What do you do when you have to say goodbye to the memories held in between the walls of your family home? You wander through the rooms looking at the changes you’ve made over the years, touching that door frame where pencil marks measure the growth of your children. It’s not easy to give all of this up, but sometimes you have to make this decision. The cocoon that you’ve created for your family may be damaged during a divorce, but you can transform the experience into a more positive one, with some assistance.
Two of Halstead Property’s finest real estate experts focus on helping clients who are going through divorce and need that sensitive and more personal approach. Halstead Property, LLC is one of the largest real estate brokerage firms in New York.
Leonard Gottlieb is an Associate Broker with years of experience and many testimonials from clients who appreciate his personal service. In his spare time, Leonard mentors and tutors underprivileged youth.
Lori Winick is a Licensed Real Estate Salesperson with a background in marketing and public relations. A wife and mother of two children, Lori’s caring and supportive approach is appreciated by her many clients.
Lori and Leonard are Real Estate Divorce Specialists™. They understand the trauma of selling the family home. Both Lori and Leonard have been inducted into Halstead’s Platinum and Gold Circles for high achievement. As Certified Negotiation Experts (CNE), they have served their clients well in the highly competitive and challenging real estate market of New York City. Lori and Leonard understand the difficult decisions that clients have to make during a divorce. Their expertise and compassion give Lori and Leonard a unique ability to help clients move on to the next stage of their lives.
First Wives World had the pleasure of speaking with Lori and Leonard about options for selling or staying in the family home when you are going through a divorce.
You are both Certified Real Estate Divorce Specialists. Can you tell us what inspired you to achieve this certification and what it means?
Lori and Leonard: We both have specific experience, training and sensitivities required to help divorcing couples sell their marital home(s) calmly, professionally and profitably. It can be a challenging process on many levels – financially, personally, logistically. And since there are more than 1.2 million divorcing couples every year, about 72 percent of whom are involved in buying or selling a home, there is a clear need for trained sensitive real estate professionals to help these particularly vulnerable people get through this difficult time. Once we saw that there was a training course, we jumped at the opportunity to hone our knowledge and gain the accreditation. Of course, we will continue to explore any educational opportunity that would continue to further our development in this area.
How did you both get involved in real estate? It must be an exciting, fascinating world to work in, especially in the New York City area. You must also love people.
Lori and Leonard: We have been selling residential real estate for a combined 20 plus years with $100 plus million in sales, which means we have worked with many, many buyers and sellers over the years. Our motto is “we know what it takes to get it done, and we get it done no matter what”. The New York City real estate market is a world unto itself – it’s a bit more complicated to complete a transaction than other U.S. markets and is very fast-paced. Never a boring moment!
Plus, it is truly a “people business” where very transaction brings a different group of people together with a different set of needs and challenges. No matter what type of property, this is probably the largest sale or purchase for any buyer or seller and as their agent, we become an important part – a trusted advisor – of their lives. It is enormously satisfying to help buyers find the “the right one” or to help sellers move successfully to the next step of their journey.
Do you work with other divorce experts such as lawyers or Certified Divorce Financial Analysts to help couples who are divorcing work out the difficult task of splitting assets?
Lori and Leonard: While we have specific expertise to help divorcing couples sell their marital home, the best way to protect the seller’s interests and future is for the experts helping them -- financial analyst, attorney, etc. – to work as a team. Since the real estate holdings could be the divorcing couple’s largest asset, how this asset is divided can impact the rest of their lives. So even if we don’t have direct access to the other team players, we always make sure we make our clients aware of the specific issues regarding the division of their real estate and point them in the direction of their attorney or financial planner, for instance, to make sure they are covered.
Do you ever have issues where couples fight over selling the property and how do you work in such a contentious atmosphere?
Lori and Leonard: When working with divorcing couples, we expect that the two parties are not going to see eye-to-eye on the sale of their marital home. They may want to hurry through the process to get it out of the way or limit the amount of interaction they will have with their STBX (soon to be ex). Our job is to be calm and professional. Maybe this means allowing one or the other spouse to vent.
Our main goal is to help the sellers navigate the process so the right decisions are made right from the start. We help them focus on the goals and the process; help them navigate the web of tax and legal implications of selling the marital home; offer alternatives to help them save money as well as make money now and/or down the road; and help them walk away feeling better about one another as it relates to the selling process than they did coming in.
For instance, we had a couple selling their apartment that got an offer and they could not agree to accept it. The wife had a very specific “bottom line” in mind and the husband just wanted to get the apartment sold. We helped them accept the offer by suggesting that the husband give a part of his share to the wife so that she could achieve her target number. In the end, they both felt like they got what they wanted and the sale was successfully completed.
