After Foreclosure: What You Should Know

Q.: I just found out that the mortgage company is foreclosing on my house! What do I do?

A.: Once you receive a copy of a foreclosure lawsuit, you have only 28 days in which to formally respond to the court. If you do not respond, a "default judgment" may be filed against you, meaning that the court assumes that you do not dispute the bank's allegations and will enter a monetary judgment against you plus an order to have your house sold to satisfy the debt. Anytime a lawsuit is filed against you, you should consider talking to an attorney to discuss your options and responses.

Q.: How long does the foreclosure process take and what are the steps involved?

A.: A foreclosure takes a minimum of four to six months and can take longer, depending on a number of factors, including your county's legal rules about foreclosure. There are several steps, which we will call the early, middle and late stages.

Q.: What happens in the early stage?

A.: When your lender refers your case to an attorney for foreclosure, the first step is an examination of records at the courthouse to identify all persons who may have an interest in your property. These will include the borrower(s), spouse(s) of the borrower(s), and any co-signers of the loan. Anyone who has some type of ownership interest or lien against the property also will be included in the case. By having all interested parties involved in the case, the court can make proper decisions that are binding upon everyone concerned.

Once the case is filed, the court will send you a copy of the lawsuit by certified mail and/or through delivery by a sheriff's deputy. You are entitled to know about the lawsuit and must be served with a copy of it before your lender can proceed to sell your house.

Q.: What happens during the middle stage?

A.: After all parties have received a copy of the lawsuit, your lender's attorney will ask the court to order that the house be sold to pay the debt. If you also signed a promissory note as evidence of your promise to repay the money that was lent to you, the lender will ask for a money judgment to be awarded against you. Usually the court orders that a money judgment be awarded and that the house be sold to raise money to pay the debt.

Q.: What happens during the late stages of foreclosure?

A.: After the court orders that the property be sold, the sheriff will appraise your house, schedule a sale, and advertise the sale to the public. The sheriff's auction is a public sale, and any adult may purchase a home at a foreclosure sale. The property must sell for at least two-thirds of the appraised value of your house; the sheriff is not authorized to accept a bid for less than that amount. The sheriff reports the results of the sale to the court. Then the lender asks the court to validate the sale, order a new deed to be drawn to the buyer and distribute the money from the sale. This is known as the "confirmation" of the sale. The buyer is also entitled to possession of the property after the sale is confirmed. The buyer will then be entitled to seek the sheriff's assistance in evicting you if you remain in the house after the sale is confirmed. In the vast majority of cases, the lender buys the house back for an amount less than what was owed.

Q.: Can I save my house even after the foreclosure sale?

A.: Yes. You have a right to buy your house back after the sale and before it is confirmed if you can pay the amount you owe against it in full. This right is know as your "right to redeem the property." See an attorney for details about how to accomplish this.

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information contained herein is general and should not be applied to specific legal problems without first consulting with one of our attorneys.


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