For Sale By Divorce: A Real Estate Niche
A separating couple often needs to sell their home to split the money and finalize the divorce. The terrible housing market can make the situation even worse. But there are some real estate agents who specialize in helping such clients move on.
With three kids under the age of 5, Hourieh Mansoori's husband walked out.
"I was confused as to what was happening to me after 10 years of marriage," she says. "You know, you think it's for better or for worse, and he's not there to help me, and I was in basically a confusion state of mind."
Still, she had to put her house on the market — a market in which her neighbors' homes weren't selling. And the house had to sparkle while she packed it up to move from Washington state to Texas.
"At the time when you're going through the most difficult time of your life — ... they call divorce worse than death — to have someone that's there for you and assists you and makes you feel like they're here to help you in every step of the way with selling your house, it's really, it's god-sent," Mansoori says.
Scott Weeda was Mansoori's Realtor. "Really it's a simple, singular goal, and that's to, as efficiently as possible, get to the end of the road, which is the sale of their home," he says.
Weeda says he has learned how to handle these sensitive situations with parting couples.
"I never try to force them to communicate together, which means a lot of separate and duplicate communication, so that neither ever has the impression that I'm trying to force the agenda of one on the other," he says.
He has an office at John Scott Real Estate outside Seattle, which is in itself a sign of success. Many of his colleagues share a general work room.
Most Realtors avoid divorce sales because of all the extra problems that can come up and the high emotion. Sometimes Weeda's clients tell him all the details of a contentious situation.
"My role at that point, when someone needs to get something off their chest, is simply to let that happen. Because if people aren't able to express themselves, then it causes frustration," he says. "And the last thing that I need is for a husband or a wife to be frustrated with me because they are perceiving that I'm not ... that I don't get it."
Some divorce lawyers even refer their clients to real estate agents who specialize in divorce.
"My job is to help people reach agreements in divorce," says Joanna Roth, who practices family law in Seattle. "So, as much as I can, I try to get clients to work with their spouse. And if they're working with a Realtor who has some understanding of what people are going through in divorce, then I think they have a better chance at reaching agreement on the sales price and on the sales terms."
Roth says the Realtor's relationship with the client can go further than the attorney's.
"It's more intimate, in a way, working with people in their houses and helping them go through things and helping them box them up," she says.
Roth says her clients deal with serious emotional upheaval, not only with the divorce but even just with selling the family home.
"My clients typically are hungry for some compassion," she says.
Weeda's empathy comes from personal experience.
"I can honestly look at almost every one of my clients and say, 'I understand what you're feeling right now,' " he says.
Weeda himself divorced two years ago — right when the housing market tanked. He has five kids. It wasn't easy. After the split, he realized he liked helping people who are going through the same thing.
"I felt alone when I was going through it, personally," he says. "And I know that usually if they let me participate how I work best in participating, they won't feel alone in the process. And that's important to me."
And then, Weeda says, his clients can finally move on.
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