Are you going through a divorce and looking to move? Read on for important tips to remember on buying a house during a divorce.
No matter how amicable the separation may be, divorce can be a tumultuous time –– leaving some with the feeling that their entire world has been shaken up. Factor in another major life decision, like buying a new house, and navigating this period can feel downright impossible. But with a well-thought-out plan, the right mindset, and all your legal bases covered, buying a house during a divorce can be a smooth process, easing the transition into whatever this next chapter of life has in store.
Below, we outline seven strategies for buying a house during a divorce, answering some key questions you may have along the way.
Whether selling a house during divorce or buying a new property, it won’t be an easy process.
But, first things first: Can you buy a house during a divorce? Yes! Regardless of what life event aligns with your home search, you can still snag the keys to your new place. With that said, the divorce process can complicate the (already quite complex) matter. For starters, some states may have varying laws surrounding what constitutes community property. That is, any property that is purchased by either party in a marriage and has now become a joint marital property or asset. Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin are all community property states, meaning home-buying residents of these states may find that their new home is technically shared property with their ex.1
If you live in a shared property state, you can still buy a home without it becoming the property of your spouse, but your relationship with them can help make this process far smoother. Through an interspousal transfer deed or a quitclaim deed, your spouse can release their interest in the home, transferring sole ownership over to you.2 It’s not always easy to remain on good terms with a soon-to-be-ex, but doing so can pay off when it’s time to sign on the dotted line.
Another thing to consider (whether you live in a community property state or not) is the cost –– of both the divorce and the home itself. Divorces are notoriously costly, with the median cost of a divorce in 2023 topping $7,000.3 While this might not seem like much, anticipating this expense while also saving for a downpayment and closing fees can stretch the budgets of some shoppers.
For these reasons, it might make more sense to wait until after your divorce proceedings to buy a new home. However, if your personal timeline doesn’t allow it, the strategies below will help you navigate the home-buying process.
Once you decide to purchase a home during a divorce, you’ll want to establish clear priorities. You might find that this can be a great time for personal reflection, allowing you to determine what it is you actually need in a new home and what role this home will play in your next chapter. Consider factors like location, size, amenities, and, of course, your budget, but also be mindful of your timeline –– as it will help you set clear expectations with both your spouse and your realtor. By clearly defining your priorities from the outset, you can stay focused during the home-buying process, making informed decisions that align with your long-term goals.
Both the divorce process and the home buying process can be complex, and navigating a divorce and mortgage will require the guidance of skilled experts. Given the complexity of buying a house during a divorce, a knowledgeable divorce attorney will be able to give you legal advice and help you avoid any potential pitfalls or stumbling blocks while ensuring that your new property is, indeed, your own. Additionally, while you can endure the house search on your own, relying on an experienced real estate agent can be the key to finding what you’re looking for (and holding onto your sanity in the process.) Some real estate professionals actually specialize in divorce-related transactions, providing an added level of both insight and empathy through this complex process.4 These professionals can offer valued guidance, negotiate on your behalf, and help streamline the home-buying process during what can otherwise be a challenging time.
Divorce can bring about a number of uncertainties, but you don’t want your home purchasing power to be one of them. So, before you start searching for a new home, it's essential that you get pre-approved for a mortgage. Knowing you have secured financing will not only give you peace of mind, but it will also provide you with a clear understanding of your purchasing power, thus helping you set realistic expectations for your home search. During this period, it’s in your best interest to shop around for the best deal and the most favorable terms –– meaning you don’t have to settle for the first financing offer you get.
Once you have a satisfying approval from your chosen lender, having a pre-approval letter in hand may give you a competitive edge among other buyers, increasing your chances of securing your desired property. You should note, however, that mortgage preapprovals generally expire within 60-90 days, so be sure that your anticipated time frame fits inside this window.
Your mortgage pre-approval will help when it comes to establishing your home-buying budget, but understanding your overall financial situation is crucial when buying a home during a divorce. As mentioned above, divorces are costly –– and buying a home is even more so –– and you may encounter unexpected expenses along the way. Determine your budget for a mortgage payment by taking a close look at your income, expenses, and any financial obligations resulting from the divorce settlement, then factor in future expenses like child support or alimony payments.
And remember: Just because you’ve been preapproved for a certain amount does not mean you have to necessarily have that to spend on a new house. Having a clear budget established will ensure that you don't overextend yourself financially, and will also help you find a home that you can comfortably afford in the long run.
Need help putting together a budget? Check out our resource on how to start a budget to get started.
During both the divorce and home-buying process, uncertainty can arise at any moment. And with a back-up plan in place, you can ensure you’re prepared to adapt to this uncertainty with agility rather than allowing it to derail your plans entirely. What might this uncertainty look like? Maybe fees associated with your divorce are heftier than anticipated, eating into your savings and reducing your down payment. Or maybe shifts in the market price you out of a given area, forcing you to consider different neighborhoods. Rather than reacting to these unexpected barriers, prepare yourself by exploring other housing options –– such as renting –– beforehand. With a backup plan in place, you can access priceless peace of mind and prevent potential stress or disappointment along the way.
When buying a home during a divorce, you’ll want to be absolutely certain that all necessary documentation is in your name to avoid confusion around it being mistaken for a marital asset. This includes everything from the purchase agreement to mortgage documents and title deeds, all of which will guarantee your spouse has no legal claim to your new property. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this is one of the most important things you can do when buying a house during a divorce, as it will help you avoid endless legal headaches (and fees) for both you and your spouse. Carefully review the paperwork with your attorney to ensure that your rights and ownership of the property are protected –– safeguarding your interests and minimizing potential complications in the future.
Sometimes, these unexpected possibilities end up being better than you could have ever imagined. Case in point: Truehold’s Sale-Leaseback.
While not the most obvious option for homeowners navigating a divorce, a sale-leaseback may just be the solution you’re looking for –– allowing you to sell your family home, cash out your hard-earned home equity, and continue to live on the property for as long as you wish. Whether as a buffer while you or your spouse search for a new home or as a long-term solution, the benefits of a sale-leaseback for divorcées are virtually endless.
On any housing hunt –– especially one during a complicated time in one’s life –– things rarely go as planned. And while having a back-up plan is a valuable strategy for ensuring you aren’t left out in the cold when your plan A doesn’t pan out, keeping an open mind about the whole thing can make the process far smoother and reveal potentially unexpected possibilities.
Shopping for a new home during a divorce isn’t always easy, but it doesn’t have to be hard. And equipped with the above strategies from the Truehold team, you can ensure the process is as seamless as possible.
For more tips spanning everything from sale-leasebacks and home equity to building a budget to support your long-term goals, discover more resources from Truehold.
1. Experian. What Is a Community Property State and How Does It Impact Finances? https://www.experian.com/blogs/ask-experian/what-is-community-property-state/
2. The Balance. Should You Buy a Home When Getting a Divorce? https://www.thebalancemoney.com/buying-a-home-when-getting-divorced-1798262
3. Forbes. How Much Does a Divorce Cost in 2023? https://www.forbes.com/advisor/legal/divorce/how-much-does-divorce-cost/
4. Homelight. Do I Need a Real Estate Divorce Specialist to Sell My Home? https://www.homelight.com/blog/real-estate-divorce-specialist/
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