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The Divorce Encyclopedia
Real Estate


Term Definition Real Estate - physical land and appurtenances affixed to the land.
Application in Divorce Buildings and land are sometimes referred to as real property. Real estate means those things attached to land, including buildings, permanent structures, light fixtures, heating and cooling equipment and things which would be personal property if they were not attached.

Real state (which is often called real property or "property") occupies a special place in American life and culture. Part of the cultural fascination with land comes from the fact that, as is so often said, "They ain’t making more of it." Part of it is the emotional pull of possession and the right of exclusion.

Needless to say, real estate very often figures prominently in divorce actions.

For one, the marital home is real estate -- a house on a piece of land. Very often it is the biggest asset divided and distributed in a divorce. Because often a home is also a house and vice versa, divorcing couples often fight bitterly for possession of this building and the land it stands on, and they often make bad decision about it.

In some jurisdiction, judges, who are often inclined to award the children to the wife, are inclined to award the home to the wife because that way the children do not have to relocate as a result of the divorce. Very often, however, women find later that the house is too expensive for them to maintain.

In addition to often being the largest asset, residential real estate usually appreciates passively, which means as a result of market forces, and may appreciate actively, which means as a result of improvements by its owners, or both at the same time.

Unlike commercial real estate, such as a manufacturing plant (which often lends itself only to a single purpose), residential real estate is easier to sell. The theory of the market holds there is always a buyer for every house; only the price is at issue.

Special consideration come into play when house is sold. The transfer of real estate must be in writing, and the ownership of real estate is recorded in deed registry in the county courthouse.

In the sale of residential property, some items that are hardwired, such as a dishwasher, are considered part of the real estate. Other hardwired items, a clothes dryer, are not. Central air conditioning is; window units are not. Built-in wall units, though moveable, are considered part of the real estate, Stoves stay with the house; refrigerators do not.

When negotiating a sale, it is a wise idea to make certain that all that appears to be real estate is in fact real estate. For example, chandeliers, though hardwired to a structure, may not be part of the sale. It is a good idea to ask. Strange as it may sound, people have been known to remove landscaping.

See Real Property.

See also Contempt of Court; Deed Registry; Descendants; Fair Market Value; Interspousal Gifts; Marketable Title; Active and Passive Appreciation; Quitclaim; Realty Transfer Tax; Tenancy by the Entirety.

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