The Ultimate Guide:​

Selling a House After a Divorce (2023)

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There’s no doubt about it, divorce is one of the most stressful and upsetting things a person can deal with. 

Moving house is also high on that list. 

But the two of them together? 

It can be anyone’s worst nightmare. 

Thankfully, there are ways you can minimise the pain. 

Small saving graces that take selling a house after divorce from manic to manageable. 

And in this guide, we’re going to tell you exactly what they are. 

Table of Contents

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1. How to sell or divide a house after a divorce?

In the sad event of separation, a mutual decision will need to be made: whether or not to sell the marital home.

Let’s sum up your options:

  • You can sell the home on the open market and split the proceeds. One of you may need to rent elsewhere while the sale goes through.
  • One party can buy the other out.
  • You can keep the home, and one party can move out. The home can then be sold at a later date.

We’ll explore each of these options in much greater depth throughout this guide. 

You might be here because you’re either considering divorce or are right at the start of the process. 

So let’s start with the very first steps you need to take.

2. What first steps should I take?

Every action you undertake during a divorce should be ‘actionable’. 

This means that you break big tasks into smaller ones and start working towards completing them, right now. 

Also, all of these tasks, no matter small or big, need to give you a visual or physical indicator that you moved closer towards your general goal (in this case finalising the divorce). 

The first thing you need to do is:

Property Valuation

Before anything can be initiated, a valuation will need to be carried out on your home. 

No matter the situation, three property valuations are always recommended. 

Property valuing is not an exact science. Some agents may overvalue to try to secure business, others may undervalue in the hopes of a quick sale. 

With three separate opinions, you’ll be able to get a clear picture and a reliable average of values. 

Estate agents will provide a valuation free of charge. There’s no obligation to proceed with the sale after their visit. They will understand you’re likely to have other agents round to value too.

selling a house after divorce

This is a great time to work collaboratively with your spouse if you can.

You’ll both need to agree on a final value. A fair and efficient way of progressing this step is for each of you to appoint your own estate agent or surveyor of choice.

This might be a trusted person you’ve used before, a well-known local agency, or someone recommended by a friend.

You can then obtain a third valuation from a neutral agent (one neither of you has a relationship with).

This thorough and balanced strategy should dispel any biases or over-optimism about price. In the often tense and volatile situation of separation, things can easily get derailed.

‘Good terms’ and civility between partners can come and go. 

The best course of action is usually to sell at the lower end of the value scale, in return for a quick resolution.

Holding out for months for the highest price or the perfect buyer can drag the process out. 

It can result in one or both parties awaiting proceeds from the sale in order to move out and move on. In some cases, ‘taking the hit’ of a lower offer can be worth it.

Should I Get An RICS Valuation?

You may wish to obtain an RICS (Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors) certified valuation. 

As the name suggests, these are provided by chartered surveyors.

They are usually much more heavily based on local data, and less on opinion and market sentiment.

They can be an option if you’re dissatisfied with the agency valuations, or if there are dramatic differences between them. 

This is the type of valuation a seller is obligated to provide for a mortgage buyer. 

Their main purpose is to ensure properties have not been overvalued. 

However, the cost of RICS valuations starts at £200. They may be several hundred pounds depending on your area, property type, and the agency conducting them.

For court purposes, local estate valuations should be sufficient. 

Nevertheless, if you can’t agree on a price, the court will order a ‘joint report’ from both a local estate agent and a chartered surveyor. 

These are your key action points from this section: 

– Obtain property valuations from three different agents. 

– If you’re unhappy with agency valuations, you can pay to have an official RICS survey taken. 

– Sit down with your partner and agree on the price you’ll put the house on the market at. 

Understanding A Financial Remedy Order

This term will crop up a few times throughout this guide, so we thought we’d cover it straight away. 

A Financial Remedy Order (FRO) can be used if you are unable to agree with your ex-partner on any aspect of selling a house after divorce. It’s separate from any divorce proceedings that are already underway. 

A FRO can help with the following: 

Obtaining funds you feel you are owed

Securing childcare and living arrangements

Most importantly for our purposes, gaining ownership of property. 

Forms can be found here on the website, and the application costs £255. A series of court hearings will need to be attended. 

