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  sell a house with a lien on it, the process becomes even more complex. The more you know about selling a house with a lien and the options available, the easier the home selling experience becomes. 

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. Big State Home Buyers has 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. Saying the right things without having experience in these conversations proves difficult. For this reason, make sure you work with the right professional.

Do Liens Expire?

Every state has different laws for the statute of limitations for a lien. Even if the lien expires, in most states, creditors can re-file the lien to extend it.

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 misunderstand their rights and 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 involves the IRS, a credit card company, the tax authority or even an individual, our 12+ years of experience in all types of liens lets 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.

  7. Sally-Anne Lambert on January 23, 2018 at 1:58 pm

    Hi. I’m in Central WA state. I have an off-grid desert property bought for $3500 in a subdivision. The LOA wanted me out so they wouldn’t have to snow plow if the property I’m developing becomes a residence. They got an excuse when my tires used for building walls let them harass me using rules. But they didn’t have fines in the rules, until they reduced % of voters needed and got rules passed, then they placed fines after the tires already built into walls. They drummed up false charges and fines $50/day throughout most of last year led to a lien. They tried several times to get me to swap or sell the property but I have invested too much in labor and money. The property is supposed to be a nest egg for me once I sell it (straw bale garage, beautiful landscaping walls, recreational property). I have permits from them and the county. After 5 years of intimidation it seems these crooks have won. The lien if $10,550 based on refuse which is actually recycled bottles and cans within a 10 ft diameter circular wall, 3 ft high, not a bit is dispersed by wind as they had alleged. I have no way to defend myself. The law doesn’t provide an avenue because the lien is recorded directly by an LOA. So I’m wondering can you help me to find a buyer who would like to have an exciting energy efficient building in a lovely desert spot, and would be willing to pay a decent price, meanwhile could you perhaps think you could work with me to get the lien reduced to nothing or close to nothing? Many of the landowners are in Seattle, the subdivision has over 1000 members, we all own about one acre each. My spot is pristine, the views are not spoiled by sheds and RVs except for one shed next lot where the LOA forced a guy off for same reason and haven’t finished the building. The thing is, there is a property in Scotland that is going to auction that I really want to buy, and I’m wondering whether I can get a shot at it, but the time window is extremely short. I have another house property in town, Ephrata WA, which I am considering selling to enable me to buy the one in Scotland.

    I’m not sure if I understand, it seems the LOA would have to approve my selling the property? (If I sold to them they would probably destroy all my beautiful walls, and leave the concrete pad as a blot on the landscape. It would waste a property that could be well loved by someone. Not so accessible in winter due to snow and ice, but a good recreational site, in the Moses Coulee.

    • Sally-Anne Lambert on January 23, 2018 at 2:02 pm

      PS – The recycled bottles and cans are material for infilling rounds of tires so that concrete stucco is not wasted. They know that well. They thought they could base the violations order and fines on tires being a “severe fire hazard” until I sent them clear information destroying their argument, plus it’s clear I have worked diligently on the project so that argument doesn’t hold. Refuse is the only argument they have left. But it’s false. Also it’s not visible to anyone unless they trespass and look right over the wall enclosure.

  8. Tar Heels on January 23, 2018 at 2:57 pm

    I have been sent a notice of claim of lien on my property. Can I still technically sell my home now (legally) until the date of the hearing posted?

  9. Sasha on January 29, 2018 at 1:02 am

    Hi. In NY, I used house as collateral on a $50K bail bond. Person is keeping all court dates but case is still ongoing. House is set to be closed on April 15th. I don’t want the person to go back to jail by revoking the bond. What are my options to further proceed? Nobody has mentioned lien on house but I think that’s what happens when I signed the bail bondsman paperwork. At closing would bondsman have to be present and would he get $50K payment from the deal because that’s how much escrow in the house. Could I make cash payments to bondsman if he released the lien and didn’t send person back to jail? Please help…thank you

  10. Shun baker on March 29, 2018 at 12:54 pm

    my mother transfered her property into my name .she owes under $1,000 to usda rural developwment and the land is now in process of being sold with the help of a local title company. I was told i can pay the lien off at closing, but will the land now being in my name and the lien in hers cause a conflict with the sale of the property

  11. Sara Lee on April 11, 2018 at 6:24 pm

    I am selling a property that I brought in 2007, but up until January of 2018 before they record the deed. Now when the title company run a title report, they say I liens on the property. Now is the property title report run my name or under the previous owner. The liens was placed since 2014. But the deed wasn’t completely transfer to the owner until January 2018.