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Keeping the house and related property concerns in divorce

If you are a woman facing divorce, you may think that you want to keep the marital home as part of the settlement. Many women do.

However, dealing with real property in a divorce proceeding is not a simple matter. You need to know what your home is worth, so the first step is to hire a real estate appraiser.

Comparing area sales

To establish a value for your home, your real estate appraiser will examine comparative sales close by. The more recent sales will provide a good idea of current market conditions in the area and enable the appraiser to determine your home’s fair market value.

How amenities contribute

Certain amenities or unique features may or may not contribute to a home's value. For example, the value of a swimming pool may be less than the cost of installing it. If your property has a feature unique to the neighborhood, such as a stable, a hothouse for exotic plants or a four-car garage, the judge hearing your divorce case may order another appraisal by an independent real estate appraiser.

The retrospective appraisal

After the wedding, perhaps you moved into the home your spouse owned. At that time, there was no appraisal. In light of the pending divorce, there may be a gain in market value, owing in part to improvements you and your spouse made using marital funds. You need to know how much your home was worth in the past to arrive at the current fair market value. An appraiser will, therefore, perform a “retrospective” appraisal.

Rethinking the idea

The marital home is not a liquid asset, unlike a savings account or a retirement account. You may want to explore the notion of selling the home and splitting the profits with your soon-to-be-ex. If you sell the home for more than your spouse paid to buy it, be aware that state and federal capital gains taxes may apply. You will only realize a net gain after taking care of taxes and selling costs. Seek legal guidance to help you make the right decision about keeping or disposing of your marital home.

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