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Divorcing Property Owners Hold Real Estate Buyers, Broker Hostage During Stand Off.


The wife and husband with their lawyers blessings elected to list, to sell their Houlton Maine home.

Things were not rosy between the pair but they were still talking. Not raising their voices in front of the kids at this stage. It had not gotten to any rock throwing, back biting during the intial phase of the real estate marketing process. But then a "buyer happened" and the true colors of the divorce derailment process started to shine thru brightly. As a real estate broker who represents both sellers, you tip toe thru a mine field. Chose your words carefully. Trying not to take a side as you negotiate to and fro. Not just with a buyer...but between the sellers too. Like a mediator running back and forth between court house conference rooms. To plank by plank build a divorce settlement package. The final proverbial straw that broke the camel's back was not a real estate buyer generated wrinkle. But an old push, dust covered unused lawnmower that had over night become platinum plated. Some how very valuable and the ransom bargaining chip to get the sale to a closing, settle the divorce.

     Sent several emails, faxes to the wife's divorce lawyer. Made a final phone call with news our buyer was walking without his help in getting the sale off dead center. Could he put the issue on the top of his yellow legal pad list to discuss with the wife in his next teleconference or court pre trial hearing. Ditto dog and old grass lawnmowerpony plea for the husband's lawyer. Wife's lawyer indicated he had made his chunk of change in this divorce and sounded fed up with his client. His words "if you want to mediate and finish up this divorce, be my guest". Have at it.

     So back and forth, like a CSI television investigator I started with a dissect of the old Wizard brand lawnmower that came with the home when we sold it to the couple years before. It had been left in the corner of the garage. Probably did not work, was not used in the lawn clipping process at this property anyway. They had a big shiny brand new top of the line John Deere rider. And nothing runs like a Deere remember?

     Anyway, establishing and getting both parties holding up the sale over the final ownership of this road weary push lawnmower to agree that on the open market, this grass muncher represented maybe a twenty dollar bill value tops.

   But its what the lawnmower represented as the divorce started over a year before begins to come to a conclusion that became apparent to me.

Fighting over much as either side could get in the divorce. And the lawnmower, this last bargaining chip, was what it had all come down to in the final analysis.

     It had come to the point where both parties hated each other. Were throwing rocks. Using both hands. Bitter, hurt, angry, emotional. Had nothing good to say about the other if you let them guide the conversation in that direction.  The divorce that started out that regardless of whether it was concluded by the closing date of the home, the sale could happen now held the buyers as hostage. Funds from the sale that were to be held in escrow for the two divorce lawyers to write poison pen letters back and forth to keep the process going, which lined their pockets. Now the home sale as being used as leverage to tip the divorce scales to settlement. The lawnmower in the garage represents the final letting go, jumping off the cliff for each in to the next chapter of mom and dad's life that lay at the bottom. I had to sit with each, administering tissues to the wife in one session in the home's kitchen. Then hear the husband cursing how much this woman had cost him during our "mediation" back at the real estate office.

     The buyers in the sale wanted the mower too, for the principle of it they said. Feeling they were paying darth vadartop dollar and being very patient during the divorce dance that they were not supposed to attend. That both attorneys promised they would avoid, be kept clear of. The buyer now beginning to wonder if the sale was going to happen or not. Should they look around for another home. As I assured them this sale would happen, the Dr Phil in me trying to spare personal seller divorce details but pointing out it was just a $20 dollar lawnmower if everyone could just step back and cool down. Finally the husband conceded. The wive then decided she did not want the mower but the buyer could have it, anyone but the husband. As long as that no good worthless...Darth Vader she was married to did not park it in his new garage.

     Bolting on the US RT 1 real estate sale SOLD panel was happy and sad at the same time. Long, time consuming, emotional and mental draining sale. But it helped me buy groceries and the buyers/sellers get on with their lives. But the seller's two young boys and visitation from the Dad's part never was the concern. He figured that would come later on after the dividing the spoils. That was sad. And I remember during a showing to a different buyer, those two boys with a switch and fishing pole, each beating a wire frame seamstress dress holder with mom's wedding dress on it in the garage next to that mower. They were hollering, hooping, laughing and it all seemed very bizarre. The kids caught in the cross fire of a Maine divorce.

Maine REALTOR Andrew Mooers | 207.532.6573

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Comment balloon 6 commentsAndrew Mooers | 207.532.6573 • February 10 2010 08:09AM


Andrew.....divorce situations are the worst.....sometimes the attorneys are worse than the husband and wife....

Posted by Barbara Todaro, Previously Affiliated with The Todaro Team (RE/MAX Executive Realty - Retired ) almost 11 years ago

What an unfortunate situation!  Kudos to you for being persistent and helping resolve such a mess... I feel sorry for the kids- it doesn't sound like they're getting the support and understanding they need for a difficult split like that.  :(  At least you can feel good knowing you did your part!

Posted by David Obbee ( almost 11 years ago

Hi Andrew,

Divorce situations can be the worst.  I had one similar to yours.  Only thing, the Buyer was using a special Veterans program for financing and his cutoff time for qualifying was rapidly approaching....and the sellers were fighting amongst themselves.  Finally got the the sellers to sign the closing documents with the instructions all monies would stay in escrow until they came to an agreement (however long that may be)...but at least the Buyer got to close on the transaction.  Whew!  These can be tough sales to close.


Posted by Darla Maddalone (Bend Oregon Homes Online-Principal Broker, SFR, CSP) almost 11 years ago

Barbara, the wife's attorney thought it was a hoot, funny and then tiring. It was like he had had enough..made enough and the parties could get divorced now if they wanted. But he was not going to try to do much more toward that goal. Just wait until both wife and husband were ready, had enough and allowed the divorce it seemed. Each lawyer made more money the longer the process went on and on. It was just a job but for the parties getting divorce it was trench warfare.

David, still see those two boys whipping mom's wedding dress. The fact the dress on the form was standing in the garage seemed odd but probably was moved from the attic to the dirty garage during the divorce. Real estate brokers see the human side of a divorce sale and are right in the middle of the cross fire..keep your head down. It was like both boys were on their own as dad disappeared, mom got pretty self absorbed and tuned them out..they were pretty active but no support from family locally. No family close by. Both moved away.

Posted by Andrew Mooers | 207.532.6573, Northern Maine Real Estate-Aroostook County Broker (MOOERS REALTY) almost 11 years ago

Darla, we got assurances from both attorneys, the divorcing sellers that if we found a buyer before the divorce was final, and to avoid pushing that divorce to happen before one by one the issues addressed on property, kids, etc. Just when the buyer came in to the picture, the divorce settlement did become tied to the sale even though we got all parties in writing to agree to avoid that from happening. It's like a court judgement. The judge ordered this or that. But to enforce it, you have to go back to court..and that is a long, expensive process. You can not make anyone do anything they don't want to. When a kid says "make me" during a recess squabble..its ones thing to duke it out. As adults, the resolution process is more expensive, delayed, and trying.

Posted by Andrew Mooers | 207.532.6573, Northern Maine Real Estate-Aroostook County Broker (MOOERS REALTY) almost 11 years ago

Andy, how sad, the behavior all the way around is reprehensible. Too bad the whole whipping of the dress thing wasn't caught on video. Both parents should have been made to watch it, together.

You did deliver however, and in a very professional fashion. We do see a very personal and devastating side to divorce. And we are often victims ourselves, held hostage by very unreasonable people.

Posted by Andrea Swiedler, Realtor, Southern Litchfield County CT (Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New England Properties) almost 11 years ago

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