This article was originally published in Real Estate Agent Magazine Twin Cities, written by Charity Malmberg, Founder and President of Trademark Title
Today, more than ever, understanding how to serve clients who have been recently divorced or are getting a divorce is very important. Around 50 percent of marriages end in divorce and there are nearly 2,400 divorces per day, so if you haven’t run across it yet, you probably will soon.
Though it may not be a fun topic, knowing how to handle the finer details of divorce with your clients and help protect their nonpublic personal information, is key to setting yourself apart as a trusted real estate professional. Take a moment to educate yourself on what you can do for your divorced clients and how to go about it in this tender time.
Is A Divorce Decree Really The Only Way?
Unfortunately, many divorce attorneys are still only drafting a divorce decree that spills all the hidden secrets of the marriage dissolution, such as alimony, child support, childrens’ names and dates of birth, credit cards and debts owed. All of this private and personal information is out there on a document now and used for real estate transactions. But there could be a better way. Instead, having a summary of real estate disposition drafted could be the better option for keeping your clients’ personal information private when it comes time for them to sell their property.
So, What Is a Summary of Real Estate Disposition Judgement
A summary of real estate disposition judgement (SREDJ) includes the different parcels of property, along with the who is awarded which portions of the property. It also includes liens, mortgages, encumbrances or other interests attached to a property and who is responsible. For example, if Suzi and Jonny are splitting, they may both receive a certain percentage of their home’s sale cost and a certain percentage of their cabin’s mortgage. While the disposition includes these elements, it does not list a lot of other personal and private information unnecessary to the transaction.
What You Can Do as the Listing Agent
Though it may seem awkward to bring up divorce or ask about future plans, as a listing agent part of your job is to really get to know your clients and their plans for after a home is sold. Because legal documents can take weeks to complete (and homes are selling like hotcakes!) it’s your responsibility to have these conversations early on. Even before a home is listed, sit down with your clients and have a conversation about their future intentions.
Here are a few tips on how to smoothly navigate the personal topics
1. Introduce your intentions for the conversation.
Remind your clients that as their real estate agent, it’s your job to help your clients and ensure the safety of their personal information, and that part of that is asking some personal questions.
2. Gently ask.
Simply ask your clients if a divorce has happened or is in the works. Do not beat around the bush or use confusing language.
Hopefully at this point you already have their trust and they’ve told you their future plans for their property. If this is the first time you’re hearing that a divorce is in the works, be ready to listen without judgement and respond only when your clients are finished speaking.
4. Explain the SREDJ process.
If your clients are indeed in the process of getting a divorce or will soon be divorcing, let them know that you are here to help them in this process. Explain they may want to have an attorney draft a summary of real estate disposition as a more private way to ensure all property/liens/mortgages go to the right people. Also explain that the SREDJ needs to be drafted by the time closing takes place and needs to have either a judge or court admin sign off on it. Let them know this may take weeks to complete.
We Are In This Together
Remember to work with a trusted title company, one that will be in this process with you. You need to ensure free and clear title to the property for the new buyer, and with a divorce, you’ll need to either have the divorce decree or the SREDJ on hand to do so. Though these conversations may be awkward in the moment, it can save your clients time and heartache down the road and will help ensure a smooth transaction between buyer and seller.