Anyone who's been through a divorce, even an amicable one, knows that emotions run high and decisions that make both parties happy don't come easily. The same is true when a family of siblings inherits a home and can't come to an agreement on what to do with it. And, often a group of like-minded real estate investors will buy a property to manage as a group.

Couples who are splitting face a variety of issues to settle. For the sake of simplicity, I am going to assume that you and your partner (or partners if you share ownership with more than one person) have decided to sell -- to liquidate the property and move on.  

Get expert representation 

Whether you are selling your marital residence, a family home you inherited, or an investment property that you bought with other investors, it's not a process you should navigate without input from advisors. 

If you are selling because you are dissolving a marriage, read my previous post about selling a home during a divorce. Your very first step should be to talk to an attorney who specializes in divorces. The attorney will advise you, for legal and tax purposes, to sell the house before you file for divorce   

Your second important helper will be a Realtor who all parties agree is a good fit for selling your property. This listing agent should not be a friend or relative of any of the property owners. She is going to be the one person who keeps tabs on all the details as the selling process moves along, and who communicates updates to all parties, usually by group emails and texts, and by documents that can be signed electronically.  

For impartial guidance about the condition of the house and what the property is worth, you could hire both a home inspector and a real estate appraiser. The inspector will help you foresee what could be stumbling blocks to a smooth negotiation with the buyers -- what you need to fix or at least disclose as deficiencies. The appraiser will base his selling price estimate on reliable, current data. These reports will make it easier to decide how to market the property because decisions can be based on hard facts rather than subjective opinions. 

Rather than struggle with FSBO, you'll benefit from the
experience a Realtor brings to sometimes emotional
negotiations. She can be the buffer between the selling 
partners when opinions vary. Photo: CircaOldHouses

Perhaps one of the most troubling consequences of a poorly managed home sale is the loss of goodwill between the parties. Most of us know a family whose previously happy relationships or amicable divorce process came to a halt when heirs to a property or partners in a marriage couldn't agree on whether to sell, rent, or maintain the house. In matters like this, mediation can help. A professionally trained counselor or divorce mediator can help guide the decisions so everyone gets some satisfaction.   

Lastly, it's essential to get financial advice about taxes and financing, and the dispersion of funds. It might be best to designate one spouse or partner or sibling as the point of contact during the selling process. This can help you avoid awkward confrontations in front of potential buyers and your real estate agent. If one of you is going to be living in the home, that person would be the best contact person, the person talking to attorneys, real estate agents, bankers, and tax collectors.  

Make decisions

When a divorce is imminent or a business partnership is ending, it's difficult for one person to assume the mortgage alone, as well as pay carrying costs such as taxes, insurance, utilities, and maintenance. If you and your significant other can't stay under the same roof (and this is common!) it makes sense that the partner with custody of the children stays in the residence. 

Another decision will be the timing of the sale. Do you sell as soon as possible to take advantage of a sellers' market? Do you wait for the best season of the year in your area? Or wait until the youngest child turns 18? Do you do repairs quickly by hiring tradespeople, or do them yourselves? Do you invest in any upgrades? What conveys with the property? Who gets the furniture and expensive assets? 

Level-headed compromise is key to making these decisions. Some of them might require the advice of your mediator or counselor. The sale of a home is something that might end up being disputed in court if you do not handle it right. What's important is that no one act out of spitefulness or pettiness. Take the high road and set an example. Focus on the desired result -- the sale of mutual property so you can both comfortably move on to what's next. 

Stage to sell

Often the home has sentimental value, such as a place where one of you grew up, or a home where you raised a family, or built a successful business. Selling a property like that is difficult, but when it's time to move on, selling it can help you cut the ties and begin a new life. 

Children's rooms can be a challenge to stage and keep 
looking neat for showings and still not confuse or upset children. 
But with the right staging, your home won't be on the market long.  

Staging helps you begin to see your home as a house. Staging helps you disentangle yourself from the past and define yourself in a new way. Staging is the first step to giving yourself closure. If you live in the home to be sold, you have the opportunity to stage it gradually. Good staging calls for both decluttering and deep cleaning, something you'll do in preparation for moving anyway. 

If you are the custodial parent to young children, it's important that you maintain the appearance of a good parent by remaining socially, emotionally, and financially reliable. It also means you and your child or children will have to be ready for showings, and of course, you'll want your home looking tidy and pretty. I've blogged about living in a staged home with children.     

Get the look, get the book

The ending of a marriage or business arrangement represents an especially difficult time for anyone. Divorce and moving are two of life's most stressful transitions. Selling a home that is jointly owned before you file for divorce has many advantages

And staging it so it sells quickly for a price that everyone likes benefits everyone. It can be a cooperative effort if taken step by step and with maturity, patience, and kindness, no matter how much self-discipline that takes!

Having my eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and For Top Dollar, at the ready will smooth the process. It will show you all the shortcuts and tricks that make staging easy and effective. Download it by going here, and start planning your staging now.