Housing and Divorce – Do It Yourself or Do It With a Pro?

By Douglas Katz – 09/02/2022

There are many choices when it comes to divorce.  Many people default to what they know or have seen with full legal representation. There are, however, other options these days ranging from pro se, basically DIY to full representation as well as other options and hybrid approaches which meld characteristics of the two.  While in some cases, going it on your own can seem like a great idea, there are many areas where mistakes can be costly in both dollars and outcomes.  Housing is one area that I always recommend getting some help from an expert as there are unique challenges that can arise from plans for resolution and what the lending industry will allow.

First and foremost, a divorce housing expert will be able to provide you clarity on what is allowable and viable.  The lending industry in particular is governed by very specific regulations intended to provide equity for applicants and to ensure that any borrower is sufficiently protected from unethical lenders.  These regulations are generally non-negotiable without the option to apply subjective criteria to a decision.  A experienced divorce housing professional knows how to navigate these regulations and to guide you down the right path.  If it is not possible, they can also tell you what you need to do to make a deal viable.  Additionally, they can, if brought in early enough, help manage the early parts of the process to get you prepared for the most rapid resolution post decree.  Things like maintenance and employment are often cans that are kicked down the road which often causes issues and delays, while if handled correctly and in a timely manner, divorcing couples generally get much better outcomes.

Additionally, many divorce housing professionals add to their skillset with training in areas such as mediation or other alternative dispute resolution.  Resolving how to disposition the house is often fraught with emotion and other complexities bleeding over from the divorce.  While it can just be a 50/50 split, most divorces are not that simple.  Depending on how long the couple has been together and how long that they have been in the home, there can be a host of things that happened throughout their lives that could require a different division of the asset.  Having someone trained to help you reach an equitable solution can be invaluable.  You want someone trained and invested in you and not transitionally focused.  If you are working with an attorney or mediator already, you may not feel that you need this, but it is still very valuable as you different representatives are better able to interface to support you.

On the softer side of things, divorce housing pros have a lot of experience in dealing with divorcing couples with an empathy and respect that can help you deal better with the emotion of dealing with thee home.  Many have migrated to this part of the business out of a passion to help.  It is not uncommon to find this passion rooted in past experience, like their own divorce or that of their parents, where the outcomes were less than optimal.  In my own dealings with colleagues in the industry who focus on divorcing couples, most are committed to the best possible transition for all parties.  This is often at the expense of there own compensation as a deal pays what it pays regardless of the work required and these deals require a lot of extra work.  This is not a time for call centers and rate shopping if you want an experience that aligns with your unique needs in a difficult time.

Finally, if you have a home, are getting divorced and want to refinance it or you want to buy something new, you WILL need a lender anyhow.  As you may have ascertained, however, all lenders are not equipped to fully support you in this difficult time.  Because of this, using a divorce housing professional only makes sense.  Not only does the choice not cost you anything additional, you actually end up ahead if they are able to help you avert trouble and mistakes.  I can tell you from experience that this is ignored at the peril of many divorcing couples and the costs were not insignificant.  I have seen everything from losing a low rate because the transaction was delayed to having to sell the home when the deal could not work.

In the end, I recommend looking at this choice like a home project.  You may be a DYI type person who can do MOST of what they need but a limitation of anything dangerous, like electrical or plumbing.  In such cases, you make practical, common sense decisions that strike the optimal balance between cost and outcome.  After all, a seemingly successful project could go horribly wrong with a leaky pipe or even worse, a short that burns the house down.  If this makes sense for redoing your bathroom, it should also for redoing you life and where you live.