Can I Sell My House in Default in California?

Can I Sell My House in Default in California?

If you find yourself in a situation where you're struggling to keep up with your mortgage payments and facing the possibility of foreclosure, you may be wondering, "Can I sell my house in default in California?" The short answer is yes, it is possible to sell your house even if you're in default on your mortgage. However, there are some important considerations and steps you need to be aware of. In this comprehensive guide, we'll explore the options available to homeowners in California who are in default and looking to sell their house.

What You Need to Know When Selling Your House in Default in California

Understanding Mortgage Default

Before we delve into the details of selling a house in default, let's clarify what mortgage default means. In California, when you miss a certain number of mortgage payments, your lender can initiate foreclosure proceedings. This process can lead to the loss of your home if you don't take action to resolve the default.

What Leads to Mortgage Default?

Mortgage default typically occurs when homeowners fail to make their monthly mortgage payments. This can happen for various reasons, including job loss, medical expenses, divorce, or financial hardship. It's crucial to understand that missing even a single mortgage payment can set you on the default path, so it's essential to act promptly if you're facing difficulties.

Exploring Your Options

1. Reinstating Your Loan

One option to consider is reinstating your loan. This means catching up on all the missed payments, including late fees and penalties. In California, lenders are required to give you a notice of default and a three-month grace period to bring your loan current. Reinstating your loan can stop the foreclosure process and allow you to keep your home.

How to Reinstate Your Loan

To reinstate your loan, you'll need to contact your lender and inquire about the total amount due, including any late fees and penalties. Once you have this information, you can work on a plan to bring your payments up to date. This might involve borrowing money from a friend or family member, using savings, or negotiating a repayment plan with your lender.

2. Loan Modification

Another option is to explore loan modification. This involves negotiating with your lender to change the terms of your mortgage, such as reducing the interest rate or extending the loan term. A successful loan modification can make your monthly payments more manageable and prevent foreclosure.

The Loan Modification Process

To pursue a loan modification, you'll need to provide your lender with detailed financial information, including your income, expenses, and a hardship letter explaining your situation. It's essential to be prepared and provide accurate documentation to increase your chances of approval. Loan modification programs can vary, so it's crucial to work closely with your lender to find the best solution.

3. Short Sale

If reinstating your loan or loan modification isn't feasible, you can consider a short sale. In a short sale, you sell your house for less than the remaining balance on your mortgage, and the lender agrees to accept the proceeds as full satisfaction of the debt. This can be a good option if your home's value has declined, and you owe more than it's worth.

The Short Sale Process

  • Contact Your Lender: Begin by contacting your lender and informing them of your intention to sell the property through a short sale. They will likely require you to provide financial documentation to demonstrate your hardship.
  • Hire a Real Estate Agent: Work with a real estate agent who has experience with short sales. They can help you determine the market value of your home and find a buyer.
  • List and Sell Your Home: List your home on the market and negotiate with potential buyers. Once you have an offer, it must be submitted to your lender for approval.
  • Lender Approval: Your lender will review the offer and decide whether to accept it. Keep in mind that short sale approval can take some time.
  • Closing the Sale: Once your lender approves the sale, you can proceed with closing the transaction and transferring ownership to the buyer.

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4. Sell Your Home on the Market

Selling your home on the open market is also an option, even if you're in default. However, it's crucial to work with a real estate agent who is experienced in handling distressed properties. You'll need to disclose your default status to potential buyers, and the sale may need to be approved by your lender.

Selling on the Open Market

Selling your home traditionally involves the following steps:

  • Select a Real Estate Agent: Choose a knowledgeable agent who can guide you through the process, including pricing your home competitively.
  • Prepare Your Home: Get your home ready for sale by making necessary repairs and improvements to attract buyers.
  • Market Your Property: Your agent will market your property, hold open houses, and advertise it to potential buyers.
  • Negotiate Offers: When you receive offers, your agent will help you negotiate the best deal possible.
  • Closing the Sale: Once you've accepted an offer, you'll go through the closing process, which includes inspections, appraisals, and finalizing the sale.

5. Deed in Lieu of Foreclosure

In some cases, you can voluntarily transfer ownership of your property to the lender through a deed in lieu of foreclosure. While this won't allow you to keep your home, it can be a less damaging alternative to foreclosure and can save your credit score from further damage.

The Deed in Lieu Process

To pursue a deed instead of foreclosure:

  • Contact Your Lender: Discuss your situation with your lender and express your willingness to transfer the property.
  • Provide Documentation: Your lender will likely request financial information and documentation to evaluate your eligibility.
  • Negotiate Terms: Work with your lender to negotiate the terms of the deed in lieu, including any financial obligations.
  • Transfer Ownership: Once an agreement is reached, you'll sign over the deed to the lender, and they will assume ownership of the property.

The Importance of Legal Counsel

No matter which option you choose, it's essential to seek legal advice. A real estate attorney can help you navigate the complex process of selling your house in default and ensure that your rights are protected throughout the transaction.

Why Legal Counsel Is Crucial

  • Legal Expertise: Real estate laws and regulations can be complex. An attorney can provide legal expertise and guidance to ensure you comply with all requirements.
  • Negotiation: If you're negotiating with your lender or potential buyers, an attorney can advocate on your behalf and help you secure the best outcome.
  • Protection of Rights: Your attorney will ensure that your rights are protected throughout the process, from the initial negotiations to the final closing.


Selling a house in default in California is possible, but it comes with challenges and complexities. You have several options to explore, from reinstating your loan to pursuing a short sale or selling on the open market. However, each option has its pros and cons, and it's crucial to assess your situation carefully and seek legal counsel to make the best decision for your circumstances.

Remember, “default" in California real estate can be a stressful situation, but with the right guidance and a clear understanding of your options, you can take steps to mitigate the impact and find a solution that works for you. Don't hesitate to reach out to professionals who specialize in distressed property transactions to help you navigate this challenging process successfully.

Disclaimer: This material is provided for information purposes only and is not to be construed as financial, investment or tax advice. Readers are strongly advised to consult with their professional advisors regarding the information herein.

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