Representing Divorcing Spouses Means Exercising Extra Due Diligence
One major factor that contributes to homes hitting the market or being transferred is the ugly process of divorce. When marriage problems lead to separation or divorce, the home is usually the largest asset. What will then happen to the home can become a volatile and contentious issue for spouses – which puts you in a sensitive and tricky position?
One spouse may want the home sold immediately, or perhaps one spouse is living in the home while the other is not. In addition, if the home is a matrimonial property both spouses must consent to its sale, just as both spouses should have consented to its purchase and any subsequent refinancing, whether they are on title or not.
There are occasions where other people appear on title that were not initially disclosed to you as the real estate sales professional. This is often the result of one spouse hoping to hurry divorce proceedings along faster than the other spouse may want or may be ready for. These situations require extra due diligence on your part.
Some people believe that because the home is in only their name they can simply sell it. Well, you sure don’t want to show up with your ‘For Sale’ sign only to learn that the other spouse actually lives there, won’t let you in, and won’t let your sign on the front lawn. Some people also think they can sell the matrimonial home without a spouse’s signature… the old, “I’ll take this home for my husband/wife to sign” (not!!).
So how can you identify when a home is a matrimonial? Here are some tips:
– The interview. Ask lots of questions including the client’s marital status. If they indicate they are separated or divorced, ask them if the home is/was a matrimonial property. Most people when directly asked won’t lie. If they do, it doesn’t matter because step two will move you closer to the truth.
– Search homeownership information. In GeoWarehouse you can see who owns the home up to the past month or so. If you want this information up to the date in question you can request a Parcel Register through the GeoWarehouse Store. If there is more than one person on title, then you will need to ask the customer to have the other parties meet with you to obtain identification and sign off on all paperwork.
– Ask the client to bring documents to your meeting – things like utility bills. If other names are on them, ask the client about this. Even if one person shows up on title, two names on a collection of utility bills may be a tip that a separation has taken place.
– If you are visiting or showing a listing – and this one should be obvious – you must be able to gain entry to the home to show the property. If gaining entry is posing challenges there can be two very likely reasons: there is a tenant on the premises or there is an ex-spouse still in the home.
Nothing is fool proof and if a client is bound and determined to hide something from you they may very well pull it off. As a real estate sales professional, the best you can do is to deploy the tools available to you and let your professional experience to guide you through deals that have some hair on them.
For more information about how you can validate homeownership information please visit www.geowarehouse.ca.