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The Time the Wife Found Out She Had No Ownership Rights to Her Own Home

Jun 24, 2017




We sat at their dining room table filling out paperwork to list their home.

He and his newly-wed wife had lived there since they married. Now they were buying a new home together.

As we went through the paperwork, I looked up at the bride, then at the husband. “When the offer comes in, your wife will need to give her consent to sell this home. It’s how homestead laws work.”

He looked at her, then at me. He cleared his throat and shifted in his seat. “Uh… I lived here with my ex-wife.”

That was awkward.

Had she known? Had I just opened an old wound? Who knows. All I knew was that unless the ex-wife had signed over her homestead rights, she still had them. Which could really throw a wrench into their selling process.

I did the title search (as I always do) and discovered there was, in fact, no release of homestead. The ex-wife had homestead rights, and the new wife had none.

I went back to my client. “I know you’re married now, but did have your divorce officially decreed?”

“Yes, we paid the lawyer and it’s all done.”

You need to talk to your lawyer then. He should advise you on how to have had your ex sign a release of her homestead rights, otherwise she has to sign on any offer you want to accept, and then again on the closing at the lawyer’s office.” I didn’t know how much contact he had with her, or if they were even on speaking terms.  

My client called me back the next day after he spoke to his lawyer as I strongly suggested and he said his lawyer said “You’ve got a very good agent.”

During the whole process, neither the lawyers nor the judge had caught the homestead rights blunder. She should never have been allowed to sign a separation agreement or divorce papers without signing off on the house too.  

Thankfully, they got the homestead rights signed peacefully, and their current house could be sold and they can begin their newly-wed life in their own new home. If I would not have caught it though and sold the house anyway, it would not have closed. Instead they would have found all of this out in the closing process, then had to hunt her down, and the sale would have been in jeopardy and their new home purchase would also be in peril. It could have been a major financial catastrophe. 

Thankfully, I have always made it my practice to obtain a current title search which in this case paid off ten-fold. 

I share these client stories with the hope that you learn from other people's mistakes, and avoid falling into these pitfalls yourself.



Category: Selling A Home

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