Case Study: My First Matrimonial Listing

My first listing in a divorce was back in the 1990s. It was a tad north of Westchester County, and the wife and children had moved out. The husband remained in the home, and it was in many respects a baptism by fire for this type of client.

The husband was not keeping the house up, it showed poorly, and he was not very cooperative. It seemed like he was in no hurry to move, and the consternation and stress this cause his soon to be ex wife did not bother him in the least- as a matter of fact, he appeared to be doing it on purpose. Each spouse had their own divorce attorney in the wings and the seller’s attorney had their hands full balancing the conflict between the parties and keeping things moving forward. A buyer did eventually get in and make an offer acceptable to the sellers, and while it took far more time than it could have if the sellers cooperated, it did finally close.

The takeaway for me at that time as a newer agent were as follows:

  • Many agents avoided divorcing clients because the transactions were more difficult
  • The condition of a home can have a huge impact on the perceived value from buyers. This home could have sold for more money if it were kept up better
  • The focus for seller in a matrimonial sale, especially if children are involved, are the quality of their future lives rather than settling old scores. I can appreciate the resentments that arise from a dissolving union, but the kids deserve better than to be collateral damage.
  • Regarding quality of life, the rest of your life should be a priority over any issue from the past. Cleaning up, staging, cooperating, and generally following best practices might gall someone if it appears to please their soon to be ex, ex but it is also self interest.

The negative attitudes I heard from my colleague agents on how much difficulty I faced with clients like this was understandable from a certain point of view, but the experience made me want to help more people in my client’s situation. The relief of the sellers to have this behind them, the gratitude they had for my work, and the things I learned that I wouldn’t have learned otherwise made me think that this “road less travelled” should be one I frequent.

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