As such, FROs can take 6-12 months to finalise. 

It’s best to submit them as soon as possible if you can’t reach an initial financial agreement with your partner.

3. Selling the house

No matter your income bracket, the family home is likely to be the largest asset you own as a couple. 

So it’s often the biggest point of contention when discussing how to split the assets. 

The obvious solution is often selling the house. 

This means profits can be split evenly, fairly, and quickly

This may not be a simple solution if you have children. In such cases, you might not want to sell the house at all. More guidance on this can be found in sections 5 and 6. 

In this section, we’re going to focus on those leaning towards selling.

When selling a house after divorce, finances are usually the biggest factor. 

In many cases, neither spouse will be able to live comfortably without selling. 

One may not be able to buy again (or even rent) without their share of the proceeds. The other may not be able to cover the costs of running the property alone. 

There are always emotional ties to matrimonial homes

They’re often bought in happier times, and hold cherished memories. It’s up to you and your spouse to try to separate emotion from productive decisions. 

You may have worked hard to buy it, grown up in the area, or have close friends ‘round the corner. You might have raised children there, renovated and refurbished, or poured many seasons of work into the garden. 

But a good place to start is with a compromising mindset. Will letting go of emotional ties be worth the chance of a better future? 

Selling a house after divorce can be surprisingly beneficial for getting a fresh start. 

Many find it painful to remain in the house by themselves. 

A good piece of advice is to carry on acting like you’re married while you still legally are. 

Compromises and considerations of each other are important. 

Try to view the sale of your house not as a loss, but as a positive step towards your new respective futures.

If you can’t agree on whether to sell or not, the decision will be made via the courts. Naturally, this incurs legal expense. Trying to reach an agreement together is always best.

Once you’ve made the difficult decision of selling a house after divorce, you have a few options available to you for proceeding with the sale. 

Selling On The Open Market

You know the drill. 

Selling on the open housing market means estate agents, viewers in and out, endless cleaning and hoovering, price haggling, and the long drawn-out conveyancing process. 

But it’s often the best way to get a good buyer and a good price. 

Whether or not this option suits you depends largely on current relations. 

Is your separation amicable, cordial and good-natured? Are your finances relatively stable? 

Chances are, you’ll have the time and emotional strength to handle the inevitable stress of selling. 

However, if you don’t have time and you want to sell as quickly as humanly possible check the last bullet point in this section called “Selling Via A Quick House Buying Company”.

Selling At An Auction

Selling a house after divorce can be done efficiently through auction. 

At an auction, buyers must immediately pay a 10% deposit. 

Most auction houses will give them 20-25 days to complete.

Auction buyers are usually practical and business-minded. They also lose their deposit if they pull out. As such, the rate of fall-throughs is very low. 

Selling at auction may particularly suit those with houses in need of renovation. Auction buyers are less deterred by major works. 

The downside is you take a gamble with the price you might achieve. 

Auction costs can also be larger than those of traditional estate agents. Entry fees and legal packs cost several hundred pounds, and auctioneers take up to 2% of the sale price. 

Finally, although the sale itself is usually quick, there are listing and legal processes that take time before the official auction day.  

Selling Via A Quick House Buying Company

There’s no such thing as a ‘quick divorce’, but quick house sales do exist. 

It may be that things are very tense and emotions are bitter. You may need to extricate yourself as quickly as possible. 

Many people in this situation use the services of house buying companies, which are even quicker than auction selling

These fast home sale companies can often make you a no-obligation offer in as little as 24 hours and purchase your property in as little as 7 days.

They use cash to purchase, meaning much fewer complications. 

This type of sale is perfect for people in a rush, who don’t have time for unnecessary bureaucracy.

You may not reach full market value, but sales are sometimes wrapped up in mere days or weeks (as opposed to months). 

The vast majority of divorcing couples find it worth the sacrifice.

You’re giving up a small percentage of cash for an exponential increase in speed-of-sale and a major reduction of headaches and legal complications.

At the end of the day, all of this depends on how quickly you want to settle the divorce and move on with your life.

4. Buying out your partner

If both of your names are on the mortgage, you’ll both be ‘jointly and severally’ liable for the payments. 

