Can You Afford to Keep Your Marital Home?

Your marital home is often the biggest asset you will consider as you go through divorce. Therefore, it may be tempting to try to keep it because it holds sentimental or practical value to you.

But can you really afford to keep your marital home after your divorce? The cost of homeownership equates to more than just a monthly mortgage payment. There are several additional costs associated with the upkeep of your home.

Insurance

Because you are already living in your home, you should have a pretty good idea about its annual insurance costs. That said, there are ways to potentially reduce the insurance premiums—if you are well informed.

Examine your homeowner’s insurance, and make sure that your policy is appropriate for your post-divorce life. Look at the total coverage your plan offers to see if it matches your needs.

You should also consider shopping for different insurance carriers and comparing options about your existing plan. Then you can see if there are lower payments available. Sometimes, simple changes (e.g., increasing the deductible) will help lower your insurance premiums.

Property Taxes

Although property taxes usually have a little less flexibility than insurance, you may have some options about lowering your annual property tax bill. For example, you should look at the local assessor’s office to see how they evaluate your home.

If you find discrepancies that may be overinflating the value, you may want to consider filing an appeal to lower the assessed value. Being smart can potentially save you hundreds (or even thousands) of dollars each year in insurance and taxes.

Repairs

Another important cost to consider is making repairs (e.g., faulty appliances, leaky pipes, and storm damage). Naturally, the repair costs tend to be significantly less in newer homes than older homes. A useful rule of thumb is to budget approximately 1% of your home value each year to the expected general repair and upkeep of your home.

Maintenance

Home maintenance includes the usual items that you regularly purchase or update throughout the year. While repairs might mean fixing old plumbing or patching a hole in the roof, maintenance costs cover the purchase of new air filters and water filters, carpet cleanings, and other miscellaneous items.

The American Housing Survey estimates annual maintenance costs for the average home to be approximately $558; of course, these costs can vary, depending on the size and age of your home.

Improvements

Want to add a new bedroom or porch? Upgrade the heating system? Maybe you need a new roof? While large home improvements can help with your tax bill if you eventually sell the house, they could require substantial money upfront.

You should evaluate in advance whether you want or need to make home improvements. Otherwise, you could find yourself with a potentially large surprise after the divorce.

Final Thoughts

As your budget adjusts to a newly single income, it is important to take an honest evaluation of your finances to determine if you can afford to maintain your marital home without your spouse. Your home is much more than just a mortgage, and there are numerous costs to consider.

Do the math, look at your budgets, and determine if it is financially feasible to keep your home after the divorce. You do not want to put yourself in a position where emotional attachments hurt your long-term financial future.

It is important to balance the desire to keep your home with maintaining your financial security.

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Shawn Leamon, MBA, CDFA is author of Divorce and Your Money: The No-Nonsense Guide and host of the Divorce and Your Money Show on iTunes. Check out the new course Divorce 101: Your Complete Divorce Plan here. Learn more at  www.divorceandyourmoney.com.

Shawn Leamon, MBA, CDFA

Dallas, Texas

Shawn C. H. Leamon is Managing Partner of LaGrande Global, a firm that helps successful families manage large financial transitions like divorce, inheritance and selling a business.

He earned his Bachelor of Arts from Dartmouth College, double majoring in Economics and Philosophy, and his Masters in Business Administration at Spain’s IE Business School.

Before founding LaGrande Global, Shawn helped manage $1.1 billion in client assets at Bernstein Global Wealth Management. He also worked as a credit research analyst at J.P. Morgan. He is a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst, and he has been an advisor to numerous high-stakes divorce cases.

Shawn is the author of two well-received finance books: Managing Private Wealth: Principles, and Divorce and Your Money: The No-Nonsense Guide, both published in 2016.

In his spare time, Shawn is an ultra-endurance athlete and has competed in events as long as 24 hours. He is an Eagle Scout and a member of the Alumni Board of Greenhill School.