What is Foreclosure?
Foreclosure occurs when a lender seizes and sells a borrower's collateral after the borrower has failed to repay the lender. The term is most often associated with real estate.
How Does Foreclosure Work?
In general, there are eight events involved in a foreclosure (in this example, we assume the borrower has obtained a mortgage for a house from the lender).
1. The borrower signs a contract agreeing to repay the lender over a period of time, usually in predetermined installments.
2. The borrower misses one or more payments.
3. The lender sends the borrower one or more notices of delinquency.
4. The borrower and the lender try to adjust the repayment schedule so that the borrower is more likely to make at least some of the payments until he or she gets back on his feet. (This process is called special forbearance or mortgage modification.)
5. The borrower misses additional payments.
6. The lender sends the borrower a notice of default and initiates foreclosure proceedings.
a. In a judicial foreclosure, a court confirms the amount owed to the lender and gives the borrower a set amount of time to pay up ('cure the default').
b. In a nonjudicial foreclosure, the loan document authorizes the lender to sell the property to recover the loan balance.
7. The lender puts the property up for sale and publishes a notice of the sale in the local paper. The notice includes a description of the property, the name of the borrower, and other information. The borrower might file Chapter 13 bankruptcy to stop the foreclosure temporarily.
8. A public auction occurs during business hours, and the highest bidder is usually entitled to buy the property. At that point, the borrower cannot get the property back unless he or she buys it back.
Why Does Foreclosure Matter?
The foreclosure process can take several months, if not years, and it does long-term damage to a person's credit report. It is important to note that foreclosure laws vary by state, and they affect the order or duration of these steps. It is also important to note that the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act affects foreclosure proceedings by stipulating the methods lenders can use to go after bad debts.