Property and divorce with Zoopla

Originally published on 9th October 2023 at 9:42 AM
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Normally, the biggest priority when a couple separates is sorting out where they will live and dividing any property. We understand that when you go through a divorce and property feels like something that must get sorted straight away; make sure you're emotionally ready to deal with it before jumping head-on into, what can seem like quite a complex process.

There are two main ways that couples can own a property together; joint tenants or tenants in common .

Joint tenant:

  • If you're a joint tenant, you jointly own the whole property. If you choose to sell the property, you split the property and any proceeds you earn from it 50-50.
  • If one of you wishes to remain in the property, they'll need to buy out the other one's 50% share.
  • Joint tenancy is a good option if you're both putting in the same amount of deposit, splitting the mortgage and the bills equally.
  • However, it can become complicated in a separation if one person feels they've contributed more than the other.

Tenants in common:

  • This is where you can enlist a solicitor's help to agree on how much of the property each party owns.
  • If one of you contributes more to the deposit and mortgage costs, you can choose to reflect this in how the ownership is split. This can be changed at a later date if one of you starts contributing at a higher level.
  • This arrangement is more common for a cohabiting couple or friends and it’s recommended that you have a cohabitation agreement or a declaration of trust drawn up.

Zoopla’s research:

According to Zoopla’s research over a third of home-owning couples are forced to live together after they split – for an average of over a year

  • 1 in 8 who remain living with their ex are forced to continue sharing a bedroom with them
  • 15% say their ex-partner made things awkward by starting a new relationship whilst still living together – even having their new flame stay over for the night
  • 13% of couples found themselves involved in a standoff – with neither prepared to move out
  • A third of people had no savings at all when they broke up - but a fifth planned ahead by having an ‘escape fund’ – a secret bank account, specially to allow them to start over after a split
  • 42% of married respondents say it took them longer to get out of their joint mortgage than it did to get a divorce

Daniel Copley, consumer expert at Zoopla says:

“Buying a home with a partner is a wonderful, exciting experience. But if the worst does happen and you split up, it’s going to be awkward if you’re forced to remain living with them. There’s also no getting away from the fact that breaking up is expensive, from having to shell out for a new place, to penalty charges for ending a mortgage early."

“But people can take steps to plan ahead. If you can, save up some money that will allow you to leave the home for a while after a breakup and cover key, immediate expenses. I’d also strongly encourage homeowners to protect their share in a property through legal avenues such as a deed of trust. This allows those who jointly purchased a home to protect their share of the investment - money they can then use to get back on their feet. We’ve also created a guide that shares advice on how to navigate dealing with a jointly owned home in the case of a breakup. It’s also important to understand the value of your home as this is going to have a large impact on both of your future finances. Zoopla is able to give an instant estimate of this, as well as allowing you to book a full valuation from an estate agent.”

Getting your property valued:

It’s important to be mindful of your local market, as well as the wider market.

It’s likely that the value of your property will fluctuate and is unlikely to be the same cost as when you bought it. Two-thirds of homeowners have seen their house prices rise over the last 12 months, but that depends on your local market.

Step 1: Get an estimate of what your house is worth

You can get an estimate of what your house is worth in several ways, however, Zoopla have an instant valuation tool that will give you a strong estimate of what your home could be worth in the market.

Step 2: Get a valuation from an estate agent

Speak to a local estate agent to get a more specific valuation for your area. Zoopla has a tool where you can find the right local estate agent for you. Speaking to several agents will give you a more accurate picture of the value of your property.

Tip: Balance estate agent fees with their specialism and the kind of properties they’re used to dealing with, so you know that the valuation is accurate, especially within the context of a separation or divorce.

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