Selling a house with a lien

On Behalf of | Feb 5, 2022 | Residential Real Estate

Where real estate is concerned, you may have heard that it’s a “seller’s market” right now. You’re ready to pack up the homestead, make the sale, take the money and travel. 

First, however, you have to solve a problem: There’s an old lien sitting on the title of your property, and you know that’s going to be a huge red flag to any buyers. 

Can you still sell your property? Sure, but first, you need to decide how to handle the lien. 

What are your options for dealing with a lien? 

The type of lien can make a difference in how you proceed. A tax lien by the IRS is generally harder to deal with than, for example, a lien from a creditor over a long-forgotten credit card bill. 

Once you’re clear on what kind of lien you have and the amount, you need to consider the following: 

  • Can you afford to pay it off in full? If so, that’s probably the quickest and easiest thing to do so that you can move on with your life. Once you’ve paid the debt, you can get a paper showing that the lien has been released and clear your property’s title.
  • Is the lien still valid? IRS liens essentially last forever, but a lien that was obtained by a creditor generally expires in New York after ten years.
  • Can you negotiate the lien down? Even the IRS is usually open to negotiations, and most creditors are willing to take something over nothing. It may take some experienced negotiations, but you may be able to get a lien released for a fraction of the debt.
  • Can you pay the lien off with the proceeds of the sale? You may be able to work out a deal where the money to pay off the lien comes directly out of the proceeds of your home sale. This would be handled by the bank or title company so that the creditor is assured of your compliance. 

Don’t let a snag in the works stop you from selling your property when you’re ready. Just make sure that you have the legal guidance you need to get past any hurdles.