Inheriting a house with a mortgage

What Happens if You Inherit a House With a Mortgage?

Have you ever wondered what happens if you inherit a house with a mortgage?

So many of us wonder the same thing, and for the right reasons—planning ahead—especially since inheriting a house with a mortgage can present unique challenges and obligations. 

By the time you’re down with our guide, you’ll have much more clarity and can take the necessary steps depending on your situation.

I inherited a house with a mortgage, what do I do?

So, what do you do when you inherit a house with a mortgage? What are the implications of inheriting a house that is not paid off?

Before you make any decisions, it’s crucial to understand the nuances around the mortgage and your legal responsibilities. You’ll also need to know about possible options, such as:

  • Selling the property
  • Refinancing the mortgage, or
  • Continuing the payments. 

Note that if you’re inheriting a house that is paid off, this guide may not be relevant to you as you will have different legal and financial considerations to consider.

Inheriting a house with a mortgage in California?

If you’re in Southern California and are looking to sell an inherited property with an existing mortgage, don’t hesitate to reach out to us here at SoCal Home Buyers! Our seasoned team of professionals will guide you through this confusing process, offering personalized solutions tailored to your needs. 

Selling an inherited house might seem daunting, but we’re here to make it as smooth and hassle-free as possible.

So, what happens if you inherit a house with a mortgage?

When you inherit a mortgaged house, you have two options. Sell the home, use the proceeds to pay off the mortgage, and keep any excess money as your inheritance. Alternatively, if you decide to keep the house, you’ll need to take responsibility for the loan payments as the mortgage beneficiary.

The amount of times we hear, “what happens if I inherit a house with a mortgage and what should I do?” is uncanny!

Firstly, you need to realize that the situation is just that—you are inheriting a mortgage. This situation is different from say, inheriting a house in a trust in California, wherein the mortgage has already been paid off.

Let’s start with the responsibilities and obligations that come with inheriting a house with a mortgage:


Probate is the legal process that takes place after a person’s death. It involves proving in court that a deceased individual’s will is valid, identifying and inventorying their property, paying debts and taxes, and distributing the remaining property as the will directs.

When inheriting a house with mortgage repayments, it usually goes through probate before you can take possession. This can be a lengthy and complicated process, often taking several months to complete.

Since you’re responsible for the mortgage payments, one thing to keep in mind is that if the mortgage isn’t paid during probate, the mortgage company can do a foreclosure on the property. This highlights the importance of understanding the probate process and taking necessary steps to fulfill your obligations as a beneficiary.


Upon inheriting a property and gaining access, one of the first actions you should take is a thorough inspection of the house. Doing this will give you an understanding of the property’s condition and any maintenance, repairs, or renovations required. You could always hire a professional property inspector to ensure a detailed and accurate evaluation.

The inspection process serves a dual purpose:

  1. Costs: It informs you of the potential costs that you may need to shoulder, helping you decide whether to keep the property or sell it.
  2. Disclosing issues: If you choose to sell, the inspection aids you in disclosing known issues to potential buyers ethically and legally, which can impact the sale price.

In California, federal law requires sellers to provide potential buyers with a document known as a Real Estate Transfer Disclosure Statement, outlining any known defects with the property. This transparency not only protects the buyer but also safeguards you from potential legal disputes post-sale. 

Paying taxes

When you inherit property with a mortgage, the tax basis is typically the home’s fair market value at the time of the deceased’s death, not the original cost basis of the inherited property with a mortgage. This is often referred to as a “stepped-up basis” and can have significant benefits if you decide to sell the property.

For instance, say you inherit a house that was bought for $200,000 but valued at $500,000 at the time of the owner’s death. Your tax basis for the property would be $500,000. If you choose to sell the property for around its current fair market value, you’ll likely owe little to no capital gains tax, thanks to the step-up in basis.

However, if you retain the property and it appreciates over time, you may be liable for capital gains tax on the difference between your basis (the value at the time of inheritance) and the sale price when you eventually sell the property. Therefore, it’s pivotal to understand these intricate tax rules and consult with a tax advisor or estate attorney to ensure you’re making the most financially sound decisions.

But, do you have to pay taxes on the sale of a deceased parents’ home? The answer is no, you don’t have to pay taxes on the sale of a deceased parent’s home if the proceeds are below a certain amount. In California, this amount is currently $1 million for individuals and $2 million for married couples.

Home valuation

Knowing the value of your inherited property is crucial for multiple reasons:

  • Selling the house
  • Refinancing the existing mortgage, and
  • Understanding your potential tax liability

A home valuation involves a detailed assessment of the property that takes into account various factors such as its size, location, condition, recent sales of comparable houses in the area, and current market trends. 

For example, if your inherited property has a mortgage, you’ll need to understand the current market value of the house to determine how much equity you have and whether selling it is a viable option. Alternatively, if you wish to keep the property, knowing its value can help you make informed decisions about refinancing or negotiating with the lender for favorable terms.

In California, professional appraisers usually carry out this process, ensuring an accurate valuation of your inherited property. Keep in mind that understanding the value of the property is not just about knowing its worth. It’s about making informed decisions that align with your financial goals and personal circumstances.

Discussions with co-heirs

Having shared ownership with other heirs can make decision making even more tricky than it usually is. Having open lines of communication is key in this situation to avoid any friction and ensure everyone’s perspectives and desires are considered. 

