How to choose the right real estate agent in a divorce

Your instincts are better than you might give yourself credit for

It's a known fact that divorce is one of the most stressful and unpleasant events that one may face in a lifetime. As if the emotional aspects are not enough, there could be children, pets, finances, division of assets and potential relocation, to mention a few, to deal with all at once.

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As with any important business case, screening and investigating your options for a real estate agent is critical to a successful outcome, particularly with such a delicate circumstance as divorce.

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A careful interviewing process will reveal a variety of styles and personalities, all of which is important, but nothing will be more important than finding the person you can trust who understands and hears you, and who will protect you and accommodate you every possible way.

I recommend you begin the process by reminding yourself that your instincts are better than you might give yourself credit for.

FILE - In this July 22, 2019, file photo a sale pending sign stands in front of a house in North Andover, Mass. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola, File)

When interviewing an agent, ask yourself whether you have seen the agent active in the neighborhood for years. Talk with friends and neighbors, and read the agent's online reviews.

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Next, speak with your trusted advisers including your attorney, tax consultant or CPA, financial planner or banker for another referral.

Avoid hiring a friend, someone you know from the gym or yoga class, or a personal relative. Although this might feel like the most obvious direction to go in or an obligation, it is not a wise choice. You never want to feel guilty or obligated.

A good agent has handled many divorce sales and knows how to handle the question "Why are they selling?" with complete confidentiality but without telling a lie.

Keep your business totally private from everything else.

The agent you choose needs to be acceptable to both spouses and, therefore, needs to show a track record of staying neutral during a transaction.

You need to feel 100 percent comfortable knowing that your agent will be conscious and considerate of your personal duties, family schedules, nap times, health issues, dinner hour, children, pets and study schedules.

The agent needs to be flexible to navigate last-minute schedule changes with no attitude. And then there's resourcefulness. There's a difference between an agent providing a list of referrals for a painter or handyman and an agent who personally arranges and meets a painter or handyman, and oversees a necessary job through completion.

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Most important is an agent who communicates particularly well, again without showing favoritism. Both spouses must feel comfortable that the agent is not on the other person's side. A spouse who has already moved out deserves equal feedback and is often overlooked, making him or her rightfully angry.

The "out" spouse should not need to initiate inquiries about the showing and open house activity.

Each party deserves exceptional and equal handholding thought the process.

A good agent has handled many divorce sales and knows how to handle the question "Why are they selling?" with complete confidentiality, but without telling a lie.

The agent may need to jump in at times and double as a mediator, always being diplomatic and considerate of everyone's pride and emotions.

The agent must also be fully prepared to communicate with them individually. Neither one should ever feel in the dark. If one of them feels slighted or to a disadvantage, patience and diplomacy are the first order of business, no matter how much time it might take for everyone to feel comfortable.

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Should a spouse feel (imagined or not imagined) that something is going on behind their back, all bets are off, and the trust once built will likely be quickly destroyed. This is where an agent's integrity, experience and understanding of psychology and emotion are huge. The agent should be ready to comfortably manage misappropriated anger and even an occasional tantrum.

Finally, both spouses need to feel 100 percent confident and assured that their agent is a great negotiator who will get top dollar.

Most divorcing couples are extremely price- and expense-conscious, knowing that the divorce process can be financially depleting and that all proceeds will be split, with each needing enough money to start a new life.

Finding separate places to live is very expensive; the agent must not only keep that in mind at all times but also be prepared to offer exceptional hands-on assistance to find affordable housing and finalize the process.

All of this is why it is extremely important to interview carefully. The agent must be able to wear many hats and manage all these moving parts. Check reviews carefully, and be sure the agent has an excellent and proven track record for handing people in divorce.

Ron Wynn has been among the top 100 agents in America for over 10 years, as noted on REAL Trends/Wall Street Journal. Ron has represented over 2,200 sales totaling over $1.5 billion in sales volume in his 30-plus-year career as a real estate broker in California.

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