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The Odd Couple: Divorce and Home Inspection

by Chicago Agent

James ClarkBy James Clark

It’s a sad fact of life that bad things happen to good people. Having a marriage end in divorce is something people never imagine will happen to them, but with the divorce rate so high you are bound to encounter a client going through a divorce. It is difficult when you spend so much time getting to know your clients and helping them find their dream home, only to get word that they are looking for divorce attorneys.

Typically, in divorce situations the wife keeps the house and the kids so that they can stay in their own school. The husband buys a smaller place for himself using the pension fund as his half of the marital assets. However, is this the wise thing to do? As a Realtor, you might be approached about this topic more often than you think. It’s helpful to know the facts in order to assist your clients through this difficult time.

What if the wife can’t make the mortgage payments after learning she has to put a new roof on the house? If the husband’s name is still on the deed, then he’s financially responsible for the home, and now both of their credit ratings are at risk.

After the divorce is decreed it is difficult to undo your clients’ financial entanglements. Your clients in this situation must be thorough in divorcing themselves from the house before divorcing each other. This is where we can all be of help.

Of all investments, the house is typically the largest in a family’s list of assets. However, historically it has received the least amount of due diligence and the true value of the home has been typically overstated. The appraiser is brought in to find the assets of the property: attractive building, large rooms, etc. This is all good information, but it is only half of the story. What has been missing is an accurate evaluation of the liabilities of the home.

• Are the furnace, air conditioner and water heater aged and in need of replacement?
• Are there plumbing leaks in the crawl space that haven’t been discovered?
• Is there a long list of minor repairs that should be noted and fixed before they choose to either keep the home or put it on the market for sale?

These are only some of the questions your clients may have about the true condition of their home and they should have these answered by an unbiased home inspector before moving forward with a divorce. The inspector can give them an accurate assessment of the home’s systems and components, giving your clients the peace of mind to move forward with their deliberations.

Even if the proper precautions are taken, the home can still become a point of dispute in court. In that situation, your clients will need a home inspector who has been trained as an expert witness and who can plead on their behalf. The Collaborative Continuing Education Council Inc.’s Web site, divorcethishouse.com, can help the troubled couple find valuable information about the many professionals that can help. They provide training for real estate agents as well as a list of trained inspectors.

Adding this training and network of other professionals to your arsenal will help you become that much more useful to this special segment of your client base. Not only will you be able to help your clients get through a tough situation, but they will also remain viable as future clients – a win-win scenario for everyone.

James Clark, president of True Blue Home Inspections, is an Illinois licensed inspector, ASHI Associate, Environmental Associates Certified Inspector, E.I.F.S. Certified Inspector and a Designate Inspector for Divorce This House Inc. He can be reached at 773.465.5688 or by e-mail at jim@trueblueinspections.com.

Copyright 2009 Agent Publishing LLC

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