This means that even if you move out, you’ll still be responsible for the monthly payment. 

No one wants to get stuck paying for a house they’re not living in. 

To avoid this predicament, that party must be ‘bought out’

It sounds complicated, but it’s a fairly simple calculation if you are prepared to split everything down the middle. 

It also means not needing to deal with an open market house sale.  

If both of your names are on the mortgage, you’ll both be ‘jointly and severally’ liable for the payments. 

This means that even if you move out, you’ll still be responsible for the monthly payment. 

No one wants to get stuck paying for a house they’re not living in. 

To avoid this predicament, that party must be ‘bought out’. 

It sounds complicated, but it’s a fairly simple calculation if you are prepared to split everything down the middle. 

It also means not needing to deal with an open market house sale.  

You’ll need to do two things before you start:

1) Obtain a market valuation on your property (you can read more on this in section 1). Even better, obtain three to have a better perspective on where your property sits in the market price-wise. 

2) If you have a mortgage, contact your lender. They will provide a redemption certificate, which tells you how much is left to pay on the mortgage. They will also advise you on any fees or early repayment charges you might incur by switching or exiting mortgage products. 

Calculating Your Buy-out Sum

With houses owned outright, the equity can easily be split down the middle.

If your house is worth £300,000, you’ll need to get hold of £150,000 to buy out your partner. 

If the house is not equally owned, then you’ll need to look at the equity.

But let’s look at an example in which you’ve already paid a good chunk of the mortgage and you have to split the remaining part.

For equal ownership, let’s say you’ve paid off £100,000 of your mortgage prior to the divorce. 

The remaining mortgage is then:  £300,000 – £100,000 = £200,000

Then we have to split these £200,000 down the middle to get a 50% equity share and we’re left with £100,000.

This means that you’d need to raise £100,000 to buy your partner’s share of the equity. 

They would be released from the joint mortgage. You would then take out a new mortgage to cover the outstanding value of the house. 

Often, you can stay with your current lender. You might move to a new deal, or request a ‘further advance’. This is where you’ll keep the current mortgage agreement, but increase the lent amount.

In order to do this, you’ll need to be eligible for a mortgage on your own. 

Use this mortgage calculator to input your income, deposit fund amount, and how many years you’d like on the mortgage. If you don’t qualify for the mortgage without your ex-partner’s income, you may have to consider selling the house. 

Your partner may refuse to agree to a buy-out. This is a scenario where you can apply for a FRO (more on this in section 1).

If you are really reluctant to sell, but struggling to qualify for a mortgage on your own, there is another option. 

A guarantor mortgage is where a family member or other trusted person agrees to cover your payments if you miss them. 

This is something that should be approached with caution. Your guarantor will be fully legally responsible for the costs of your home. The lender could seize the guarantor’s savings or even their own home if payments are not met. 

It’s best to view guarantor mortgage agreements as either a last resort or a temporary fix.

For example, you might add a parent or sibling onto your mortgage to enable you to keep it. You can then switch to a singular mortgage product after the term ends (usually after 2 years). 

These are  your key action points from this section:

 Obtain at least one valuation on your property. Three is the ideal number for reliability and accuracy. 

 Speak to your mortgage lender and obtain a redemption certificate. 

 Sit down and work out how much equity you have in your house, and divide it by 2 (or however you have mutually agreed to split funds). 

 Apply for a new mortgage or a further advance. 

5. Keeping the house

The third option, if both of you agree, is to keep the house. 

No selling, no buying out. 

You might be very unconventional and modern and agree to co-habit after separation. 

But in a much more likely scenario, one party will stay resident, and the other will leave. 

In deciding who stays and who leaves, you’ll likely need to consider two main factors: family members and finances. 

The party responsible for the majority of childcare will naturally be the best candidate for staying, because it means the children will stay there too. 

Then a question will need to be raised about who can afford to stay in the house

Running a house on a single salary can be difficult. And it’s not just covering the mortgage. You’ll need to consider utilities, council tax, repairs and upkeep. 

If the boiler breaks down, will you be able to pay for a new one? Can you shoulder the costs of roof repairs? New windows? Maintenance of cladding, decking, carpets, etc?

