Divorce – Smoothing the Sale of the Family Home

In this guest blog, Lorraine Richardson from Adapt Law provides guidance for separating couples on the sale of the family home. Part 2 of this guest blog will take a look at the issues surrounding valuation of property, particularly in an unpredictable market and what happens in the event that the parties are unable to agree the sale price.

The virtual closure of the housing market in March 2020 led to an unprecedented and immediate stalling of the housing market – resulting in failed transactions and furloughed staff across the property industry. But the unseen crisis going on behind closed doors is another distressing side effect for many couples.

The pressure of being thrown together for 24 hours a day, coupled with home schooling and money worries, has proved too much for many relationships.  Lawyers in the family sector are reporting a huge spike in divorce inquiries since the UK went into lockdown. These figures are likely to increase further as the lockdown measures continue to ease.

Sad though it might be, the outcome of this misery might be a much-needed boost for the housing market. Analysts anticipate that the number of properties advertised for sale will increase as a result of couples deciding to separate.

To minimise the stress of selling your property on relationship breakdown, there are a number of steps that you can take:

  • Research and try to agree the estate agent who will be asked to sell the property.
  • Property valuation will be a key unknown in the coming months, and this is likely to cause difficulties when trying to agree a split of the assets on relationship breakdown. You must be willing to be realistic about the sale price that your property might achieve – so obtain two or three valuations.
  • It will be cheaper for a separating couple to instruct the same conveyancing firm to act for them on the eventual sale; but they will only be able to act if you both agree to them acting and there is no conflict between you.
  • If you have carried out any work to the property, locate the planning and building regulation documents, electrical certificates and FENSA certificates if you have had new windows or doors installed. If you live in a leasehold property, gather together information about the management company, the accounts, ground rent and service charge receipts. Your conveyancer will need all of this paperwork.
  • Fittings and contents – much heartache is caused in divorce and conveyancing matters over the division of the furniture and household contents. At an early stage, at least try to agree what will be left at the property when it is sold and what items you are willing to sell to a buyer.
  • And don’t forget your identification documents as these will be needed by your lawyers.

All of these steps will not ease the pain of a divorce or break up; but avoiding acrimony will help to maintain your mental health (and that of your children). It will probably be necessary to take advice from a sympathetic, experienced family lawyer as to how your finances will be divided.

The author of this blog, Lorraine Richardson M.A. (Cantab), is an experienced property solicitor and trainer who is a popular conference and CPD speaker. She also designs and delivers property and legal skills related courses and on line materials including Conveyancing Quality Scheme training for the Law Society. Lorraine is the major writer for the monthly update journal for practitioners, the ‘Practical Lawyer’ and offers property related courses and webinars and a membership scheme for firms which includes personalised conveyancing training.

If you are considering moving out of your family home following a breakdown in your relationship, it is important that you understand your rights under the law. Please contact any of our top London divorce and family lawyers at Family Law in Partnership on E: hello@flip.co.uk or T: 020 7420 5000 for expert advice.