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Valuing the Family Home in a Texas Divorce

If someone were to stop you on the street and ask about valuing their family home in a Texas divorce, you’d likely suggest turning to the internet, right? Nowadays, numerous real estate websites offer services to sell your house, search for a new home, or obtain mortgage quotes—all with just a click or tap on your phone screen. When it comes to divorce proceedings in Texas, accurately assessing the value of the family home is crucial for equitable property division. Utilizing online resources to gather information on comparable home sales, property assessments, and market trends can help ensure a fair valuation during the divorce process.

One of the features of websites like these is also to tell you how much your home is worth. Enter your address into their search feature, and it will tell you that your house is not for sale, but it will provide you with an estimate of its value. This is fun if done for entertainment purposes, but does it serve much of a purpose otherwise? Probably not. Using an online resource can likely get you close enough to the actual value of your home, but I wouldn’t trust it if you needed to figure out an official home value for your residence.

You and your attorney must work together in valuing family home if you plan to sell it as part of your Texas divorce. Your attorney should have some suggestions for you. I will go through a handful of sources that you can look to when trying to determine the value of your family home.

Ways to assess your home’s value

First, you can ask a realtor to conduct a neighborhood market analysis as part of valuing your family home for your Texas divorce, which they can do quickly and at no cost. While not advisable for listing purposes, it can provide a quick overview for mediation or informal settlements. Simply send the realtor photos of your home, and they can analyze it without visiting.

Next, you can jump online to the county appraisal district’s website to see what the county values the property as. Wait a minute, you may be saying. Didn’t I tell you not to trust the various online websites that purport to have the inside info about the value of your home? Yes, and no. Yes, I wouldn’t trust the websites that are trying to sell you something in addition to providing you the value of your home.

On the other hand, the county appraisal district is almost always in a position where it lists your value as somewhat conservative- not too high, not too low. These folks go around and review data for the area and, in my opinion, will have a more accurate estimate than the for-profit websites.

Lastly, you can hire a real estate agent to conduct an appraisal. Investing a few hundred dollars in this situation could greatly benefit you, especially if you can split the cost with your spouse. The agent will investigate your area and analyze the sale prices of similar properties, giving you an estimate that you can use in your divorce case. Typically, real estate agents will compare your home to three other similar homes in the area, taking into account factors such as age, number of bedrooms/bathrooms, and lot size.

Will the value of your home be decreased due to “other” costs associated with the home’s sale?

Closing costs, realtor fees, and other miscellaneous costs are a part of the process of selling your home.

However, many clients wonder if these costs will factor into the determination of your home’s value. Will the value of the house decrease by the total amount of these costs?

In my experience, it’s typically no. Assessing the fair market value determines the value of the house.

Closing costs and realtor fees are not something that you can necessarily predict in advance with any degree of certainty. One of the most important reasons is that you cannot be sure exactly when your house will sell. For that matter, you don’t even know how long your divorce will take. Predicting accurately when your home will sell is anyone’s guess.

What about reimbursement claims and your family home?

Reimbursement claims are misunderstood in the family law community. Either that or they are not understood at all. Even if your attorney understands what a reimbursement claim is, can describe what they mean, and you would like to pursue one, they can be challenging to attach value to. The other tricky part of a reimbursement claim is that it is up to your judge whether or not to allow a reimbursement claim.

There are two common scenarios in which a reimbursement claim makes sense to pursue in conjunction with your divorce. In the first scenario, if you own a separate property home where community property funds were used to pay down the mortgage, your spouse may be entitled to a portion of the shared money used for mortgage payments. To support a reimbursement claim, your spouse must demonstrate the amount by which the mortgage principal decreased during the marriage.

Evidence to prove a reimbursement claim

To prove a reimbursement claim, such as the one described above, you would need to provide mortgage statements that can be offered and admitted into evidence. Tax returns can also be helpful if you need to be able to show a specific amount of mortgage interest paid each year. You can use the interest paid as a method to find the principal paid (the original principal minus the current principal minus the interest paid will result in the amount of total principal paid during the marriage).

Improving the value of a property during the marriage results in reimbursement claims

You could also have contributed income towards things that have helped increase the value of the property in question. How much of the house’s value has increased because of the improvement would be the primary way to determine how much reimbursement you or your spouse would be entitled to in the divorce. The tricky part will be proving that the property in question increased a certain amount in value by installing a new roof. There is little question that a new roof or an additional room has added to the house’s worth- to one extent or another. It is different when you talk about specific importance that can be used in a divorce case.

