A divorce realtor and a collaborative divorce lawyer sit down to lunch one day. The attorney is interested in partnering with the realtor when her clients decide to sell the marital home as part of their divorce process. So she wants to know more about the realtor himself, as well as his approach to the services he provides to his clients, especially in the context of the collaborative divorce environment.
Their drinks arrive. They place their orders and, as they await their food, the attorney dives right in.
Joryn, taking a sip from her iced tea, poses the question she sees as most critical. “So, Rande, who exactly are your clients in the divorce context? How do you deal with the fact that you have two owners who are in the middle of dissolving their relationship with each other?”
Rande, smiling, responds, “Good question, Joryn. But the answer is simple; both the divorcing spouses are my clients.”
Joryn, surprised, exclaims, “Wow! Doesn’t that feel like a conflict for you?”
Rande nods, and acknowledges, “It’s not easy, but I get around the potential for conflict pretty successfully. I create a sense of neutrality between the two from the get-go so that neither feels that I’m favoring one’s goals over the other’s interests. We make decisions in a more theoretical atmosphere before anything gets heated.“
Joryn is intrigued. “That sounds like the same approach we use in the collaborative process, establishing client goals before we start in the hard work of actually problem-solving the issues between them and brainstorming their solutions.”
As the waitress arrives and slips their plates before them, Rande leans intently across the table, making his point, “You’re exactly right; it works precisely the same way. I ask all the questions up front so that we’ve already made decisions before the hard work starts. Then we can refer back to them when the conflicts start to arise.” He continues, “So, for example, I pay for an independent broker’s price opinion of value before we even talk about setting their sales price.”
Joryn asks, “What’s that?”
Rande explains, “It’s what I call a ‘lighter weight appraisal.’ Appraisals don’t necessarily tell you what the place is going to sell for, usually can’t account for floor plan, the true condition of the property, its actual location on the street. They don’t consider the importance of the speed of the sale or the price. All of these would be taken into account in a BPO.”
When Joryn looks quizzical, Rande enthusiastically continues, “Appraisers tend to be more conservative. They give you a fair market value, i.e. what can we get for it if we have to sell it, not what’s the most we can get if we can afford to wait. Sellers in a divorce may have different interests from a bank getting an appraisal. And, of course, as the realtor, I have to account for both sellers’, both spouses’ interests.”
“So who makes the decisions?” Joryn asks, raising her eyebrows. “Who decides what repairs to make? What if you recommend upgrades? You do that, right? Maybe replacing the tile helps the house to sell quicker for a better price?”
Rande finishes chewing and responds, thoughtfully, “Minor decisions I try to get the parties to agree on up front. I remind the spouse who doesn’t have to make these decisions that he or she should be grateful to the other for assuming the burden of making them, rather than jealous or critical. Again, I try to set that up from the beginning. Who’s deciding and/or paying for lawn care, for pool maintenance, for housecleaning, for staging or for editing. . . .”
He continues, without pausing, “Who’s coordinating the showings if both are still in the house? There’s always an underlying element that one of them doesn’t really want to sell the house, so, if there’s a resistance, if I’m able to agree up front on who’s responsible for that, we can keep focused and on track when issues do come up.”
Joryn looks down at her plate, pondering her next inquiry. “Let’s say you’ve gotten through the staging or editing process and the showings and all that angst. Now you’ve gotten an offer. What if the sellers disagree about accepting it?”
“That’s why communicating with the attorneys in the conventional courtroom case, and the facilitator in the collaborative process, is so very important. Sometimes the sellers aren’t able to communicate their real concerns in the moment because they’re stressed. But their professionals can.”
Rande concedes this hardball with another nod. “Go back to what I told you initially. I commit the spouses to a plan at the beginning. I present the range of prices that they might receive and we settle on that range, i.e. that both spouses agree on at the outset. That way it’s easier for both to accept an offer because the parameters have already been set and I need only remind them of that.” He settles back in his seat, his plate clean. “Recall it’s not just the price on the house, but also the timeframe on the sale, the assurance that the sale will go through, etc. all the other interests that these two sellers may have identified at the front end for me. And the interests of the attorneys in getting their clients to the finish line with the least cost, the least amount of stress, and in the shortest time frame as possible.”
Rande makes his point, “That’s why communicating with the attorneys in the conventional courtroom case, and the facilitator in the collaborative process, is so very important. Sometimes the sellers aren’t able to communicate their real concerns in the moment because they’re stressed. But their professionals can.”
Joryn asks one last question. “Is it easier to sell the home before or after the final judgment of divorce?”
Rande, answers without thinking. Obviously, he’s answered this question innumerable times. “Before, because if the equity to be distributed between the spouses is a known quantity (i.e. after taxes, after broker’s fees, after title insurance, after closing costs), it can be divided and put into their equitable distribution. If the sale is to be after the divorce, the professionals are just guessing on these numbers.” He explains, “There’s always animosity after the fact. Did my spouse hold out for enough money? Did my spouse sell too cheap? Did the remaining spouse (the one who took the house in her column) get more money than was equitable? All of these issues just increase the after-divorce anguish and ire, and make it more difficult for these spouses to get along, which, if they have kids, they need to do.”
Then Rande adds, before Joryn can even inquire, “Are both spouses responsible for signing off? Usually yes. Even if one of the spouses doesn’t have her name on the title, the title insurer will still require her signature. However, they don’t have to be in the same room signing at the same time. So I try to make it as comfortable as I can for both my clients. That’s my job. That’s what I do. I get my clients to the finish line with as little angst as possible.”
Joryn grabs the check before Rande can and, smiling broadly, states, “Rande, I am so looking forward to working with you!”
About this week’s featured authors: Rande Friedman and Joryn Jenkins.
Joryn, attorney and Open Palm Founder, began her own firm here in Tampa after a 14-year career in law while also serving as a full-time professor in law at Stetson University. She is a recipient of the prestigious A. Sherman Christensen award, an honor bestowed upon those who have provided exceptional leadership to The American Inns of Court Movement. For more information on Joryn’s professional experience, take a look at her resume.
Rande Friedman, a White Glove House Realtor, is an accomplished real estate agent. He has over 10 years of experience in the industry, with a strong focus on helping divorcing people with their real estate needs. Being an affiliated member of the Hillsborough County Bar Association allows Rande to attend significant classes, workshops, and training seminars which are not available to general realtors. The International Academy of Collaborative Professionals is another important organization into which Rande has been accepted. The IACP and our local Next Generation Divorce practice group both provide ongoing training in the collaborative divorce process, which is essential when dealing with couples going through this transition. Contact Rande! Rande@whiteglovehouse.com