Would-be divorcees: An overlooked real estate demographic

by Ephraim Vecina02 Jun 2017
With all the focus on the relatively well-to-do baby boomers approaching retirement and the increasing purchasing power of younger generations, an overlooked (but slowly gaining in popularity) segment among real estate agents are couples who are in the midst of divorce.
And while the Canadian Real Estate Association does not keep track of agents based on specialization, more and more industry professionals are working on how to better distinguish themselves from the increased competition—especially considering that 121,212 agents were operating in Canada as of the end of 2016.
Addressing the needs of couples who are about to split is certainly one effective way to stand out from the crowd, according to markets observer Rob Csernyik.
“What sets these specialists apart from other realtors is not only an ability to commiserate, but an additional fluency with the financial and legal implications of selling a divorcing couple’s home. There can also be interactions with judges, lawyers and hostile family members that set a different tone and urgency to the transaction,” Csernyik wrote in his analysis for The Globe and Mail.
“The matrimonial home is often a family’s biggest asset and can be a particular point of contention during a divorce. With rising real estate values in many Canadian cities, it’s increasingly difficult for one spouse to buy out the other’s interest in the home.”
Michael Shuster of Forest Hill Real Estate in Vaughan, Ontario is one such practitioner, and is currently billed as “Ontario’s First Divorce Specialist”. His first ever transaction involving a would-be divorcee was around four years ago, and Shuster recounted the tale of a harried woman and her furious now-ex-husband, who made repeated phone calls to the agent’s office and yelled invectives at him.
Shuster recalled the ex-husband appearing at an open house where he was barred from entering. Fortunately, the agent successfully defused the situation.
“Their bark is worse than their bite,” he said. “They just want to be heard.”

Shuster has an advantage over other real estate professionals in this regard: He went through his own divorce just three years ago.

“After my own experience, the level of compassion and empathy escalated,” he explained. “Now, when I meet someone going through [divorce], I feel it.”

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