Dividing the house in a Texas divorce

In this blog post, we’ll tackle one of the most straightforward questions about dividing your house in your divorce: How many different ways can you divide it, and what circumstances might lead to implementing those methods?

A judge has multiple ways to go if your house is at issue in a family law trial. First, a family home can be the separate property of either you or your spouse. If either of you owned it before marriage or inherited it during the marriage, then it could be classified as separate property belonging to one of you. The law in Texas is that a judge cannot cause you to lose your property interest in any particular property you own.

As a result of the property being classified as separate or not, either you or your spouse can receive ownership of the house in the divorce. While numerous details accompany this decision, it’s crucial to understand that it’s entirely possible for either you or your spouse to leave the divorce with an ownership interest in the house. Failing to make a mortgage payment on time could result in your spouse coming back into the picture, but otherwise, the property could be yours free and clear after the divorce.

The method of dealing with ownership in the house that attorneys like the best are selling the home. This is the most straightforward method. You do not have to worry about making house payments after the divorce or what to do if you have to foreclose on your spouse for failing to make payments on a mortgage that still bears your name after a divorce. You need to determine each spouse’s entitled portion of the equity and then list the home on the market.

Options for home ownership post-divorce

An uncomfortable outcome of your divorce trial could be that the judge awards you the home, yet grants your spouse the right to remain in the house for a specific period post-divorce. It’s akin to receiving the keys to a car, but the previous owner gets to sit in the backseat for a few weeks and accompany you on the ride. Most people would not be too happy should this be the result of their case, but it is nonetheless a possibility.

The other option that I am aware of is to order that one spouse retain an ownership interest in the home after the divorce concludes while the other gets a judgment in their favor. This money judgment reflects the amount of equity that is their portion in the house. If you receive this type of award, then the court would order your spouse to pay you within a few months or risk facing a lawsuit from you to collect on that part of your divorce decree.

You would be able to knock your spouse’s name off the deed to the home by having him or she execute a special warranty deed in your favor. You would sign over a deed of trust to secure an assumption to your ex-spouse. This allows them to foreclose upon you if you stop paying the mortgage for any reason. Both of you would cover your bases by doing each of these things. Keep in mind that this step is essential no matter which spouse keeps the home. You do not want the liability of having your name on a mortgage you are no longer responsible for. This happens a great deal if your spouse cannot refinance the loan because they cannot meet the credit score or income requirements to do so.

Conclusion

Accurately valuing the family home in a Texas divorce is paramount for achieving equitable property division. While the internet provides convenient access to real estate information, consulting with a qualified appraiser or real estate professional is essential to ensure an accurate assessment. With the complexities of property valuation in mind, couples navigating divorce proceedings in Texas can benefit from thorough research and expert guidance to achieve a fair resolution.

The ins and outs of mortgages associated with homes in a Texas divorce-tomorrow’s blog post topic

We have not even begun to scratch the surface about homes and divorces. For instance- we haven’t shared with you any information related to the home mortgage. Suppose your spouse cannot refinance the home loan after your case is through. The original mortgage would still bear your name, and the lender would hold you accountable if a few payments are missed. What would you do to protect yourself and your credit? Stay tuned tomorrow to find out more.

In the meantime, if you have any questions about the material that we shared in today’s blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free-of-charge consultations six days a week here in our office. We can answer your questions and address your concerns in a comfortable, pressure-free environment.

Our attorneys represent clients in all of the family courts of southeast Texas. Our goals are simple for your case: to represent you and your interests to the best of our abilities and to maximize your position and that of your family about your divorce or child custody matter.

  1. Divorce and Real Estate: Splitting the Family Home
  2. Navigating the Complexities: Determining Ownership of the Family Home in a Texas Divorce
  3. Read this blog post before moving out of the family home in a Texas divorce
  4. Interested in How to Pull Equity Out of Your Family Home After a Divorce? Read This Blog Post
  5. Should you leave your family home before starting a Texas divorce?
  6. What will happen with your family home in a Texas divorce?
  7. Exploring Equity Options in Your Texas Family Home During Divorce
  8. Whether or not to move out of your family home during a Texas divorce
  9. Dividing up the marital home in a Texas Divorce
  10. Impacts on a divorce when you’re not on your home’s deed
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