Financial arrangements will form part of your divorce settlement. 

It might be that the vacating spouse contributes to these costs. Spousal maintenance is one such example. You can request this of your partner as soon as you separate. If they don’t agree, you can go through mediation, or submit a FRO to the court (more on this in section 1)

Naturally, there are no guarantees. Your entitlement to this will depend on your unique case. 

When figuring out how to divide a house after divorce without selling it straight away, two types of agreements can come into play. 

These are Mesher agreements and Martin agreements. 

What Is A Mesher Agreement?

This is where the family home is retained, and both parties remain as official owners. Usually, one will move out.

A Mesher agreement comes with a deadline or ‘end date’ for the house to be sold.

This is often used by parents who want to keep the children in their familiar home. 

The end date of the agreement is often when the children turn 18, or leave home. 

At this point, the house will be sold and funds will be released. 

What Is A Martin Agreement?

This is much more long-term (and rarer) than a Mesher agreement. 

Similarly, the house is not sold, and one party remains in residence. 

But in a Martin agreement, the remaining party can stay in the property either for life, or until they remarry. 

This usually only happens when one party is very wealthy and one is not. 

If the wealthy spouse doesn’t need immediate access to the equity in the property, they may be given a ‘Martin Order’. 

This protects the remaining spouse from being forced to leave and facing financial difficulty.  

6. What to do if you have children

Divorce will inevitably bring some sadness and uncertainty into family life. 

But it doesn’t have to be traumatising for all involved.  

Managing The Feelings Of Guilt

Things have changed in the way we view families. 

Nuclear families (or conjugal families) have long been the norm, but they now come in all shapes and sizes. 

The bottom line is that happy, separated parents are often able to create a better, healthier childhood experience for their kids than unhappy co-habiting parents. 

So the first thing to remember is to try and manage feelings of guilt. 

For parents, they’re all too easy to indulge in!

We know that It’s easier said than done. Gingerbread, an organisation for single parents, provides an excellent guide on talking to your kids and teenagers about divorce. 

Keeping The Children In The Family Home

Naturally, many parents want to keep their children in the family home. 

This keeps disruption to a minimum. It ensures they can stay at their schools, and near friends and other neighbouring families. 

This is why one parent staying in the owned property with the children is so common. 

Usually, both parents will share this sentiment. 

In the best-case scenario, you won’t need to go to mediation to establish this plan.

Here’s the kicker:

The problem that arises with this situation is the vacating party may be left with no funds. 

If they’re unable to purchase a new property, they might have to consider renting for a period of time. They may experience financial hardship. They may not be able to afford both rent and mortgage payments on the matrimonial home.

This is where Mesher agreements come into play. 

As explained in section 4, a Mesher agreement establishes a deadline for the sale of the house. 

Best of all:

It allows the vacating party to plan for their finances and living situation. It reassures them there is a set time they will need to manage for. And it allows one party to remain in the family home with the children, minimising disruption. 

The remaining party does not need to take over the mortgage in this instance. However, if the other party has officially vacated, they may not be liable to contribute to mortgage payments.

If you’re not able to reach an agreement between yourselves, you can apply to the courts for a Financial Remedy Order or a FRO (more on this in section 1).

These are  your key action points from this section:

 Always start with a one-on-one discussion with your ex-partner. Try to establish boundaries, routines, and rules when it comes to childcare. Decide upon access to the house. Can they visit? Should they call ahead? Will they retain a key? Create a co-parenting plan for after the divorce is finalised.

 Involve a mediator if you’re struggling with the above.

 If no agreement can be reached, apply to the court for a Financial Remedy Order.   

7. What to do if your home is in your spouse's name

If it’s in your spouse’s name, there’s a crucial aspect to selling a house after divorce. 

And that’s your legal right of occupation. 

In the words of solicitor advocate Ursula Rice, “Even if a house is only in the name of one spouse, if it is the matrimonial home, the other has a legal right of occupation for as long as they remain married to each other”. 

These are known as your matrimonial home rights.

You might be married to someone who bought the marital home with their own funds. 

They may have done this either before or after you married. 

In either case, it is likely you will have a claim to equity in the house. 

