Unless you have met me or read my profile on LinkedIn you probably aren’t aware that my original career was as a solicitor and, more latterly, a family law specialist. I  dealt with separation and divorce including the financial arrangements. I’ve seen the impact and difficulties of selling what has been the former family home. So selling property in this scenario has a particular resonance for me. This month’s Blog is rather different to usual in that it deals with the sale of a property in this specific situation.

Emotion

When I talk about home staging, I frequently talk about the impact of emotion when it comes to selling your property. This is never more a factor than when the sale is as the result of separation. Separation is devastating even when both parties are in agreement that it’s the right thing to do. There is the emotion around the separation itself but it also there are the memories that the property contains which can be a mixture of good and bad – the happy moment from the past and possibly more painful ones in the more recent past so in this particular blog I wanted to talk about home staging in the situation where the decision has been made that the family home has to be sold. Of necessity, there is a degree of generalisation in what follows. 

 

Box of eggs with faces painted on them showing different emotions
Living room with boxes packed ready for moving

Living Arrangements

When parties separate, typically there are two options for the living arrangements until the sale completes. One option is that one party remains living in what was the family home whilst the other moves out. One party might have relocated for work, moved in with a new partner or the parties have simply agreed that this is a better for them. The second typical arrangement is that both parties remain living in the family home until sale. This might be the case where the parties remain on good terms, to meet the needs of children or it could be because finances or other practical reasons require it to be so. Each of these situations presents its own challenges which I will come onto later.

 

Speed Of Sale

Whenever the reason for a sale is a separation, and whatever the living arrangements pending sale, speed of sale will always be a very important factor. Either or both parties maybe relocating, the fact of the jointly owned property is an ongoing tie between the parties and, ultimately, neither party is able to move on with their future until the property is sold. The parties are in limbo and, particularly if they remain under the same roof, there are stress and strains. It is important, if you are selling in this particular situation to focus on the future and what life will be like once the property is sold, don’t let emotion get in the way.

Estate Agent For Sale sign with Sold slip
Image of Sterling currency notes

Maximising Your Sale Proceeds

No matter why we’re selling a property we always want to achieve the best possible selling price. Aside from practical reasons, it’s human nature. Achieving the best possible sale price assumes even greater importance when the sale is as the result of separation. The reality is that, if both parties need to re house, you are trying to create two pots from one. Whether it’s buying a new property or renting, normally every penny counts no matter what your budget, so you want to do everything you can to make your property attractive so that it interests as many potential buyers as possible, which will result in more and higher offers.

The Reluctant Seller

In a previous paragraph I alluded to certain issues that might arise in the context of the sale following separation and now wish to refer to a few of these. One arises where one party remains living in the former family home whilst the other has moved out. Sometimes, although the fact of a sale has been agreed, the person who remains living in the property literally does not want to sell or has no incentive to make an effort with the sale. This might manifest itself in the person not maintaining the property in good decorative or physical repair or clean and tidy. They might be difficult when it comes to accommodating viewings of the property. They make excuses for why viewings aren’t convenient and are generally as obstructive as possible.

Black and white image of unmade bed
Image of a corded open plan room

Living Arrangements If Sharing

If both parties have remained living in the former family home then this again can present practical difficulties. The parties are likely to have made changes to how rooms and areas in the property are used in order to allow them to be as independent as possible. This can result in rooms appearing to lack purpose, be cluttered or generally untidy. It can adversely impact on the flow and the general presentation of the property and its appeal both in the marketing materials and when viewings take place.

Removal Of Furniture

When one of the parties has moved out they may have taken some of the furniture with them, so rather than a problem of clutter you are left with the property that appears to be part furnished. It is even worse if what has been taken is part of a suite of furniture, maybe half a set of dining chairs or a single bedside cabinet. What remains is an incompletely furnished property. The challenge then is how to reposition and/or replace those essential elements.

 

Image of room with bed without bedding
Image of two cups of coffee on a table

Strategy For Selling

Selling as the result of a separation requires a very specific approach. On other occasions I’ve mentioned the issue of mindset, psychologically accepting the fact that there has to be a sale and regarding your property as an asset that you are selling. In the context of the separation, the key for me, is the need for collaboration. I am a big supporter of the concept of collaborative law where the parties and their legal advisors work together to find solutions that are acceptable to both parties. Even within the traditional legal framework accepting, even if through gritted teeth, that cooperating in relation to the sale of the property is in everybody’s interest ultimately, is very important. Counselling can be hugely beneficial.

The Role Of Home Staging

So what is the relevance of home staging when selling as the result of a separation? It comes back to the idea of maximising the potential in your property that, in turn, helps you to sell quickly and to achieve the best possible sale price. Those two elements either together or on their own, then enables each of the parties to move on and to look to the future. Staging your property, combined with professional photography, ensures that your property stands out from the crowd when potential buyers are scrolling through property portals and social media.

 

Image of bedroom with desk
Image of a female sat at a table outdoors writing

Practicalities

Staging an occupied property always starts with an assessment of what is already there. How can the existing contents be used in the best possible way? The next stage is assessing what is missing and how can it be provided. In any situation, but especially in these circumstances, I will be looking for cost-effective solutions, and there are a number of these which I utilise. 

Summary

Selling a home is always a challenge and selling due to a separation is particularly challenging. There is another level of emotion involved and a number of unique factors that arise such as what the living arrangements for the parties will be. These arrangements present their own hurdles and require cooperation between the parties. Whilst always important, achieving a quick sale and the best possible selling price have an additional significance when selling in the circumstance of a separation. Staging the property for sale represents an investment in the future of both parties and assists with both the aims referred to.

If you would like to learn more then call me on 07745 876182 to arrange a free no-obligation chat. I cover the Wirral, Cheshire and North Wales