Overcoming the challenge of splitting up while owning property

Broker shares new book idea

Overcoming the challenge of splitting up while owning property

Winning the Regional Broker of the Year at the 2024 NZ Mortgage Awards has been a turning point for Claire Williamson (pictured above), a Cambridge-based mortgage adviser.

The prestigious award has given her the confidence to pursue a passion project: empowering women through property education and publishing her second book.

"The award really solidified my desire to step outside the traditional broker role and delve deeper into financial literacy," said Williamson, director of My Mortgage.  “I've been doing a couple of women and property events recently and have just been looking to build a bit more in that educational space.”

“There are so many women out there who just don't take any action because they don't know what to do. And a lot of them would just make great landlords and great property owners.”

The challenge of splitting up while owning property

This realisation is particularly relevant in light of recent statistics. According to StatsNZ, there were 7,995 divorces in New Zealand in 2023.

This translates to 7.6 divorces for every 1,000 estimated existing marriages and civil unions, a significant increase from 6.2 in 2021.

Williamson has observed a rise in clients facing separation and property division issues, especially post-pandemic.

This trend has motivated her to write a book specifically geared towards women going through separation.

"It aims to equip them with the knowledge and confidence to make informed decisions about their property rights," she said.

"The book is still in the works, but essentially it's all about splitting up and how to sort out your finances whilst going through that difficult process."

Aside from observing the trends, Williamson also has a personal connection to the issue.

In 2019, after separating from her husband, Williamson navigated the complexities of dividing their jointly-owned property.

“I bought him out of our property that we owned together,” Williamson said. “At the time, I didn't think much of it, but then in the several years following, I seem to have acquired quite a few clients in a similar position.”

Witnessing the challenges faced by many women in similar situations fuelled her desire to create a resource.

"It became clear that separation throws a lot of curveballs, especially when it comes to property ownership," she said.

"Often, women haven't been as involved in the initial purchase or financial management, leaving them feeling lost during the separation process."

Importantly, it’s not just women that are going through divorce.

Williamson, along with her team at My Mortgage, has experience working with both men and women going through separation.

“In our team, we’ve got both women and men, so it works out quite well. We try to understand both perspectives and do some work in the background to ensure we get some success for both parties.”

Smashed avo and smashed goals

Of course, Williamson’s latest venture is not her first foray into writing. In 2023, she published her inaugural book, Smashed Avo and Smashed Goals, aimed at Kiwi first-home buyers navigating the property market.

Williamson said inflation, economic pressures, and changes in the real estate market were pushing would-be first-home buyers to give up and spend their hard-earned deposit savings on new cars, travel, and eating out.

“They’ve even been accused of eating “far too much smashed avocado” to be able to buy a home,” Williamson said. “But the real problem is, buyers are in the dark, and too often, they don’t know how many levers they can pull in their favour.”

“It just takes some education around the process and having the right insights and advice to take the right action. Added up, these seemingly insignificant decisions are often enough to put the buyer in a solid position to buy – and make their home loan work to their advantage.”

Williamson said that due to changes in the First Home Grant the book has been made free.

“We are now giving these books away to educate as many people as possible.”

Demystifying the home loan process

As Williamson looks toward the future, she hopes to foster a supportive community where Kiwi borrowers can learn and connect.

“I'm always surprised at how little people understand about like having different options,” Williamson said. "People often settle for the status quo, simply because they're unaware of the options available."

She highlighted the low bank-switching rate in New Zealand as a symptom of this knowledge gap.

"Many people get discouraged by limited options at their current bank and don't realise there's a whole world of lenders out there," Williamson said. "A mortgage adviser can help navigate these options, presenting a wider range of possibilities and advocating for the best outcome."