A judge will normally do one of three things. Award the house to the Husband, the Wife or order it to be sold. Sometimes it is great to keep the house, other times it’s better to cash out and let your spouse keep the house or sell it and be debt free.
Notwithstanding sentimental value or moving hassle, the main objective is to be sure you don’t lose the value/equity of the house.
So before deciding if you want the home, you need to know what it’s actual (not sentimental) value is.
To determine what the house is worth to you, you will need to know what the fair market value is, and what the outstanding balance, lien and other debts on the house (such as home equity loans) are. Fair market value is what a reasonable buyer would pay a reasonable seller.
The same house may be worth more or less depending on the real estate cycle. For example, in 2008, house values went down. Start with the tax roll or Zillow. You could also call a realtor for a comparable market analysis and learn for what amount other houses in your neighborhood have recently sold. As mentioned, it won’t be the exact number, but it’s a start. Subtract the outstanding mortgage or other debts attached to the house and that is the value.
Now that you have an estimated equity value, you can better determine if you can/want to keep the house and pay your spouse for their portion. Remember, the house is just one piece of the puzzle. Retirement and debt can be traded to make up the difference in equity.
Of course it’s never that simple and there are other considerations, but I’ll leave those details for your chosen professional.
Kelly Koch Attorney at Law
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