Is It Better to Sell Your House Before or After a Divorce?

Making a clean break may include wanting to sell your family home. Learn the details that may impact your timing if you are considering a home sale and divorce.
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Ending a marriage changes many things in your life. And one of the things that can change is your residence. It’s not unusual for couples who are divorcing to decide to sell their current home. But once they’ve made this decision, there’s a second one to consider: When to sell? There is no simple, one-size-fits-all answer. Even so, there are some general guidelines that apply for most situations. So here are some tips to help you decide whether it is better to sell your house before or after a divorce. 

If You Try To Sell Your House Before a Divorce, You Are More Vulnerable to the Market 

As you probably know, the housing market in the DFW area these days is pretty hot; some would say the local housing market is red-hot. So generally speaking, it’s a good time to sell. 

But that might not always be the case. What’s more, if you know anything about real estate, you know that location, location, location, is important, important, important. 

So it’s possible that your home may not enjoy the benefits of our hot housing market. You may not get the price you were hoping for. Or you may not get any quality offers, and be stuck with your house for months. And if your settlement calls for the home sale to close before the divorce is finalized, you could be stuck with your spouse as well. 

If You Try To Sell Your House Before a Divorce, It Could Slow Down the Divorce

Selling your home before or after a divorce has significant tax implications and can impact the time your final divorce decree is finished.
Divorce impacts every aspect of your life but dragging it out over a home sale might be one issue you wish to avoid.

If you have ever sold a house before, you know there are a LOT of decisions to be made. But if you and your spouse have not been getting along very well right now, you might find it very difficult to work to make decisions together; you may even find it impossible. 

For example, the two of you will need to agree which things will stay with the house and which ones will go. You’ll also need to agree on (and agree to pay for) repairs and improvements. And you’ll need to agree on how much to list the house for. 

And if you can get past all that, you’ll need to agree on one of the biggest decisions of all: Whether to accept an offer. 

Even for happily married couples, these can be difficult decisions. Now add in the hurt and anger that many people feel during a divorce, and it’s easy to see how messy things can get. Every decision, no matter how small, can become a battle. 

So if you decide to sell your house before a divorce, be aware that any tension between you and your spouse could slow down the sale. And that, in turn, can slow down your divorce. 

A Realtor Can Be Very Helpful 

The right realtor can help you avoid the added stress of having to find a new home during a divorce.

One way to avoid this problem is by hiring a Realtor. This person can advise the two of you on many of these issues, including the listing price, repairs, etc. But there are two potential pitfalls to this plan. For one, the two of you have to agree on a Realtor. After that, the two of you have to be careful not to put the Realtor in the middle of your marital conflict. 

You should keep in mind three other things when deciding whether to sell your house before or after a divorce. 

First, if you sell the home, the two of you will need to agree in advance on how you will divide your property and possessions. This includes, of course, the profits from the sale. 

Second, if the sale proceeds are part of the divorce settlement, you may have to wait until the sale is finalized and the funds have been properly disbursed before you can finalize the divorce. 

The third potential problem: It’s possible your spouse won’t want to sell at all. For each of these situations, you will need more than a Realtor to help you resolve the conflict. We suggest you hire an attorney.

You May Be Able to Sell Your House After the Divorce and Avoid Some of the Capital Gains Tax

If you are worried that selling your house will delay your divorce, there is an alternative option. Your divorce attorney can propose selling the house in the future. In addition to avoiding some of the immediate conflict, this approach also might allow you to protect the capital gains tax exclusion that married couples enjoy. We recommend you speak with an accountant about this. 

If You Sell Before the Divorce, You May be Able to Avoid the Capital Gains Tax

As the IRS knows, being married has many benefits. One of the biggest advantages for married couples is the capital gains tax exemption. If you sell your house while you are still married, the two of you can usually exclude up to $500,000 of the home equity from capital gains. 

Obviously, this is a pretty significant factor. However, it’s a good idea to speak with an accountant or financial advisor about your options. 