Here are some key points to discuss among you:

  • Agreement on property disposition: Each party should agree on whether to retain the property or sell it. Ideally, this decision should be unanimous to avoid future disputes.
  • Equity division: If you decide to sell the property, discuss how to divide the proceeds. Typically, the division aligns with the deceased’s will.
  • Management responsibilities: If retaining the property, assign roles and responsibilities for managing it. This might include tasks like paying the mortgage, maintaining the property, or managing tenants if it’s a rental property.
  • Legal and dinancial consultation: Consider consulting with a real estate attorney or financial advisor who can provide expert guidance on navigating mortgage payments, taxes, and other financial implications.

By discussing and agreeing on these key points, you can make the process less daunting, more manageable, and ensure the best possible outcome for all parties involved.

When selling inherited property with multiple owners, it’s crucial to have a clear agreement on the listing price, as disagreements on this issue can delay or even derail the sale. By clearly communicating and setting expectations from the beginning, you can avoid potential conflicts and ensure a smooth process.

If it’s not possible for all co-heirs to agree on these matters, then they can be bought out by the other beneficiaries, who will then take on full ownership of the property. Otherwise, the party will require mediation or legal action to resolve any disputes. 

Your options after inheriting a house with a mortgage

So, after inheriting a property with a mortgage, you have three options, each with its own set of implications and potential benefits:

Moving in

If you inherit a house with a mortgage and decide to live in the house, you’ll essentially become the homeowner. This involves taking over the mortgage payments, utility expenses, maintaining the property, and covering any other associated upkeep costs such as property taxes and homeowner’s insurance.

On the positive side, it can be a cost-effective solution, especially if the mortgage payments are lower than what you’d pay for rent elsewhere. 

However, it’s important to remember that living in an inherited property may have emotional implications, particularly if it was the home of a deceased loved one. Also, keep in mind that the property’s location may not be ideal for your lifestyle or work commitments.

Before making this decision, ensure you evaluate all aspects, including your finances (ability to maintain the property) and its location relative to your lifestyle needs.

Renting out

Renting out the inherited property is especially viable if it’s in a desirable location with high rental demand. Becoming a landlord can provide you with a steady source of income and allow you to benefit from potential property appreciation over time. You would need to continue making mortgage payments, but the rent collected from tenants can offset these costs and possibly even generate additional income.

There are, however, certain responsibilities and obligations associated with being a landlord:

  • Maintaining the property
  • Managing tenants
  • Complying with relevant laws and regulations

It’s also important to note that rental income is taxable, and you may have to consider potential vacancy periods, during which you’ll need to cover the mortgage payments without any rental income.

Before choosing to rent out the property, it’s advisable to conduct a thorough assessment of the local rental market, potential rental income, and your ability and willingness to undertake the responsibilities of a landlord.


Selling an inherited property is often the most straightforward option, especially if the mortgage is substantial or the other heirs want to liquidate their share quickly. By selling, you can pay off the remaining mortgage and possibly realize a profit from the equity.

To sell the property, you’ll need to prepare it for the market, which may involve cleaning, repairs, or staging. You’ll also need to work with a real estate agent to list the property, negotiate with potential buyers, and complete the necessary legal paperwork. This process can be time-consuming and potentially costly. However, it may result in a higher sale price, especially if the property is in a desirable location or has unique features.

Selling an inherited property is a significant decision that requires careful thought and planning. Be sure to consider all aspects, including the market conditions, your financial situation, and your long-term goals.

If you’re interested in selling and the house is located in Southern California, SoCal Home Buyers would be more than happy to provide expert guidance and help you navigate this process.

Contact us today and let us help you make the selling process as quick and stress-free as possible, giving you peace of mind and the freedom to focus on your future.

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Doug & Andrea Van Soest | SoCal Home Buyers

Our Final points on inheriting a home with a mortgage

Inheriting a home with a mortgage can feel overwhelming at first. However, remember that you have various options at your disposal, each with its own advantages and factors to consider. The key lies in understanding your financial situation, the value of the inherited property, and the implications associated with each option.

Whether you choose to reside in the home, rent it out, or sell it, your decision should align with your personal circumstances, financial goals, and long-term plans. Seeking the expertise of real estate and financial advisors is always a wise move, as they can offer tailored guidance based on your unique situation.

While the journey may seem complex, with careful planning and well-informed decision-making, you can successfully navigate the process of inheriting such an asset and transform it into an opportunity.


Can you leave a house with a mortgage in your will?

Yes, you absolutely can will a house with a mortgage. It’s entirely possible and quite common. The inherited house can either have the mortgage paid off over time, or it can be refinanced or sold to cover the cost of the mortgage, and take whatever is left as inheritance.

Can someone inherit a house with a mortgage?

Yes, someone can inherit a house with a mortgage. In fact, it’s quite common to inherit a house that still has an outstanding mortgage. In such cases, the person inheriting the house not only receives the property but also assumes the responsibility of paying off the remaining mortgage balance.

Can you inherit a mortgage along with the house?

Yes, when you inherit a house, it often entails inheriting the accompanying mortgage as well. This means that the inheritor not only becomes responsible for the property itself but also takes on the obligation of paying off the outstanding mortgage balance until it is fully repaid or sold.

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