Can You Sell Your House If You Owe Property Taxes?

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can you sell your house if you owe property taxes

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Selling your house when you owe property taxes? It can feel overwhelming, but it’s totally doable. 

This guide will show you the critical steps to get your house sold, even if you’re behind on taxes. You’ll learn your options and get the professional advice needed to navigate this tricky situation smoothly.

Key Summary

  • Selling a house with a tax lien takes approximately 3–6 months.
  • Rhode Island and Massachusetts have their own property tax laws, including assessment methods, tax rates, and exemptions.
  • Delinquency on property taxes can result in penalties, interest charges, and potential foreclosure.
  • Selling a house as-is for cash can be the best solution to resolve your tax debt issue quickly.
  • Using sale proceeds to pay off taxes ensures a clear title and facilitates a smooth sale process.

Property Taxes in the United States

Property taxes are charges levied by local governments based on the value of your property. According to the National Tax Lien Association, an estimated $14 billion in property taxes go unpaid each year nationwide. These taxes vary widely depending on the state you live in.

StateEffective Tax RateAverage Annual Property TaxAverage Home Value or Listing Price
South Dakota1.17%$2,974.75$254,600
Rhode Island1.40%$3,432.79$245,500
New York1.40%$3,407.29$243,100

Property Tax Laws and Regulations in Rhode Island and Massachusetts

Each state has its own set of property tax laws and regulations. In Rhode Island, property taxes are assessed based on the value of your property, with rates and exemptions varying by municipality.

Massachusetts follows a similar system, with taxes based on property value and rates set by local governments.

AspectRhode IslandMassachusetts

Assessment and Valuation
  • Rhode Island assesses property values using different methods:
    • Sales comparison
    • Income approach
    • Cost Approach
  • Assessors determine the fair market value of properties considering factors like:
    • Recent sales of comparable properties
    • Income potential
    • Cost of replacement
  • Local assessors evaluate property values through:
    • Sales comparison
    • Income capitalization
    • Cost Approach
  • The goal is to ensure fair and equitable taxation across various property types and locations within the state.

Tax Rates and Exemptions
  • Tax rates vary depending on the municipality.
  • Rates are applied to the property's assessed value to determine the property tax bill.
  • Exemptions include benefits for seniors, veterans, and individuals with disabilities.
  • Tax rates vary depending on the locality.
  • Property tax exemptions are offered to eligible property owners.
  • Certain property types like agricultural land or historic properties may also qualify for exemptions.

Delinquency and Foreclosure
  • Failure to pay property taxes in Rhode Island can lead to delinquency.
  • Delinquency results in penalties, interest charges, and potentially foreclosure if taxes remain unpaid.
  • Property owners experiencing financial difficulties may qualify for payment plans or tax relief programs.
  • Property owners in Massachusetts who don't pay their property taxes on time can end up in delinquency.
  • Massachusetts provides several programs and resources to help property owners in financial trouble.
  • These options include payment plans and tax relief programs.

Redemption Period and Rights
  • Rhode Island offers property owners a redemption period of 1–3 years.
  • This period allows them to pay delinquent property taxes.
  • The redemption period allows property owners to rectify tax delinquency.
  • Property owners in Massachusetts have a redemption period of 1 -3 years.
  • The redemption period helps prevent the loss of property through foreclosure.
  • Property owners can preserve their ownership rights and interests by utilizing this period.

Selling a House with Outstanding Property Taxes

It takes approximately 3-6 months to sell a house with a tax lien. Your best bet is to sell your home as-is for cash and use the proceeds to pay off your taxes.

Selling Your House for Cash

Some investors or companies specialize in purchasing homes quickly and for cash, regardless of any outstanding debts or issues with the property.

While selling your house as-is for cash may mean accepting a lower offer than market value, it can swiftly resolve your tax woes and eliminate the need for extensive repairs or negotiations.

Using Sale Proceeds to Pay Off Taxes

If you use the sale proceeds to pay off the tax debt, your closing agent will coordinate with the relevant authorities to ensure the taxes are settled before you receive your money. This ensures that the buyer gets a clear title and that you can proceed with the sale without any lingering obligations.

Tax Exemptions and Credits

Tax rate exemptions offer a glimmer of hope for property owners facing the burden of tax liabilities.

These exemptions provide relief to eligible individuals, allowing them to save money on property taxes and alleviate some financial strain.

Here’s a closer look at some common exemptions available to qualifying property owners:

1. Veterans Exemptions

Exemptions are often available to help ease the tax burden of veterans who have bravely served their country.

Eligibility criteria may vary depending on military service duration and disability status.

2. Senior Exemptions

As individuals enter their golden years, the financial strain of property taxes can become increasingly burdensome.

