As a real estate agent (and a female one), I do regularly meet with cases where a married couple decided to get a divorce and move on with their separate lives.
Roles of a Real Estate agent in a divorce case
As an agent, it is not me to decide who is right or wrong. It is also not me to take sides. Instead, it is on me to ensure that the correct property sale and subsequent purchase process and procedures are followed smoothly so that both parties can move on. To do that, it is always necessary to deal with both husband and wife (and sometimes playing the middleman) and to always be fair and be professional with both parties. And to take care of both interests as technically both are my clients.
The case of a smooth HDB sale for divorce
I would like to share a recent case which is quite smooth to show that, given the right conditions, divorce cases are not necessarily the messy deals that one is led to believe. The clients’ attitudes and positions are important.
I met Ms B (who was 45) as she was one of my potential buyers for an unit that I was marketing. I hence came to know of her impending divorce and that was the reason why she came to see my unit. She needed a place for her and her children to stay after the divorce. While emotions do run high in such situations (I am a human too) but then as an agent, I needed to focus on the hard facts. I found out that she has not sold her matrimonial home yet as she was not clear on the process. She also needed me to ensure the ex-husband to be was in line with the sale.
I then met Mr A (her soon to be ex-husband who was 49) separately to understand the terms of divorce and whether he is agreeable to the sale of the flat. He was ambivalent about the divorce and was very cooperative about the sale too.
As the HDB flat they owned was a major part of their matrimonial assets (and isn’t that the case for most of us, the mere mortals in Singapore), it was critical we handled this sale properly to enable them to cash out their matrimonial home.
They can then use the cash proceeds and the CPF refunds to plan for their next home and move on from there.
Key points that made the process easier
Two key points here. They have started the divorce proceedings with the lawyers and had obtained the “interim judgement”. They have agreed to sell the house and to share the proceeds. They will also share the costs of the sale (including agent fees). It was good to get these facts right first.
The children will be under the custody of the mum. In most divorce cases, this might be important but not in this case. Both parents are over 35 years old so there was no need to form a family nucleus in their own separate purchase of re-sale HDB flats.
Pro-tip : Please don’t call them Mr and Mrs So and So. Make sure to address the husband as Mr (surname) and the wife as Ms (maiden surname). Life has moved on…. so we should not make it more difficult.
The process of selling the matrimonial flat
I proceeded to help them to sell their HDB flat. We submitted an intention to sell in HDB resale portal.
At this point, you might ask “Hang on. They have not yet completed the divorce. Does the fact that the stage of divorce is only “interim judgement” matters ?”
The answer is “Nope. It does not”. They are selling the flat as a couple (that was in full agreement of the disposal of their matrimonial home). The flat was already past the Minimum Occupation Period (MOP) of five years. HDB will not bother or know that they are selling due to a divorce. It is as if they are still married and selling the flat for future moves.
The completion of the sale of matrimonial flat
We sold the place after two months and once that sale was confirmed by the exercise of the Option to Purchase (OTP), Mr A and Ms B proceeded to find their own places.
They will buy their own places with the normal resale process. Careful timeline planning such that CPF refund from the sale of the HDB flat will come in before the completion of the purchase was needed. Ask your agent if you need help on this.
In terms of the “ease” of this process (I don’t like this word as no divorce is easy but I am referring to the ease of the sale and completion), these are key points which you can consider to assess the complexity of a HDB matrimonial home sale in your own case.
- The divorce was amicable in nature and this helped a lot for both parties in terms of process (such as submission to resale portal, signing of OTP, sharing of costs of sale etc). The agent might also have an easier life but the benefits were on the parties involved
- Both were above 35 years old which made the next move easier. That is assuming both are buying HDB resale flats. If not, the custody of children does matter as it allows the one who had a family nucleus to buy the HDB resale flat (or even a HDB new flat). If the party is buying a private property, it will not matter.
- The property has past the Minimum Occupation Period (MOP) and hence no problem with the sale of the matrimonial home. Else HDB will get involved and it can get very complicated.
- The property was sold for a very good price as it was in a good location. This allowed them to have enough to buy two separate places (“de-coupling” in a sad way).
I was sad about the divorce but was glad the process went smoothly and they can both moved on with their lives.
Do talk to a professional real estate agent if you are, unfortunately, in a similar position. Divorce cases can be complicated, especially when a HDB flat is involved. It is important for yourself (and your children) to get professional help.