If You Sell Your House After the Divorce, It May Be Less Stressful, and More Profitable

Divorce can be exhausting. You may be feeling a range of emotions, including anger, bitterness, and fear. 

But as they say, time heals all wounds—or at least, many of them. If you wait to sell your house until after the divorce is finalized, you and your ex may be on better terms. Your thinking may not be as clouded by emotions. And the two of you may be able to discuss things calmly and work together on the sale of the home. 

In addition, if you wait to sell the house, it is likely to appreciate in value. You’ll be able to pay down the mortgage even further, creating the opportunity for additional profit when you do sell. 

You Could Take a Significant Tax Hit If You Sell Your House After a Divorce

If a house has been your primary residence for at least two years, you can usually exclude your home equity income from the capital gains tax. However, if you wait several years to sell the house, you will probably have to pay capital gains. 

It’s also not uncommon for one person to get sole ownership of the home in a a divorce. But if you sell the home after you’re single, you’re only able to exclude up to $250,000 from the capital gains tax—not the $500,000 amount married couples enjoy. 

As previously noted, you may be able to avoid this tax hit by including provisions for the sale of the house after the divorce is finalized. 

If You Sell Your House Before the Divorce, It Can Be Easier to Prepare for the Future

Although divorce marks the end of your marriage, it’s also the beginning of a new life. By selling your house before a divorce, you will (probably) be entitled to a significant amount of cash. 

You may really appreciate having those funds available. For example, you could use the money to pay for a rental place. Or you may be able to make a down payment on a new home. Regardless of your plan, it can be comforting knowing that you are starting your new life with a decent amount of reserves. 

It Also Can Be Easier to Move On From the Past

Most people have at least some emotional connection to their home. It may be the first house the two of you bought together, or the house where you raised your children. That house may hold a lot of memories—and after the divorce, those memories may be painful. 

Of course, if you have children, the decision can be more complicated. The divorce will cause enough upheaval on its own. Won’t moving to a new house make things even worse? It’s a fair question. 

Every situation is different, but there’s good reason to believe that selling your house before a divorce can cut a big connection to your past. Moving to a new place can be emotionally beneficial for everyone—you, your ex, and for your children. 

The Longer You Wait to Sell Your House, the Longer You Will be Tied to Your Ex

After a divorce, most people want to move on. But if you wait to sell your house, the two of you will remain co-owners of the house, and you’ll have to work together on the logistics of maintaining the home. 

This includes decisions on paying the mortgage and utilities, maintaining the home, and making repairs. This arrangement also can impact your taxes, as you will need to make decisions on how to handle property taxes and mortgage interest tax credits.

In addition, co-owning a home may make it harder for you to buy a new house. The shared mortgage impacts your debt-to-income ratio, an important factor when you apply for a home loan.

So Is It Better to Sell Your House Before or After a Divorce?

When you’re going through a divorce, you’re already dealing with a stack of life-altering decisions. Trying to sell your house before a divorce adds another very big factor to the equation. At the same time, we can clearly see many potential benefits to selling the house while you are still married. 

Ultimately, you and your spouse have to weigh the pros and cons of each option. And hopefully, you can reach a decision you both agree on. 

Our Fort Worth Law Firm is Ready to Provide Expert Assistance with Your Divorce

Even in the best of circumstances, it can be difficult to sell your house. So if you are going through a divorce as well, we encourage you to seek expert advice. A Realtor can help you make decisions about the value of the property, while an accountant can advise you on the potential tax implications. 

And for compassionate, experienced legal representation, contact Sean Lynch + Associates, PLLC. We have a reputation as being two of the best divorce attorneys in Fort Worth and Arlington. We are experts in divorce cases, including division of assets and custody decisions. Just as important, we are upfront about our pricing, so you know in advance what you’ll pay. To schedule a no-cost, 30-minute case consultation, contact our family law practice today, 817-668-5879.


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