Senior exemptions aim to provide relief to older adults by reducing property tax obligations based on age or income criteria.

3. Exemptions for Individuals with Disabilities

Individuals with disabilities may face unique challenges when it comes to homeownership, including financial constraints related to property taxes.

Exemptions for individuals with disabilities aim to alleviate some of these challenges by providing tax relief based on disability status or income criteria.

Application Process

Getting these property tax discounts usually involves filling out some paperwork and sending it to your local tax office.

You might have to provide some documents to prove you’re eligible. It’s important to know the deadlines and rules for applying in your area.

Benefits and Savings

The best part about these exemptions and credits is the money you save. You can keep more money in your pocket by paying less in property taxes.

This can make it easier to afford your home and help you stay in it long-term. So, it’s worth checking out what discounts you might qualify for.

Professional Guidance and Resources

Navigating property taxes and selling a house with outstanding tax debt can be complex. It’s important to seek professional guidance from real estate agents and attorneys specializing in these matters.

Real Estate Agents and Attorneys

These professionals have the knowledge and experience to guide you through the intricacies of property taxation, including understanding your tax liabilities, negotiating with tax authorities, and navigating the sale of your property.

They can also provide valuable advice on your legal rights and options for resolving tax issues.

Government Agencies and Tax Authorities

Government agencies and tax authorities can be valuable resources for property owners facing tax challenges. Each state has its own department or agency responsible for overseeing property taxation and assisting taxpayers.

For example, the Rhode Island Division of Taxation offers resources and information on property taxes, including FAQs, forms, and contact information for assistance.

Similarly, the Massachusetts Department of Revenue provides resources for property owners, including information on property tax assessments, exemptions, and appeals processes.

Local Government Resources

In addition to state-level resources, local governments often offer programs and services to assist property owners with tax issues.

Municipalities may have tax relief programs for eligible property owners, such as seniors or low-income individuals, and resources for understanding local property tax laws and procedures.

It’s worth contacting your local government offices or visiting their websites to explore available resources and support services.

There are organizations and advocacy groups dedicated to supporting homeowners and advocating for fair property tax policies. 

These organizations may offer educational resources, advocacy tools, and community support networks for individuals facing property tax challenges. Resources include the following:

Additional Things to Consider

When selling a house with unpaid property taxes, several additional considerations must be taken into account:

Impact on the Mortgage and Loan Process

When selling a house with unpaid property taxes, it’s essential to consider how it may affect the mortgage and loan process. Banks typically want assurance that the property has a clear title and is free from liens or encumbrances.

If there are outstanding property taxes or tax liens on the property, it could complicate the sale and potentially delay or even derail the mortgage approval process.

Your lenders may require the tax debt to be resolved before closing on the loan to protect their investment and ensure the property can be legally transferred to the new owner.

Potential for Tax Liens to Affect the Sale of a House

Potential buyers may hesitate to purchase a property with a tax lien, as it represents a potential financial risk and could complicate the closing process. Resolving the tax lien and obtaining a clear title is essential for facilitating a smooth and successful sale.

Importance of Timely Payment of Property Taxes

Falling behind on property tax payments can lead to delinquency, penalties, interest charges, and even foreclosure. It’s crucial to budget for property taxes and ensure that payments are made on time to avoid these consequences.

According to RealtyTrac, over 600,000 properties were in some stage of foreclosure nationwide in 2020, highlighting the prevalence of this issue across the country.

You should prioritize property tax payments and set aside funds accordingly to avoid financial hardship and protect your investment in property.

Things To Avoid

  • Concealing tax debt from potential buyers.
  • Trying to navigate the sale process without professional guidance.
  • Underestimating the impact of tax debt on the sale.
  • Ignoring potential legal consequences of unpaid taxes.
  • Failing to explore alternative payment options before selling

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I appeal or dispute the amount of property taxes I owe?

You have the right to appeal or dispute the assessed value and corresponding property tax amount. Contact your local tax authority to learn about the specific procedures and deadlines for filing an appeal.

Can property tax debt affect my credit score?

Property tax debt can potentially affect your credit score. If the tax authority reports the delinquency to credit bureaus, it could result in a negative impact on your credit history, making it harder to secure loans or obtain favorable interest rates in the future.


Selling a house with unpaid property taxes is possible but requires careful consideration and planning. Research as much as possible, explore your options, and talk to the right people.

Remember to prioritize timely payment of property taxes to avoid potential penalties and complications in the future.

If you’re facing property tax issues while trying to sell your home or if you’re uncertain about the next steps to take, reach out to us. We’re here to provide you with a clear overview of your available options and assist you in choosing the best path forward for you and your property.

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