Divorcing and Want to Keep the House?
Separate emotion from your financial well-being and make a new plan
During a divorce, it can make all the emotional sense in the world to want to hold on to the house. You love it. You don’t want to add to the tumult younger kids already feel by adding a disruptive move. You simply can’t imagine uprooting.
But holding on to the home can be financially risky. Sure, your lawyers will work with you to come up with an equitable split of assets if you keep the house. That’s not the main problem. It’s everything that comes after the divorce.
Can you afford to refinance? If the home isn’t paid off, you will need to take out a new mortgage. Everything peachy with your soon-to-be ex? Perhaps you’re (both) thinking it’s no problem to just keep the existing mortgage? That’s setting you up for problems down the line. Your relationship may change. And it leaves you legally exposed to each other: If your ex gets sued, the home could be exposed.
Are you relying on alimony to keep the house? If you can’t cover all your housing costs from your own income, think twice about staying put. What if your ex loses a job? Or falls behind in payments?
Do you really have the cash flow to handle taxes, insurance and maintenance? Property tax is an especially big issue if you live in a state with high income tax and home values. The tax reform package that went into effect in 2018 sharply limits the total amount of state and local taxes you can deduct on your federal return. That effectively has raised the cost of home ownership in pricey states with pricey homes.
Will it be affordable in retirement? If you are within 10 or so years of retirement, you need to think long and hard about this. Yes, there are reverse mortgages, but taking out a reverse mortgage in your 60s or early 70s because you can’t otherwise afford to keep the home is a sign that you in fact can’t afford to keep the home.
Agreeing to sell the house today could do wonders for your later years. If you downsize, you can reduce your living costs, and perhaps your share of a home sale can plump up your retirement savings. Let’s say the two of you sell the big house, you’re able to downsize, and you pocket $100,000 to invest. At 7% compounded annually, you’d have roughly $195,000 more in savings in 10 years.
Given all the moving pieces you will be considering, it can be helpful to get an expert’s insight on how best to think about keeping or not keeping the home. A certified divorce financial analyst is trained to help you – and your divorce attorney – understand how decisions made today will play out in the future.