How Metro Vancouver’s hot real estate market can affect divorce settlements

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WATCH: A strange and unexpected side-effect of Metro Vancouver's hot real estate market is popping up more often these days. John Hua explains how the skyrocketing value of homes is actually affecting divorce settlements – Mar 14, 2016

When happily ever after doesn’t last, one of the first questions asked is: who gets the house?

With property values soaring in Metro Vancouver, the chances of staying in the family home seem increasingly unlikely.

“Neither party is able to buy out the other for the house so they have to sell it,” Leisha Murphy of Connect Family Law said.

As prices continue to rise, one party ends up on the losing end.

So the answer, for many, is to sell — and sell fast.

“I think it puts a lot of stress on the parties and the lawyers because we are trying to encourage people to move at a faster rate than we typically would so we can lock that price in,” Murphy said.

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As a result, the average settlement timeline of a half-year is often cut down to as little as two months.

The mad rush to set a price and settle can leave real estate appraisers like Daniel Jones with a week-long waiting list.

“I would say the average real estate appraiser in Vancouver, business is probably double what it was one year ago,” Jones said.

With property values in some places rising a few per cent a week, one appraisal is often not enough.

“We’re commissioned…two, maybe three times, to do what we call an update valuation,” Jones said.

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Once an appraisal is locked in, that’s it. In a recent case, the woman got the home and the man got the RRSPs. When the value of the home started to skyrocket, he went to court asking to pay less child support. The judge ruled against him.

“If the courts get involved trying to rejig settlements, you can just imagine — oh, the house is up, the house is down, oh, the house is up. It would be a huge mess,” Murphy said.

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In this real estate market, assets have to be divided long before broken hearts have time to mend.

– With files from John Hua

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