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Divorce and Home Values: Till Equity Do Us Part

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By Mary Shanklin

Local lawyers and real-estate agents say what’s happening is obvious: After years of slumping business, things have picked up now that home values have improved.

Stan Humphries, chief economist for a Seattle-based real-estate-research firm, says a decrease in the percentage of underwater homes has allowed more homeowners to sell at a profit, so they can finally relocate to other parts of the country, and has allowed more couples to make marital decisions without worrying about a distress sale ruining their credit.

“They can now sell, liquidate their assets and go their separate ways,” says Humphries, who was in Orlando this week meeting with groups of real-estate agents.

The number of “underwater” homes — properties worth less than their mortgage balance — has declined in four-county Metro Orlando from 54 percent of all mortgaged houses in the fall of 2011 to 41 percent as of July of this year.

Some real-estate agents say the drop in homes with negative equity has spurred their business with both divorcing couples and divorcees.

Orlando real-estate agent Robert Tenaglia says he was recently at a REALTOR® function when an agent commented to a small group: If it wasn’t for divorce, I’d have no business now.

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