These real estate agents are versed in restraining orders

Lucky are the few who move out of their houses simply because they have tired of the view. More often, it is a change in circumstances that pushes people into the housing market, like a new job or a new husband.

And lurking behind many ‘‘for sale’’ signs is the big, sad shift that almost always requires somebody to move out: divorce.

For real estate agents and brokers, deals that spring from divorce are an inevitable slice of the business, and many find themselves gathering answers to questions they hoped never to face. How does one represent two people who won’t speak to each other? How does an agent show an apartment divided by awkwardly placed locks or temporary walls? And what if your client’s highest priority is to harm the former partner?


For most agents, this is accidental expertise. For others, it is a niche.

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‘‘We specialize in it,’’ said Vicki Stout, at Keller Williams Suburban Realty in Livingston, N.J.

‘‘But it is hard to advertise,’’ added Bob Bailey-Lemansky, her business partner. ‘‘No one is going to go to our Facebook page and ‘like’ divorce.’’

They have tips for clients (how both halves of a divorcing couple can maximize tax breaks when selling a home, for example) but most of what they offer is more basic. They have found that having one man and one woman on the sales team can make acrimonious couples more comfortable. They have grown accustomed to having every conversation at least twice. And they are inured to the difficulties that can arise.

“We’re familiar with how to handle clients that have restraining orders,’’ Stout offered matter-of-factly.


A few months into their partnership, they discovered that business cards proclaiming ‘‘Divorce!’’ were not always a banner customers were eager to fly. They changed the name of their partnership to Family Focus Realty.

In fact, keeping the d-word quiet is often a priority, many brokers say. Most often, when buyers hear ‘‘divorce’’ their first thought is ‘‘fire sale.’’

‘‘I don’t discuss it because it opens up the seller to getting killed,’’ said Frances Katzen, a managing director at Douglas Elliman. ‘‘Buyers think they must be desperate.’’

Optics are important, Katzen said, and if a closet looks bare on one side, she will gently rearrange it.

Michael Shapot, at Keller Williams Realty in New York — his biography calls him a ‘‘certified real estate divorce specialist” — likes to go a step further. ‘‘If there are no men’s clothes in there, go buy some,’’ he said.


His certification is from a firm in Colorado called Financial Divorce ­Association, which offers four hours of tax and legal seminars on DVDs for about $600. Stout and Bailey-Lemansky have taken the course, as well.

Even in difficult circumstances, however, homes eventually sell, at which point the parting couple gather up the pieces to look for separate places to live — and real estate agents are called in again.

Katzen has divorcing clients who are buying two apartments on different sides of the same building, she said, because they hope it will make the separation easier on their child.