Getting through a divorce is tough. Scratch that, it’s a nightmare. There are so many different things to consider, things you never would have thought of. Over the next three weeks we’re going to look at the practical aspects of getting through a divorce. This week it’s all about finding a new place to live.
Choosing to Rent or Buy
If you’re financial settlement has been finalized, and you are in a position to buy, don’t rush. Generally, while getting through a divorce is not a great time to take on a new 15 to 30 year commitment. Give yourself time to see where your head is going to be at a year down the road.
If you decide to look into purchasing property, as yourself a couple of questions:
- Are you likely to stay in your town for the next 7-10 years? It’s easy to answer yes to this when your kids are young, but if you have no other ties to your current location, you may be tempted to try something new when they’re older. If you work for a company with out of town offices, you may also be asked to relocate at some point. Of course, everything depends on the state of the housing market but usually you’ll begin to build decent equity on your house after the five-year mark.
- Do you need a large home? When buying properties, it’s tempting to work out what we can afford, and spend it all, but do you really need a large home? If you have four kids then, yeah, you probably do. But, if you only have one child, or no kids at all, a nice apartment or small home will be comfortable and cheaper for you.
If your financial settlement hasn’t been finalized, definitely rent first. It may feel like throwing good money after bad, but you need to wait until everything is settled in order to accurately assess your housing budget. Getting through a divorce often has some financial fallout that will impact your options.
Selecting the Right Rental
There are decisions to make, even if you are renting. Do you have kids? How often are you going to see them? Will they only be with you on weekends or will you have them during the week? Are you responsible for taking them to school? What about extracurricular activities?
All of these things will dictate the location where you start your search. If you’re planning for joint custody and you need to get the kids to school every other week, that narrows down your search area considerably. If you’re only seeing them on weekends, maybe you want to get a place closer to the office so you don’t spend so much time commuting.
Once you’ve got the area sorted out it’s time to think about size. Just like if you were buying, it’s important to think critically about the property size you need. Not the size you want, the size you need. Especially if you’re only planning to rent until everything is finalized you should think about going for a smaller place. If the kids aren’t going to be with you full time can they share a room?
It may seem cramped moving into a two-bedroom apartment after living in a two-story Colonial, but don’t forget it’s a temporary measure.
You Won’t Be Renting Forever
Don’t despair, you won’t be renting forever (unless you want to). Your lease will probably be for six or twelve months. If you can, try to get a lease that will end around the same time you think your divorce will be finalized and your finances will be separated. At that stage, you can either stay in your current place, move to a different rental, or begin the process of buying your new home.
Be On the Lookout for Hidden Expenses
The first thing to do when you’re looking at renting, is work out your budget. It seems pretty simple, right?
Money In – Monthly Expenses = Rental Budget
Sadly, it’s not that easy. It’s critical to look at the hidden costs of renting. The extra cost we think of most often is a deposit but don’t forget about renter’s insurance and application, maintenance, or amenity fees. Parking can also be a huge expense if you have to pay for your space monthly. If you think you’ve found a place in your price range, check with their leasing office about utilities and any extra fees that may not be clearly advertised.
Pet Friendly Rentals Cost Extra
Bringing a pet with you? That’s going to add to the cost as well. Some places take a larger deposit when you bring a pet while others charge an extra monthly fee. Some even do both! Make sure you get clarification about any extra, pet related costs before you sign on the dotted line.
Remember, a house with a higher monthly rent may work out cheaper than an apartment once you calculate all the added costs.
Renting with Damaged Credit
It’s entirely possible that your credit will suffer during a divorce. After all, you are still responsible for any joint debt incurred during your marriage. The good news is that there are simple steps you can take to protect or rebuild your credit. These include paying your bills on time and applying for a credit card with a small limit or a small loan.
If you don’t pass the credit check while applying for an apartment, ask a trusted friend or family member to co-sign the lease with you or act as a guarantor. It’s critical that you’ve done your math though. Only ask for a guarantor if you know you can afford the new place. After all, you don’t want to lose friends on top of your divorce.
More on post-divorce finances in the next installment of Getting Through A Divorce Bootcamp.
Make Arrangements for Your Mail
Even if your ex is staying in the family home, it’s a good idea to start separating your lives. That includes your mail. If you have an amicable relationship with your ex you can certainly ask her to forward your mail but do you really want it going through her hands?
Your best bet is to set up mail forwarding through the post office or sign up for a PO Box. The benefit of a PO Box is that if you’re couch surfing with friends or moving from short-term rental to short-term rental, your mail service won’t be disrupted. The cost of a PO Box varies by size and location but it’s very simple to figure out what’s available in your area. Simply go to the USPS PO Box website page and click on “Reserve New PO Box.” Input your zip code and search radius and you’ll get a list of all the boxes available near you. Not sure how long you’ll need the service? No problem, you can get a PO Box for three, six, or twelve months.
Getting Through A Divorce Without Added Debt
It’s all too easy to fall into debt during a divorce. Between the legal fees, moving out, and trying to keep the kids happy your credit card bills may begin to creep up. The good news is that they don’t need to.
Think about your new place. You probably don’t need a lot of furniture. It might be tempting to run out for a new bed, dresser, pool table, couch, armchair, and kitchen table but there’s no need. Obviously, you want to make your house feel like a home but be careful how much you spend, especially if you’re renting. Wait to spend the big bucks until you find a permanent place. In the meantime, save money, and avoid additional debt. Get the word out to friends, and check out sites like Craigslist or eBay for second-hand furniture and appliances. Remember, this is a temporary measure until you get settled.
Your kids will enjoy spending time with you regardless of what you’re doing. You don’t need to take them shopping for the latest gadgets or take them to the arcade every time you see them. Trying to buy your kids affection is the fastest way to confuse them during a divorce. Just love them, that doesn’t cost a penny.
Don’t miss next week’s installment of Getting Through A Divorce: Bootcamp for the low down on separating your finances from your soon-to-be-ex.
Did you move out or did she? Tell us where you ended up living during divorce in the comments below.
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