Recently divorced and ready to buy, rent, or sell in NYC? Here's Brick Underground's best advice

Mimi headsht
By Mimi OConnor  |
January 6, 2020 - 10:00AM

How do you decide who gets to stay in the family apartment and who leaves? It's a thorny question, especially in NYC.


Even when a divorce is amicable, it’s almost always one of the hardest things you'll ever go through. Throw in the challenges of New York City real estate, and things can get even hairier. It's hard enough dealing with heartache and separation agreements; it's even harder to navigate open houses in the midst of major emotional upheaval.

You may just want to be done with selling your apartment, or finding a rental as quick as possible, but it can be easy to make a mistake and make a decision that seems ok—but really isn't.

To help, we’ve rounded up all our best advice on navigating the New York City real estate market when your marriage is ending, or if you are buying from a couple going through the process.

Be aware of common pitfalls

One very common pattern is for one spouse to remain in the family apartment or house, especially if there are children involved. Lots of women feel this is extremely important in order to preserve as much normalcy as possible in their children's lives. But if that's your situation, and you haven't worked outside the house in many years, you will be stuck with your assets tied up in the house. One expert we spoke to recommends both spouses become renters, among other important tips. Read: "A new lease on life: 4 ways to ease the pain of renting an apartment in NYC after a divorce."

Answering the big question: Who gets to stay?

How do you decide who gets to stay in the family apartment and who leaves? It's a thorny question, especially in NYC, where condos and co-ops have monthly costs that are especially steep to carry when couples split up. For advice, check out "Who gets the apartment after a divorce?"

Be prepared for delays when buying from a divorcing couple

Brokers familiar with these type of sales say you should be prepared for negotiations to take longer. Couples going through a divorce are usually not on the same page about selling an apartment; there can be communication problems, indecision, and viewing the apartment can be a challenge. To learn more, read "What to expect if you're buying an apartment from a couple going through a divorce."

How does a divorce look to a co-op board?

Divorce is incredibly common and it's illegal for a co-op or condo board to discriminate against you for being divorced, but keep in mind your post-divorce finances will be scrutinized. For instance, if you depend on alimony and child-support, you may have more work to do to establish your financial bona-fides. Read: "Will a co-op board turn me down because I'm divorced?"

Divorce can do a number on your finances

If you pay alimony or child-support payments to your ex, it won't directly impact your ability to get a mortgage. It is considered debt just like a student loan. Our expert says you can still qualify if you meet the debt-to-income requirements. Read: "How will my child support payments affect my ability to take out a mortgage?" 

If you're hoping to get a break on your monthly maintenance now that you're doing things solo, think again. But, your co-op board may be willing to work out a payment plan. Check out: "My ex- moved out. Will the co-op board cut me a break on my maintenance?"

Should you tell your neighbors about your split? 

Most New Yorkers are aware that when you live in an apartment building, a change in marital status, is nearly impossible to hide. So, when it comes to a divorce, is a formal announcement expected? It really depends on how well you know your neighbors, but there's arguments for both sides. Read: "Dear Ms. Demeanor: How do we tell the building we're getting a divorce?"

What is it like to have to move?

For many, a divorce is a new chapter, one that is both challenging and rewarding. You may have to move a new neighborhood, and learn how to live on your own again. Here's a personal story: "Starting over: A divorced dad's honest take on finding a new neighborhood and buying a condo in NYC."

One dad's solution: Moving upstairs

For one dad, leaving the neighborhood, and even the building, was not required. The apartment directly upstairs from his became available, and he jumped at the chance to stay close to his son, unlike his own father. Here's "My $56,000 Forest Hills apartment outlasted our marriage, so I moved upstairs." 

Rules for living in the same building as your ex

If you live in the same building as your ex, you get your own space while keeping the family bond strong. But, take it from people who have gone this route: keep a couple of floors between the two apartments (if you can) and make sure the building staff doesn't gossip about your fledgling love life. To learn more, read "Sharing a building with your ex- for the kids."  And be sure to set boundaries and make schedules. Read: "Dear Ms. Demeanor: Separated but living in the same building."

What it's like for parents to rotate in and out of the family home

Post-divorce living arrangements come in all different types. For some, it makes sense for parents to take turns staying in the family home. Read more about it here: "I share two apartments with my ex."

What happens when you own your co-op and get remarried?

If you get remarried and want your new spouse's name on your co-op title, there's work to do, including getting approval from your co-op board. Check out: "Can I get my new wife's name on my co-op title by refinancing the mortgage?"


Mimi headsht

Mimi OConnor

Contributing Writer

Mimi O’Connor has written about New York City real estate for publications that include Brick Underground, Refinery29, and Thrillist. She is the recipient of two awards from the National Association of Real Estate Editors for interior design and service journalism. Her writing on New York City, parenting, events, and culture has also appeared in Parents, Red Tricycle, BizBash, and Time Out New York.


Austin Havens-Bowen

Staff Writer

Staff writer Austin Havens-Bowen covers the rental market and answers renters' questions in a column called Realty Bites. He previously reported on local news for the Queens Ledger and The Hunts Point Express in the Bronx. He graduated from Hunter College with a BA in media studies. He rents a one-bedroom apartment in Astoria with his boyfriend and their two cats.

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