Valerie Upham: Certified Divorce Real Estate Expert™
Divorce is literally a separation. Something that was once one whole has now become two, and not cleanly. There are jagged edges where the split happened. There are missing shards. There are crumbling parts barely hanging on. At some point after divorce, there becomes a new normal. A chance to heal, and to recoup. In the middle comes mediation, negotiations, and stress. One of the biggest sources of stress can be the house. A home has become an asset, with emotional weight and financial equity attached.
An experienced, unbiased real estate agent can come into a hectic situation, listen for the right clues, and chart a path to a resolution. We’ve seen houses stuck in limbo for years, used as pawns in a chess game headed to stalemate. The ability to unstick the stuck is the prime skill of a top divorce agent. When you’re choosing an agent to work with, focus on expertise. Just like you might not want to be the first patient a heart surgeon practices on, having an under-experienced divorce agent can add stress to an already fiery situation. You need someone who can stand strong, not someone who will be swept away by the chaos of a divorce.
Why Neutrality Matters
There are two sides to every story—and your average divorce has enough stories to fill a book. A neutral agent, trained in how to navigate the rough waters of divorce, is able to create a path to a sold house, with maximum equity to fund life 2.0. The challenge untrained agents face is the tendency to 1) build instant impressions and 2) pick sides. In a traditional sale, the sellers come to the agent as a team, with a united objective. In a divorce setting, the sellers may not like each other. They may not be allowed to be in the same room, and they might be looking for ways to sabotage each other. Divorce-trained agents always listen, always file things away, and always focus on their job—selling the house.
Lawyers vs. Agents
Divorce trained agents know not to drift out of their lane. Lawyers are trained to advocate for their clients, within the bounds of their ethics. Along with coordinating with their clients and the court, agents work with lawyers on both sides, finding points of leverage that allow them to move transactions forward. By focusing on their role and staying neutral, divorce agents are able to stay calm, keep perspective, and steer the process toward where it needs to go.
Consultants vs. Therapists
Divorce-trained agents should look at themselves as consultants. They bring a special expertise to a complex situation. They aren’t therapists, there to make the divorcing parties feel better. That’s not because of a lack of empathy—it’s a practical thing. Once an agent becomes a shoulder to cry on, they lose credibility with the other side. Agents are focused experts, not friends.
Friends & Family
Speaking of friends, that pool of people tends to be a bad group to choose for a divorce agent. In most transactions, it’s natural to choose a friend or family member, or other close member of your sphere, to be your agent. They have built-in trust. Unfortunately, that trust can be a liability in a divorce setting. The trust is never equal, and neutrality goes right out the window. You will not find an equally trusted person. Even if Mother Theresa were a real estate agent, she’d find fault with one side more than the other. And she’s literally a saint.