If you and your spouse own a home together and are going through a divorce, that home may be your largest asset. In a divorce proceeding, the goal is to equitably distribute the marital assets and debts between the parties. When you are determining how much your home is worth, many people use the popular website Zillow to have an idea of how much the home will sell for. Although Zillow is a simple way to obtain the value of your home, it is not always accurate. Especially in Broward and Palm Beach Counties, where many factors play into the value of a home (school districts, convenience to major highways, etc.), it is always better to have your home appraised by a professional. A qualified family law attorney will help get your home appraised and will ensure that your assets are fairly distributed between you and your spouse.
Why is using a Zillow estimate a pitfall to be cautious of? Relying on a Zillow estimate in mediation or in negotiations with your spouse may end up costing you money that you are due. Hypothetically, you estimate (using Zillow) that your home is worth $200,000 and you and your spouse have $50,000 worth of credit card debt. In your negotiations you agree that from the top of the proceeds from the sale of the home, the credit cards will be paid off. Assuming (from the Zillow estimate) that you and your spouse will be left with $150,000 from the proceeds from the sale of the home, you agree that you will get your entire 401(k) which is worth $150,000 and your spouse will get the entire $150,000 from the proceeds from the sale of the home. This is a fair distribution of the assets. However, if your home ends up selling for $300,000, you are now losing $100,00 that you are due under our hypothetical equitable distribution scheme (you get your 401(k) worth $150,000 and your spouse gets $250,000 from the sale of the home). Your spouse leaves the marriage with an extra $100,000.
Although the above hypothetical is extreme and no qualified family law attorney would allow a deal without any finite terms to be accepted, it portrays the problems that a Zillow estimate can cause. It is important to be aware of your financial situation and the worth of your assets, however, it is equally as important to hire an experienced and qualified family law attorney who will make sure that you don’t fall into the common pitfalls of a divorce.