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'Certified Divorce Real Estate Specialist' Is Ready For Pandemic-Fueled Spike In Splits

For marriages already under stress, sheltering at home probably didn't help couples.
Reva G | Flickr

In many cases, real estate transactions are a happy occasion. First-time homebuyers smile and hold up keys. Families move from one locale to another and begin exciting new chapters. But for others, selling or buying a home can be an enormous headache that’s just one part of a bigger mess: a divorce. And with the COVID-19 crisis, some lawyers have reported an increase in inquiries from people thinking about splitting up.

St. Louis native Kathy Helbig has spent 25 years working in the region’s real estate industry. In that time, she’s helped many clients make these complex shifts as they try to work together — separately and as cordially as possible. And now, she’s Missouri’s first certified “divorce real estate specialist,” having recently undergone 40 hours of virtual training toward that end.

On Monday’s St. Louis on the Air, Helbig joined host Sarah Fenske to talk about what makes real estate transactions particularly tricky while divorcing. She also touched on the housing market trends she’s been observing during the coronavirus pandemic.

Helbig noted that it’s too early for solid data about the pandemic’s effects on the divorce rate. In some cases, couples who were on the edge of divorce may have found a way forward as they reflect on what matters most to them. But she does expect to see an increase in splits over the next few months as courts open back up.

“You’re stuck together, you’ve got your kids at home, so it’s gonna be one or the other,” she said. “But based on what a lot of the attorneys are saying … it’s looking like there’s definitely overwhelming financial tensions right now. You know, when you’re forced at home together with someone that you haven’t been getting along with, those are all the things that are going to be the boiling points for certain people.”

Kathy Helbig is the owner of Experience Realty Partners.
Credit Kathy Helbig
Kathy Helbig is the owner of Experience Realty Partners.

Helbig added that the overall state of the real estate industry isn’t as bleak as one might think in the wake of COVID-19.

“Usually we see the market really start to come into full bloom [during] spring and summer. … Well, this year, we got shut down in the middle of March, so that inventory, what happened is, there was a pause from sellers because they didn’t want people in their houses,” she said. “Everybody was a little bit in shock … and it was right when we were ramping up. So what happened is that pause has caused even less inventory in the market, but because real estate is always fueling the economy, the [interest] rates keep dropping.

“So they’re trying to encourage buyers to get out and buy, keep industry going, keep it moving. And so buyers are moving … there’s so much demand to buy right now, and there’s just so little inventory, that [it’s] a good time to buy if you’re financially stable and you’re ready to really go after it.” 

Helbig said one house last week drew 35 offers. “They’re going $45,000 [to] $50,000 over asking price on a $275,000 house,” she said. “Now that’s not every single one of them, but … you really need to be with an experienced agent that can get you through a war, because it’s going to be a war to go buy a house.”

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill, and Lara Hamdan. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

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Evie is a producer for "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.

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