Going through a divorce is a challenging time for most spouses. It's natural to want a fresh start with a new home, perhaps in a new location. But many people in divorce proceedings think that they cannot buy a piece of real estate during divorce and must wait it out. However, you can take this step with the proper planning and advice. Here are five key steps to take.
1. Talk With an Attorney. First, get legal counsel before you make the decision to buy or not buy. You undoubtedly want to avoid making this new home part of marital property to be divided, but doing so involves careful documentation of the financial source for the purchase as well as how it's used. Your attorney may also advise you to get your spouse to sign away any stake in this property.
2. Use an Experienced Agent. Experienced real estate agents have worked with individuals in all types of situations, including yours. They are real assets throughout the shopping and buying process. The agent will help you work within your budget, consider your post-divorce circumstances, avoid legal pitfalls during the purchase, and maintain necessary documentation.
3. Stay Within Budget. Because your divorce agreement has not been finalized, this is probably not the time to go wild with a luxury home purchase beyond your reach. Many things can turn out differently than planned — including future income, support payments, and the division of marital property. Buy with a view toward starting over, keeping in mind that you can always upgrade homes later.
4. Keep It Simple. Simplicity is key for most people in the middle of a divorce. If you will be stressed by dealing with a fixer-upper while negotiating a divorce, look for move-in ready homes instead. You may also want a property with minimal maintenance and upkeep requirements or one in an area with which you are already familiar. The simpler your new home is, the more rewarding homeownership will be right now.
5. Seek Court Approval. Finally, most divorcing spouses must seek the approval of the court overseeing their case before making such a major purchase. This is where your legal preparation and good paper trail will come in handy. If you can prove that the source of your down payment, for example, was exempt from being marital property, it may be easy to get this approval.
If you follow these few steps, you can have success buying property at any stage of your divorce. Learn more by consulting with a real estate agent in your target area today.