When unexpected life events happen – what to do when you own property together

News > Legal - 22 Jul 2019

Sometimes the unexpected happens and we face some of the most difficult challenges imaginable. “Happily, ever after” sometimes ends in death or divorce before we have even had the chance or wisdom to prepare. The ownership of property becomes complicated should a partner fall away through death or even separation and property is jointly owned. Several questions could arise for the partner left behind, as they may be fearful of the seemingly endless red tape involved in the property buying and selling process.

Mike Greeff, CEO of Greeff Christie’s International Real Estate says, “Unexpected life events happen to everyone and we cannot foresee them, pause time or prevent them from happening. This period can be an emotional one but should be one that you handle by being armed with adequate knowledge of the matters at hand. I would implore you to speak directly to a trusted and experienced real estate agent who would be able to advise you in your time of need.”

Greeff agents offer the following advice:

Have a serious conversation with your partner before getting married

Marriage is a serious step and so is purchasing a property with someone. Before tying the knot, sit down with your partner and speak to them about the variables involved in purchasing a property. Doing so not only signals a serious and honest attitude from both parties but will also safeguard you should the unexpected occur.

Meet with a lawyer to discuss the legalities

Once you have spoken to your partner, it may be a good idea for you both to sit down with a lawyer to discuss the legal implications involved in purchasing a property jointly before signing on the dotted line. A conveyancing lawyer will be able to assist you in dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s while also practically explaining to you what to do in the event of a partner dying or in the event of divorce.  Taking the time to sit down with a lawyer not only creates a safe space for the conversation but can definitely assist you in the long run.

Keep all communication strictly between the agent and buyer

In the event of losing a partner or significant other, it is imperative to keep all communication strictly between the agent and the prospective buyer. One must be aware of the emotions involved during this time and realise that sellers may be in a sensitive and possibly fragile state. Striking up any communication between buyer and seller could cause unnecessary distress for the seller and also potentially endanger their sale. A trusted and experienced real estate agent from a reputable agency should be the seller’s one and only port of call in communication with their sale.

Once you sell, invest a portion of your ROI safely as to not squander your earnings

Coming into some money could certainly have an overwhelming effect on your physical and mental state and could influence your usual decision-making in some way or the other. As a precaution, use a significant portion of your earnings to ensure you have a ‘war chest’ of sorts for days you may need it. Be it for your own retirement or the education of your children, it is always prudent to have enough invested for the future.

Stay with family or a friend before making the decision to purchase a property

The decision to purchase a property in the frenzy and emotional distress of having lost or separated from a loved one can be a lot for anyone to deal with. If you have successfully sold your property, make the decision to stay with family or a friend until you are completely ready to purchase another property. Doing so will not only allow you time to regain your bearings but will also offer you the opportunity to look around and find the property perfectly suited to you.

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