreement is drafted by both parties to define the terms.

“A separation agreement resolves every issue, including division of property and child and spousal support. It gets filed with the court and between 30 and 90 days afterward you have a hearing, the court accepts the agreement and that’s the end of it,” said Babbitt.

However, not every situation is that simple. If agreement on every issue can’t be reached, then couples must go through a contested divorce. That, according to, Merisa Bowers of Merissa K. Bowers Attorney at Law, LLC, can be more expensive than expected.

“A divorce is not a wise use of resources,” Bowers said. “I would encourage clients to make sure that they are looking at the return on investment. If they litigate, what do they actually stand to gain? What’s their likelihood of being successful? For most people, it’s not a good use of money. Often that (expense) takes away from college education for their kids or depletes retirement assets. Frankly,” she added, “even if there is sufficient money to cover attorney fees, I think it is still worth revaluating.”

Keep or Sell

One of the issues sometimes contested is whether or not the house should be sold. Each of the attorneys I spoke with said that while in many cases couples agree to sell the house, there were also many times where one person wanted to stay. Two ways this gets complicated is when the mortgage is underwater or one partner cannot afford to buy the other out.

“We’re rebounding in Columbus now so we’re not seeing those problems as frequently as we were three or four or five years ago, but it still happens. That debt exists and parties are typically jointly responsible for that regardless of whether they decide to sell the house or keep it. They have to figure out how to manage that debt,” said Bowers.

Babbitt agrees.

“Ten years ago, the fight was who gets the house. Three or four years ago, the fight was who has to get the house because it is under water. Now, the real estate market is starting to come back so it makes it a little bit easier,” he said. “The bigger problem comes when neither person wants the house. They want it sold, but because there is so little equity or maybe negative equity or just because of the market conditions they can’t sell the house.”

All three attorneys said they would counsel their clients to again carefully consider their financial position above all else. If a client is underwater or unable to buy their partner out, it is time to take a hard look at their finances.

“Clients have to keep in mind, too, how the mortgage is being paid while the house is listed. Typically, the house is bigger than what each individual is going to go live in ultimately so the utilities, taxes, all those things are also under consideration. You want to turn it around fast so that you don’t incur taxes and utilities longer than necessary,” said Bowers.

Clients also need to think long term. The investment to stay may come at a cost further down the road.

“One of the things I want clients to understand is that if they decide to keep the house and buy out their husband or wife, they have to know that they are staying in the house at least three or maybe five years. The cost of sale - the realtors commission and all of the fees – do not get taken into consideration unless the house is actually sold as part of the divorce,” said Babbitt.

Value of the House

Whether divorcing homeowners want to sell or stay, are underwater or have some equity in the home, the most important thing is for both parties to agree on the value of the home. How that occurs is up to the couple in question, but both Bowers and Babbitt recommend an appraisal.

“We generally recommend that homeowners get somebody other than the realtor that sold them the house or that they want to use to sell the house to do the appraisal. Sometimes the standards that realtors use to find fair market value is different than what I’m looking for,” said Babbitt.

If the case is a dissolution, a couple may agree on an appraiser. However, both attorneys were careful to point out that not all appraisals are created equal.

“Bank appraisals,” Bowers pointed out, “are not appraisals of fair market value. A bank appraisal for refinancing, for example, may not have anything to do with the actual market value of the home.”

Ultimately, though, the value of the home will be whatever price the market can bear. That final price is what will be divided between the two parties when the time comes. However, especially if the case is a divorce rather than a dissolution, homeowners need to keep in mind that all of this may take some time. That may affect when the house goes on the market, which in turn may affect when it goes sold.

This comes up most often in divorce cases where children are involved. If issues such as spousal and child support and custody remain contentious, one partner may choose to remain in the house until an agreement can be reached on all of those financial issues.

“A case in Franklin county involving children can easily take 18 months, start to finish,” said Babbitt.

While divorce isn’t easy, real estate agents with a little bit of knowledge will know what to expect and be able to help families make the right choices for them and their future. Divorce attorneys working closely with agents in the know will find a valuable ally for their clients that can help further alleviate an already stressful situation.

Photo by jkbeitz

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Taylor Kolon

Columbus, Ohio Real Estate Agent
Office: 614-888-1000
Mobile: 614-600-7503
Email: taylorkolon@kw.com

Taylor Kolon’s years of experience helping people sell or find the right home taught him that his work is about more just land and buildings. It’s about hopes, dreams, and a secure future. It’s about helping individuals and families turn a challenging situation into an opportunity, and to that end Taylor listens carefully to his clients as he guides them to their goal.

A jump from corporate sales in the Ohio metals industry to real estate was only natural for this outgoing guy. As a result, Taylor brings a sharp eye for detail and well-honed negotiation skills to work for every client every time. Taylor earned his degree from Central Michigan University where he also played on the men’s volleyball team. The fast pace and the teamwork as well as the physical and mental challenge he found on the court are some of what he loves best about his work. He also understands the value of continued training and education to keep his game in top shape. Every time he hands over the keys to an ecstatic new homeowner feels like a win.

Taylor believes in the importance of community and making sure he’s giving back what he can to Columbus through various volunteer activities and membership in the Clintonville Chamber of Commerce. However, there is no denying, that his favorite way to spend his free time is with his wife, Mandy, and their daughter, Elena.

Contact Taylor today.


Phone: 614-888-1000  |  Cell: 614-600-7503  |  Email: taylorkolon@kw.com  |  Fax: 614-932-9512