Our homes are everything. They are a place of comfort and memories. It’s where we raised our children and celebrated landmarks in our lives. Having to sell a home during a divorce must be one of the most heartbreaking decisions for a couple to make. Do you ever counsel one partner to buy out the other spouse if they are very attached to their property?
Lori and Leonard: Because we specialize in working with divorcing homeowners, we like to explain that there are several options for them to consider:
- Sell outright
- One spouse buys the other out
- One spouse continues to live in the property until, for example, children go off to college.
For all of these options, there are a variety of issues that need to be explored in terms of equitable distribution of all the marital assets such as capital gains tax. Once all of the financial implications of each choice are explored, they can move forward with the choice that makes the most sense to them.
Selling a home is typically difficult for anyone, whether it is because of a divorce or not, because we all have such a connection and attachment to our homes. It is not like selling a car! For the divorcing couple, since the whole process is such an emotionally difficult time, we try to help them focus on:
- Making the right decisions right from the start so that they can see it will have a positive impact on their future.
- Working with both parties in a calm manner to achieve a smooth selling process that will result in the best price.
- Helping the parties walk away feeling better about one another as it relates to the selling process than they did coming in.
Have you ever come across a situation where a spouse has tried to hide assets, such as a property or pull a fast one? (I used to work as a private investigator and I know that sometimes someone will purchase a property before the divorce and put it in the name of a mistress or family member.)
Lori and Leonard: If this has occurred in the past, they’ve hidden it from us too!
When selling isn’t an option, what percentage of people would you say purchase another property or move to rentals? I assume that many people would have to downsize, or move to a less desirable neighborhood. How do you approach this with your clients? Do some people have unreasonable expectations about giving up their current lifestyle?
We do not really have aggregate numbers on the number of divorcing people who need to move to rentals. However, we can tell you that of the 1.2 million couples estimated to divorce annually (so that is 2.4 million individuals) roughly 72 percent of these are involved in either buying or selling a home as a result of the divorce.
Many buyers and sellers, regardless of their marital status, may not have a clear initial picture of what they can afford, what their home will sell for, etc.
For divorcing couples, it is true that many will have to downsize, move to a different neighborhood or change their lifestyle in some very tangible way. We have been in this business for many years and are very experienced in helping clients find a new home where they will be very happy. Everyone makes compromises. For the divorcing individuals, helping them focus on the positive aspects of their new future and showing them how they can achieve this in a new home is very important.
What is the market like right now? What would you recommend to someone who may have a large mortgage and purchased a property that hasn’t gone up in value? Should one of the spouses try to keep the home, or should they rent it out until the market improves?
Lori and Leonard: Right now, our perspective is that the market in Manhattan is very active. We see a lack of inventory that accelerates the speed at which newly listed apartments sell. We also see this lack of inventory helping to increase sales prices. In addition, we are seeing many bidding wars. From where we sit – all signs of an ascending market.
The decision to sell or not to sell a property may have to be determined either by court decree, mediation or collaborative decision regardless of what the cost of the marital home may have been. In Manhattan, the majority of properties are co-ops that have rental restrictions so renting it to wait out a market may not be an option at all.
Is there a way to make this process less traumatic for someone who has to sell a beloved family home?
Lori and Leonard: We feel the best way that we can help to make the process less traumatic is to discuss the options, process and other considerations as early on in the process as possible. This way, we can offer a road map and review various options before any major decisions have been made. Oftentimes, there will be a delay in selling a property if the sale will disrupt the home where a child is present. One spouse may move out but the home stays as a safe haven until the child leaves for (or graduates) college. In this way, a beloved family home can stay in the family for a little bit longer, making the transition more comfortable for all involved.
Going through a divorce can be a terribly traumatic experience. There are so many issues that have to be addressed and many people who don’t want to face the issues are hoping they will just go away. There are others who lament at the end of the process “I didn’t know what I didn’t know.” Information has to be assessed and decisions have to be made right from the start or it can have significant financial repercussions that affect the individual’s future long after the divorce is complete. Our best advice is to assemble a team – a good team – that will protect you right from the start.
The above comments are the views of Leonard Gottlieb and Lori Winick and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Halstead Property, LLC.
Thank you, Lori and Leonard! We appreciate your vision and your expert advice.
Are you mourning the loss of your family home during a divorce or wondering if you’ll find a place you love just as much? Share your stories in the comment box below.