What is a lien and can you sell a house with a lien on it?

Selling a house for most is already a complex process. When you want to sell a house with a lien on it, the process can become even more complex. The more you know about selling a house with a lien and the options available, the easier the home selling experience can be. 

What is a lien on a house?

A lien is usually a public record that is filed with a county records office for an actual property. Liens, particularly on real estate, are a frequent method used by creditors to collect what they are owed.

Selling a house with a lien on it

If you want to move, but have a lien on your house, you still have options. A house can be sold “as is” when there is a lien or judgment against the property or seller. We’ve walked thousands of homeowners through the whole process, from educating about liens to selling a property with liens, so we know from experience: every title problem is solvable. All you need is a little imagination and a lot of practice. Even if the debt exceeds the property value, you can still sell a house with a lien on it.

First, start with an expert who can contact the lien holder to negotiate for a partial or full release of the lien. Judgments from creditors are rarely set in stone. Smart lien-holders will always take something rather than nothing. You just need to ensure you know your rights and that you don’t give creditors more information than they need.

You don’t have to pay these settlements before closing—liens against houses can be paid in multiple ways. Traditionally, a seller will pay these debts at closing where the debts are deducted from the proceeds of the sale. This means that you likely won’t have to pay any upfront costs; if you find the right title experts, you can even negotiate with your creditors to secure a full or partial release of the lien, even when settling the liens for pennies on the dollar.

If you need to sell a house with a lien on it fast, follow these steps:

  1. Evaluate the liens. Determine what types of liens and judgments are against you or the property you need to sell. The procedure for each lien is different, and some types of liens cannot be negotiated, but many can be settled for little or no money at all.
  2. Locate a qualified buyer. Finding someone interested in buying a house with a lien against it can be challenging. Many buyers and Realtors see liens and judgments as major problems requiring everything to be paid in full. If the creditor is particularly difficult, they may run out of patience and give up. Find someone who understands your need to sell your house as is and also knows how to secure the lien releases and negotiate reduced settlements.
  3. Allow an expert to work for you. An expert makes an important difference in the result. An experienced investor or title company can guide what you say to creditors when settling liens. It’s often best to not tell the lien holder that you need to release to sell a house because that gives them the upper hand. Other times, you do want them to know this information because they will wait for the settlement payment, knowing it will come from closing proceeds. Knowing the right things to say without having experience in these conversations is difficult, so finding the right professional to help is critical.

Can you sell a house with a lien on it by yourself?

Technically, yes. But the process is strenuous, complicated, and highly stressful, especially when your own emotions are involved. Creditors know that most people don’t understand their rights, let alone their options in resolving a lien. When you have an expert on your side who thoroughly understands liens and selling a house with a lien, creditors are much more likely to negotiate.

When you need to sell your house fast, consider working with Big State Home Buyers. Whether your debt is with the IRS, a credit card company, the tax authority or even an individual, our 12+ years of experience in all types of liens have let homeowners sell fast and move on with life. Selling a house with a lien on it can be messy, but you’re not alone—we can help.


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  1. Aletta on April 23, 2017 at 2:00 am

    I sold my home on 12.15.16, Bank of America was my lender, KVS Title was my title company. Here we are in April and I receive a letter from HUD stating that I owe 19,000, I saw the lien on the title search and thougt the professionals took care of this at closing, how am
    I responsible for paying this when it should have come out at closing? I am so confused, any assistance would be so appreciated.

  2. Ian lee on April 25, 2017 at 3:45 pm

    I recently sold my home for $235,000..At closing I didn’t know I had took out some kind of partial claim loan when prosuing another loan modification..At closing HUD never said I owed any amount and at closing why wasn’t this included?? Now HUD is saying I owe the remaining balance, so my question is what consequences does the title company receive if they sold my house with a lein on it?? And how did they even get it released to be sold??

  3. Brian Spitz on May 6, 2017 at 7:57 pm

    Ian – interesting this sounds like another situation like the one above. What state is your property in? Do you have a copy of the title commitment the title co offered when they pulled your title? The list of liens and such? In Texas yes, this most certainly should have been paid off. And if this was a lien against the house then it would still be there, though the title insurance policy there really protects the people who bought the house from you from having to pay that lien. Email us at info at big state home buyers dot com for more information.

  4. Wayne Jolliff on June 18, 2017 at 8:33 am

    I sold my home 17 years ago in Louisiana. I have lived in Texas 4 years.
    I recently claimed chapter 7 in Texas.
    A lien exists on my Louisiana home, will I have to pay it?

    • Brian Spitz on July 3, 2017 at 12:04 am

      Hey Wayne,
      Can you tell us about the lien on the Louisiana home? Did the home have the lien on it before you sold it, or after?

  5. Lyn Thomas on July 3, 2017 at 11:58 am

    i have a home in Texas with a federal lien on it from a joint and several case with the Justice Department. There is a $90,000 balance on the penalty from this case and a lien along with it. I want to sell this house, but cannot get any information or help from the DOJ to approve the sale and subsequent payment of the penalty balance. I’m concerned that a sale won’t go through because of this lien, and I need to sale this home. The only alternative i can forsee is to let the property go into foreclosure. Any advice for this situation?

  6. Dane on July 24, 2017 at 1:52 pm

    Dear Big State, Do you buy or help California home owners sell their property? If so I would be interested. Thank You

    • Brian Spitz on July 25, 2017 at 5:01 pm

      Hey Dane,
      We’ve never done it before, but it’s not impossible. Give us a call at (713) 909-4119 and we’d love to hear about your home.