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Can you still keep, or get rid of, your family home or investment properties after you separate? Of course!

What is a “Buy Out”?

A mortgage buyout is one solution if you and your partner separate but still have mortgage obligations and one partner wants to keep the house. A Mortgage Buy-Out involves one partner purchasing the equity interest of the other.

But make sure you have this conversation with your partner early – mortgage buyouts require both owners to co-operate.

Steps to buying your partner out

To be able to buy your ex-partner out, you need to be able to take on the whole mortgage on your own and have enough to pay your partner for his or her share of the equity in the property.

  1. Get legal advice
  2. Get valuation on the family home or properties to be divided
  3. Agree on your partner’s “buy-out price”
  4. Get a separation agreement certified. This is legal and binding on both of you rather than just a “hand-shake” deal with risks!
  5. Settle your new mortgage (if necessary)

Can you afford it?  

The first question you should ask yourself is if you are financially in a position to afford the mortgage payments. Secondly, will the bank agree to you being the sole mortgagee?

Note that when you separate, you are (usually) splitting half the proceeds from whatever you both sell – including the Family Home. You are left with half (or thereabouts) and must start a new life on this amount. Think carefully before committing to selling the Family Home. It may be a better financial decision to buy-out your partner – or not depending on your own financial situation.

Is Your Partner buying our your share?

If your partner wants to keep the home, make sure you obtain an appraisal if you cannot agree on the value of the Family Home. Also, you may have to adjust to the fact that it is no longer your home and this may mean unfamiliar people living in it. obligations to your lender?

Your obligations to your lender

If you have been the party released from your mortgagee obligations, ask for the bank’s proof that they have discharged you from your obligations i.e. check you are no longer on the mortgage.

This may need to be done after you have obtained Separation Agreement as some banks request to see this for obvious reasons before they take one partner’s name off the mortgage.

What are your other options if you cannot afford the mortgage yourself?

If your mortgage payments are almost paid off and you and your partner are on good or amicable terms then you could agree to continue to pay the mortgage until it ends.

This is ideal and possibly not the option many can take. In this situation, it may still be untenable for your partner to stay living in the house while you both pay off the mortgage. In this case, the partner who is having their share bought out, will have to negotiate rent.

Can you substitute someone else on the mortgage?

It will be hard to sell the Family Home with negative equity. Unless you are able to negotiate other terms with your mortgage provider then you will both continue to be liable for the mortgage repayments. Potentially you could substitute your partner for other family members or friends who are interested or able to support you in the mortgage if you decide to keep the house. If you decide to go with this option, it is a good idea first to have already brought-out your partner.

Buy Out Divorce Separation
The Family Home is relationship property and after a divorce, you may be thinking about buying out your partner’s share to keep it.

Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels

What is the “Buy-Out”?

A Buy-out means you must identify the equity in the property – the difference between the mortgage balance and what the property is currently worth.

It’s not always going to be an equal split when you separate from your partner. This may be the case if one partner’s family helped to improve the value of your home by providing money for renovations, or perhaps one of you contributed more to the deposit of the home.

How do you calculate the “Buy-Out” price?

But assuming that you both contributed equally to both the deposit on the home, and the recurring mortgage payments, this will be a simple calculation.

To clarify, you take the current value of the property (note that you may both want to get property Valuers to obtain an accurate market value of the property), subtract the amount outstanding on the mortgage, and any other payments which were not contributions equally by you both, and then divide the remaining amount by two.

Example of Buy Out calculations

So, for example, if the property is now worth $500,000 and there is, say, $250,000 left to pay on the mortgage, you would need to find $125, 000 to buy out your ex-partner’s share of the property.

If, for example, the property is worth $500,000 but $100,000 was provided as a loan by your parents to renovate the house or for the deposit, you will need to pay this back first. Say you have no mortgage on the house and you were to divide the sale of proceeds. This means you and your partner will be splitting $400,000 instead of $500,000.

However, if you were to buy out your partner’s share, and there is still $250,000 left to pay on the mortgage, you will need to pay out the $100,000 first. Assuming the loan was a gift from your parents, this means that you will need $150,000 to buy your partner.

How to get a valuation on your Family Home or other properties

The Buy-Out Price above depends on the value of the home if you are keeping the Family Home. Note that your bank may also want you to get a valuation from a registered property valuer before they refinance the mortgage to you.

Valuation

It is important to get a valuation from a certified registered valuer.  This will determine the market worth of a house or property.

A registered property valuer combines all their knowledge and experience with their observations and research undertaken of the property and its surrounding area, and determines the market value.

Cost of a valuation

A property valuation costs approximately $500 – $800 plus GST. However, a valuation does have a limitation period. This means it will remain “current” only for a limited time. This is normally anywhere between three to six months. Your ex-partner may agree to split the cost of the valuation.

Where to find a registered valuer?

Just by doing a Google search, we were able to find the following registered valuers:

Another good tool may be Property Valuation, a website which allows you to find a registered property valuation near you.

Note that there is also a Valuers Registration Board. You can go to them if you have a complaint or any questions such as the standing of the valuers you are going to.

If you want to get the experts in, a registered property valuation can be done and costs from $500. If you do not want to spend this fee, there are other options and these are explored below.

How to work out a Family Home’ Market Value yourself

Real estate agents

You can ask Real Estate agents in your area who are experienced and acquainted with properties which are similar to yours. Perhaps ask for a few different estimates from local real estate agents and take the average of these. Just be aware that if these agents are only looking at comparable sales in your area, you will want to take into account differences such as location, exterior presentation, and conditions of the property and any changes in the CV values.

Online sources

In comparison, a more objective estimate may come from the property’s Quotable Value (QV). QV has some great online resources there too. There are both free and paid options to purchase local sales reports which may include your property.

Sometimes the rateable value (government valuation of the house) will be accurate as to market value but it cannot be relied on alone. You can find out rateable value information on your local council’s website for free.

Best alternative

Unless a combination of both of the above methods will give you a more accurate estimate of market value you can both rely on, you risk undervaluing or overvaluing the buy-out. In short, get as many assessments as you can possibly afford!

Get this written down in a Separation Agreement

Getting the above formalised in an agreement does not have to be expensive. At CODR, the cost of the Separation Agreement is $345. The cost of certification is proportionate and costs no more than a couple of thousand for both you and your partner.

Most importantly, whatever you agree to do with the property, you both need independent legal advice. This protects all parties and stops one partner from lodging a caveat or notice of claim later on which can affect the freedom you have with the property.

After that, it may also be helpful when it comes to applying for finance to show them this agreement as some lenders may be wary of unresolved relationship property issues.

Certificate of Title

Firstly, it is important to get a copy of the certificate of Title of your property to check whether your name is on it. Importantly, you will need to get your partner’s name off the Title to the property once they no longer have any interest in it.

For instance, if you do not do this, your partner could put a registered interest against your property (a caveat). In other words, this is a notice that someone else has an interest in this property. This cannot be lifted unless by consent or by a hearing.

What if my name isn’t on the Title?

Meanwhile, if your name is not on the mortgage or deed of the house then that does not mean you have no rights or claims to the property. This means you should talk to a lawyer.

If you have been living in the property or are in a de facto relationship with your partner, this means the Family Home may be relationship property – unless you have a prenuptial agreement or contracting out an agreement in place.

After the Buy-Out: Pay your partner’s Buy-Out Price

Above all, pay out your partner the buy out as you have agreed.

After the Buy-Out: Refinance the Mortgage

As a result of the Buy out, you will likely want to or may need to refinance the mortgage on your Family Home.