Behind every “for sale” sign is a story, and sometimes the story is a sad tale about a marriage that didn’t end happily ever after.
Believe it or not, some real estate agents specialize in divorce. If you are a real estate agent considering this specialty, you have be ready to help home sellers as they navigate the treacherous waters of divorce and the real estate market at the same time.
A house is usually any married couple’s biggest asset. But if the couple is splitting up, it could become their biggest bone of contention. Perhaps you’ve heard the oft-repeated statistic that half of all marriages end in divorce? Turns out it’s true—for first marriages. The rates are even higher for second and third marriages (67 percent and 74 percent, receptively).
That’s why as a real estate agent or broker, it’s just a matter of time before you find yourself listing a property owned by two clients who are going through a divorce. Sometimes their divorce is amicable, which means you can treat them as you would any other client. Other times they are refusing to speak to one another or work together in any way, leaving you in the awkward role of mediator or referee.
Successful real estate agents specializing in divorce share five secrets to smooth out the potentially turbulent transactions:
Secret #1: Own the niche.
A real estate agent specializing in divorce can use the niche to drive referrals. It’s one way to set yourself apart from other real estate professionals. Targeting a specific market helps you get the most for your marketing dollar and networking efforts. Nearly everyone knows someone going through a divorce. If you can establish a reputation as an expert, clients will hear your name.
Secret #2: Be a good mediator.
Agents who specialize in divorce sales see their fair share of unusual client behavior. In some cases there may be a restraining order in effect. In other cases, one of the two clients doesn’t want to sell and will sabotage your efforts. Unlike the couple’s cash assets, the home comes bundled up with emotions and memories. This makes for a sensitive situation that requires some finesse on your part. You’ll have to be a good listener, and you’ll probably hear more than a little bit of venting. You’ll have to have every conversation at least twice—once from his side of things, the other from hers.
Secret #3: Avoid the “D Word.”
Don’t use the word “divorce” on your business cards and other marketing materials. Even when it’s exactly what your clients are going through, they don’t like to see their realtor or agent advertising it. As for the buyers, seeing that you specialize in divorce sales gives them the wrong impression. They may assume that the sale is rushed and that they can get the property at any cost. Even when this is true, you certainly don’t want your buyers knowing it.
Secret #4: When staging, “home sweet home” is the goal.
Even if it wasn’t such a happy home, it’s important that it looks like a happy home. If one partner has been living in the home for a while (and the other hasn’t), do what you can to make the house more appealing to potential buyers who may be happily married (and therefore not wanting to see evidence of a failed union). For example, if only ladies’ clothes are in the master’s bedroom closet, put some men’s clothes in there. And even though the photos of the once-happy couple were probably packed away when the relationship went south, for the sake of appearances they should go back up on the mantle and on the walls.
Secret #5: Draw on your personal experience.
You might find that you’re good at helping others who are going through what you’ve been through yourself. Although it’s generally a good idea to keep your personal and professional lives separate, agents who have been through divorce themselves can work from a place of empathy. Understanding what your clients are going through could make you more effective in your business dealings.
The 360training.com Client Focused Communications course is a three-hour overview of effective client communications that can help you with sensitive client issues such as divorce. Knowing what the market needs and having good communication skills will result in more sales and satisfied clients. Continuing education credit is available in Georgia, Montana, Utah, and Washington.