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What are Foreclosures?

A foreclosure is forced sale of home or property by a financial institution such as a bank or mortgage company. Unless you paid for your property in full (cash) at the time of purchase, most property owners use a 3rd party to provide the additional funds to complete the sale. As a result, the owner is obligated to repay the monies borrowed this is called a mortgage.

When a property owner fails to make payments as part of the loan agreement for their mortgage, the bank or other lien holder may begin foreclosure proceedings to take possession of the property to satisfy the debt owed to them. Many mortgages have an acceleration clause in the mortgage's promissory note.

This feature can often trigger a premature foreclosure action. The acceleration clause permits the bank or mortgage holder to declare the whole loan due if the property owner misses a specified number of mortgage payments. Usually, the property owner must be provided with sufficient notice before the lending institution can invoke the acceleration clause.

The foreclosure process is a lawsuit brought by the bank or lender to force the sale of property to satisfy the outstanding debt. In most instances, the court will order a sale of the property after deciding the actual balance due on the mortgage (this includes accrued interest).

The proceeds of the sale of your property will then apply to the outstanding debt. If the value of your property is less than the outstanding debt, you may still owe the lending institution for the remainder, depending on the terms of the original loan. As the owner, you have the right to pay the bank off before the foreclosure sale in order to keep your property.

If you think you may default on your mortgage and fear that you may lose your property through foreclosure, an experienced lawyer may help you determine what other options available to you, including filing for bankruptcy. An attorney can also represent you in a foreclosure proceeding to make certain your interests and rights are protected.

What is the Foreclosure Process?

The foreclosure process varies from state to state, but the process is generally very straightforward and typically lasts up to 6 months. The process depends on whether the foreclosure is a judicial sale or a nonjudicial sale.

  1. Pre-Foreclosure: After the property owner fails to make two to three mortgage payments (30-60 days), the property is considered to be in pre-foreclosure. When the property is in pre-foreclosure, lenders will usually send a demand letter demanding full and immediate payment of the loan, plus any legal and late fees incurred. The homeowner has 30 days to make the payments on the debt owed or the foreclosure process will be initiated.
  2. Notice of Default: After 90 days of non-payment by the property owner, the foreclosure process enters into the legal process. A bank will issue a notice of default to a local sheriff to deliver to the property owner. The notice of default will be recorded by the government agency and a date will be selected for a foreclosure auction. A notice of default also paves way for investors and other homeowners to consult a short sale on the property.
  3. Foreclosure Auction: A public foreclosure auction will take place and the property may be sold at the auction to the highest bidder. The lender issuing the default can also purchase the property and sell it independently in a private sale. At this time, the homeowner must vacate the property or an unlawful detainer will be filed to evict the homeowner if he or she is still living on the property after the sale.
  4. Post-Foreclosure: If proceeds of the sale are insufficient to satisfy the debt being foreclosed on, the lender can bring personal action on the homeowner borrower for the deficiency. In some states, the borrower may have a right to redeem after a foreclosure by paying the entire sale price.
  5. Right of Redemption: Anytime prior to a foreclosure sale, the homeowner or mortgagor may redeem the property by paying the amount due. This is known as the right of redemption. If the mortgage contains an acceleration clause, the full balance on the mortgage must be paid in order for the homeowner to redeem.

How Can I Find Out More on Foreclosures?

More information in these LegalMatch Law Library articles:

Do I Need a Foreclosure Attorney?

A real estate attorney can help you in many ways throughout the process. An attorney will not only defend you in the foreclosure proceeding, but will also work with your lender to figure out alternatives which may help you remain in your home.

You should speak with an attorney regarding your foreclosure situation in order to determine your possible courses of action. A real estate lawyer can provide valuable legal information as well as representation in a court of law should a lawsuit become necessary. Contact a lawyer to learn more about your state’s foreclosure laws.

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