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Selling your home to avoid repossession

You do not have to sell your home if you are struggling to pay your mortgage.

Read our advice on how to deal with missed mortgage payments.

Get debt advice if you're not sure what to do.

A debt adviser can help you work out a budget, prioritise your debts and talk with your lender and other creditors.

Do not just hand back your keys to your lender

Handing back the keys is sometimes called voluntary repossession.

If you give back your keys and move out, you cannot live in your home anymore.

This can affect your:

  • benefits

  • credit rating

  • options if you need housing help from the council

Your lender might sell your home for less than it is worth. For example, if it's sold at auction.

If the sale price does not cover the money you owe, you have to pay back the difference.

You're still responsible for mortgage interest, buildings insurance and maintenance costs until the property is sold.

Selling your home yourself

This puts you in control of the sale and helps you plan your move.

It could help you clear your mortgage and arrears and pay off other debts.  

You could have money left to rent a home or for a deposit if you want to buy a new home.

Things to think about first

Think carefully about:

  • how much it will cost to sell

  • the condition of your home

  • possible debts if your home sells for less than you think it will

  • changes in the housing market that could affect how long a sale takes

Get financial advice before you decide to sell your home.

Citizens Advice has more on getting financial advice.

Avoid quick sale companies

Some companies make money out of buying homes for less than they are worth.

These companies put leaflets through your door advertising a quick sale but you could lose out.

Get your home properly valued before you sell. Many estate agents do this for free. Speak to local agents and compare what they say.

If your home is worth less than what you owe

This is called negative equity.

You need your lender’s permission to sell if the sale price is less than what you owe.

You have to repay the difference between the sale price and what you owe.

Get help from your lender to sell

Your lender could help you sell your home. This is sometimes called assisted voluntary sale.

Some lenders agree to:

  • pay your selling fees

  • pause court action to give you time to sell

  • lower your mortgage payments in the meantime

  • give you a deposit and rent in advance to rent a home

Some lenders do not have schemes but could still help. Check with your lender.

If your lender does not help you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS).

Get help from the council

You can ask the council for help if you cannot afford your mortgage and have arrears.

The council can tell you about your options if you cannot afford your home.

Do not sell your home or hand back the keys if you have nowhere else to live.

If you move out before you need to, the council could decide you're intentionally homeless. This affects the help you get.

The council could say you should:

  • try and fix your mortgage problems

  • wait until the lender goes to court and see if you can stop repossession

Asking your lender for time to sell

Your lender must consider delaying court action if you're taking steps to sell your home.

You need to:

  • show the property is on the market at a reasonable price

  • provide a sale brochure and energy performance certificate (EPC)

  • give your lender permission to speak to your estate agent and conveyancer

Asking the court for time to sell

Make sure you attend the court hearing if your lender starts court action.

You can ask the court for time to sell if you can show that either:

  • the sale of your home will clear the mortgage debt

  • you have other money to pay off the mortgage if you're in negative equity

The court can make a suspended possession order that gives you time to sell. If this happens, you can continue to live in your home while you sell.

The judge decides how long to delay repossession for. It could be anything up to a year.

You will probably have to pay a set amount towards your mortgage even if you cannot afford your full payments.

If you claim benefits

Any money left after your mortgage and other debts are paid can affect your benefits.

Your benefits are not usually affected if you:

  • are in negative equity

  • get less than £6,000 after a sale

You cannot get universal credit if you have more than £16,000 left from the sale.

You can get pension credit if you and your partner are pension age.

You could also get housing benefit if you're pension age.

Before you sell

Your benefits could stop or go down if you move out before a sale goes through.

The DWP works out if you are likely to have money left after paying your mortgage and costs.

Your benefits might not be affected if you move out because of a relationship breakdown or if you're taking reasonable steps to sell the property.

Get benefits advice on your situation.

Last updated: 20 February 2023

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