RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:
When a couple gets divorced, the sale of their home can play a huge role in the settlement. The house is often their biggest asset. And usually, it has to be sold so they can split the proceeds and finalize the divorce. Sara Lerner, of member station KUOW in Seattle, reports couples in this predicament provide a specialized real estate market.
SARA LERNER: With three kids under the age of 5, Hourieh Mansoori's husband walked out.
MONTAGNE: I was confused as to what was happening to me after 10 years of marriage. You know, you think it's for better or for worse, and he's not there to help me. And I was in - basically, in a confusion state of mind.
LERNER: Still, she had to put her house on the market, a market in which her neighbors' homes were not selling. And the house had to sparkle while she packed it up to move from Washington state to Texas.
MONTAGNE: At the time when you are going through the most difficult time of your life - they call divorce worse than death - to have someone that's there for you and assists you, and makes you feel like they're here to help you in every step of the way with selling your house, it's really - it's godsent.
MONTAGNE: Really, it's a simple, singular goal - and that's to as efficiently as possible get to the end of the road, which is the sale of their home.
LERNER: Scott Weeda was Mansoori's Realtor. He says he's learned how to handle these sensitive situations with parting couples.
MONTAGNE: I never try to force them to communicate together, which means a lot of separate and duplicate communication so that neither ever has the impression that I'm trying to force the agenda of one on the other.
LERNER: Weeda glides through the John Scott Real Estate headquarters outside Seattle. He has an office at the agency, which is in itself a sign of success. Many of his colleagues share a general workroom.
MONTAGNE: Hey, Steve.
U: Hi, how are you?
MONTAGNE: I'm well, thanks.
LERNER: Most Realtors avoid divorce sales because of all the extra problems that can come up, and the high emotion. Sometimes, Weeda's clients tell him all the details of a contentious situation.
MONTAGNE: My role at that point, when someone needs to get something off their chest, is simply to let that happen because if people aren't able to express themselves, then it causes frustration. And the last thing that I need is for a husband or for a wife to be frustrated with me because they are perceiving that I'm not - that I don't get it.
LERNER: Some divorce lawyers even refer their clients to real estate agents who specialize in divorce. Joanna Roth practices family law in Seattle.
MONTAGNE: My job is to help people reach agreements in divorce. So as much as I can, I try to get clients to work with their spouse. And if they're working with a Realtor who has some understanding of what people are going through in divorce, then I think they have a better chance at reaching agreement on the sales price and on the sales terms.
LERNER: Roth says the Realtor's relationship with a client can go further than the attorney's.
MONTAGNE: It's more intimate, in a way, working with people in their houses and helping them go through their things, and helping them box them up.
LERNER: She says her clients deal with serious emotional upheaval, not only with a divorce, but even just with selling the family home.
MONTAGNE: My clients typically are hungry for some compassion.
MONTAGNE: I can honestly look at almost every one of my clients and say, I understand what you are feeling right now.
LERNER: Weeda himself divorced two years ago - right when the housing market tanked. He has five kids; it wasn't easy. After the split, he realized he liked helping people who are going through the same thing.
MONTAGNE: I felt alone when I was going through it personally. And I know that usually, if they let me participate how I work best in participating, they won't feel alone in the process. And that's important to me.
LERNER: For NPR News, I'm Sara Lerner in Seattle.
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