How Foreclosures Work

Foreclosure is a scary word and an even more frightening reality for many homeowners nationwide. However, knowing how the foreclosure process works is the first step in knowing how to stop it. While specific foreclosure laws vary from state to state, the overall process remains the same.

Non-Judicial Foreclosures vs. Judicial Foreclosures

First, let me explain that most states opt for non-judicial foreclosures, allowing the foreclosure filing to proceed without court involvement. Only a handful of states opt for judicial foreclosures, requiring a court order before processing. The good news for homeowners living in judicial foreclosure states is that they have more options to stop a foreclosure, in comparison to states offering only non-judicial or a mixture of judicial and non-judicial foreclosures. Homeowners concerned with foreclosure filings should consult with a HUD counselor to review their deed of trust (received at closing and on file with the county recorder’s office), which specifies the type of foreclosure outlined in compliance with state laws. Access to HUD counselors is free and local offices can be found at the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development’s website.


The overall timeline for foreclosures, (judicial or non-judicial) is relatively similar from one state to another. The process looks like this:

31 – 90 days late

The lender sends a notice of default via regular mail to the homeowner. This notice serves as the formal warning that if the homeowner does not pay, he does not stay. The notice of default will also provide the homeowner with numbers to HUD counseling offices, in addition to options and solutions to remedy the default. Essentially, the notice of default is the way a lender gets their point across about a pending foreclosure, while letting the borrower know that they are willing to work with them. It is now that the borrower should take measures to communicate his situation with the lender in order to stop the foreclosure process.

90 – 180 days late

After several default notices are sent, the process becomes more serious. At this point, the lender will send a notice of intent to accelerate via certified mail to the borrower. This notice serves as the final notice before a foreclosure, and calls the entire balance of the mortgage due. The notice will also give the borrower a final “last chance” amount required to stop the foreclosure, which will be the sum of all late mortgage payments, fees and late charges. Shortly after the borrower receipts the notice of intent to accelerate, the lender will send an appraiser to the property to evaluate whether the property is owner occupied or is abandoned and assess its value for auction.

180 days or more

The borrower can expect to receive the foreclosure notice at any time. The foreclosure notice will be sent either by certified mail or delivered be a county process server. The foreclosure notice will list the date of the auction and serve as the final notice to the homeowner that the foreclosure is complete once the auction concludes. The homeowner is clearly instructed to vacate the premises on or before the auction date.

After the auction

Once the auction concludes, the house is then property of the lender or the winning bidder. If the homeowner is still living in the property, he is served with an eviction notice anywhere from a few days to a few weeks after the auction date. If the homeowner refuses to vacate, he is forcibly removed by local law enforcement and all of his personal possessions are taken from the property and placed on the curb.


Foreclosures are a terrifying experience, regardless of an individual’s state of residence. Being familiar with the process is crucial to taking measures to save a home. Homeowners that are struggling to pay a mortgage should communicate with lenders and seek counseling from the Department of Housing and Urban Development before the first missed mortgage payment.