But here’s the kicker: 

You only have this entitlement whilst you are married. You must seek to make your claim before your divorce is finalised. Again, a Financial Remedy Order may be used to address this further down the line.

In the meantime, to protect your claim, one of the first things you should do is to enter a Notice of Home Rights. 

You can do this via the online Land Registry service

As the government website explains, this notice protects your rights to ‘occupy the matrimonial or civil partnership home’.  

These are  your key action points from this section:

– Enter a Notice of Home Rights against your property with the Land Registry. 

8. What to do If you’re unsure of your spouse’s financial situation

Discussing money is tough at the best of times. In the middle of a dispute, it can be almost impossible. 

This is a great point in time to consider mediation.

In mediation, a neutral party will help you go through your finances. 

This begins with a MIAM – mediation information and assessment meeting. 

The purpose of this initial meeting is to advise you on exactly how it works. 

From there, you can figure out if it’s a productive course of action. Both parties will fill out a financial disclosure form. 

All financial documentation will be used in court if the proceedings escalate to that point. 

9. Benefits you may be entitled to

Help may be at hand if you’re struggling financially due to the impact of divorce. 

You can use this handy calculator to check what you may be entitled to. 

One of the benefits most commonly applied to is for council tax discount. If you suddenly find yourself the single occupier of the matrimonial home, remember you can get a 25% discount on your council tax. 

Most old-system benefits have been replaced by Universal Credit. 

You may be eligible to receive Universal Credit if your spouse was supporting you financially. 

If you were already claiming Universal Credit, Jobseekers Allowance or Housing Benefit prior to separation, you should inform the Department of Work and Pensions of your change in circumstances as soon as possible. You’ll likely be reassessed as a single person or as a lone parent. 

You can easily apply for a new Universal Credit claim via the government website.

Remember:  If you’re separating or divorcing, you’ll need to update your information for Child Benefits. 

Following your separation, this will be paid solely to the primary carer of your children. The vacating spouse may have to start paying child maintenance. 

You can calculate child maintenance payments here.

You can also discuss spousal maintenance with your ex-partner. 

You don’t have to wait until your divorce is finalised to request this. You can ask your ex-partner to set up a voluntary agreement as soon as you separate.

If you can agree on this independently, you’ll save on legal costs. 

If you can’t agree, but feel you are entitled to support (perhaps due to being supported whilst in the marriage rather than working), this is something else a mediator can help with. 

In the worst-case scenario, you can seek childcare costs in court via our old friend, the Financial Remedy Order or a FRO (more on this in section 1). 

Resources for further help

We hope you gained lots of practical knowledge from this guide. 

But undoubtedly, certain strains and stresses can’t be soothed with written words. 

Don’t worry, from initial separation to divorce finalisation, help is at hand. 

Whether you prefer to chat online, call, or meet in person, there is help and support out there so you don’t have to go at it alone.

Relate offers tonnes of online guidance for every stage of the divorce process.

It has dedicated pages for tools for separation, practical arrangements, legal and money advice, talking to children about divorce, and emotional support. 

You can also request to speak to a counsellor.

RelateHub offers free 30-minute web chats.

Family Lives have a helpline for divorcing couples. They can also connect you with local support groups.

The Citizens Advice Bureau can help with the more practical side of things

Give them a call if you’re unsure of any stage of the divorce process. 

You can also chat with them online between 10am and 4pm, Monday to Friday. If the page says all advisers are busy, keep the page open. The ‘talk to an advisor button’ will usually appear after a while.

Finally, the Samaritans are always on hand for anyone dealing with feelings of extreme distress.

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Faster sales usually yield a lesser price but they save you time.

It all depends on your circumstances and preference.

Final Thoughts

If you’ve found this guide to be helpful, it’s a great idea to share it with your spouse. 

This is a neutral resource designed to support both parties in getting the best possible resolution. 

Information is your best friend here. Keeping everyone educated and in-the-loop about what to do helps them to feel in control. 

This in turn helps to keep tension and emotion out of the equation. 

We hope this guide has answered your questions and concerns about selling a house after divorce. 

And we hope it’s been a small comfort in what will be indeed a troubling time. 

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