Occasionally, borrowers have raised enough cash at the last minute (usually through desperate fire sales of other unencumbered assets) to offer good tender and have thereby preserved their rights to challenge the foreclosure process. Courts have been unsympathetic to attempts by such borrowers to recover fire sale losses from foreclosing lenders.
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The process of foreclosure can be rapid or lengthy and varies from state to state. Other options such as refinancing, a short sale, alternate financing, temporary arrangements with the lender, or even bankruptcy may present homeowners with ways to avoid foreclosure. Websites which can connect individual borrowers and homeowners to lenders are increasingly offered as mechanisms to bypass traditional lenders while meeting payment obligations for mortgage providers. Although there are slight differences between the states, the foreclosure process generally follows a timeline beginning with initial missed payments, moving to a sale being scheduled and finally a redemption period (if available).
The highest bidder at the auction becomes the owner of the real property, free and clear of interest of the former owner, but possibly encumbered by liens superior to the foreclosed mortgage (e.g., a senior mortgage, unpaid property taxes, weed/demolition liens). Further legal action, such as an eviction, may be necessary to obtain possession of the premises if the former occupant fails to voluntarily vacate.
In 22 states – including Florida, Illinois, and New York – judicial foreclosure is the norm, meaning the lender must go through the courts to get permission to foreclose by proving the borrower is delinquent. If the foreclosure is approved, the local sheriff auctions the property to the highest bidder to try to recoup what the bank is owed, or the bank becomes the owner and sells the property through the traditional route to recoup its loss. The entire judicial foreclosure process, from the borrower's first, missed payment through the lender's sale of the home, usually takes 480 to 700 days, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.
Both mortgage (re)possession and foreclosure are quite similar, with the main differences being the treatment of any funds that exceed the amount borrowed and liability for any shortfall. In the case of mortgage possession or repossession, if the home is sold or auctioned for a price that exceeds the loan balance, those funds are returned to the consumer. If the proceeds from a mortgage possession are insufficient to cover the loan then the debtor remains liable for the balance, although in most cases this will become an unsecured debt and the mortgage company will be treated on an equitable basis with the debtor's other unsecured creditors (particularly if the debtor simultaneously or subsequently becomes bankrupt or enters into a voluntary arrangement with creditors). By contrast, in the case of foreclosure the mortgage company retains all rights to proceeds from a sale or auction but the debtor is not liable for any shortfall.
A dual-tracking process appeared to be in use by many lenders, however, where the lender would simultaneously talk to the borrower about a "loan modification", but also move ahead with a foreclosure sale of the borrower's property. Borrowers were heard to complain that they were misled by these practices and would often be "surprised" that their home had been sold at foreclosure auction, as they believed they were in a "loan modification process". California has enacted legislation to eliminate this type of "dual-tracking" - The Homeowner Bill of Rights - AB 278, SB 900, That went into effect on January 1, 2013.
In most jurisdictions, it is customary for the foreclosing lender to obtain a title search of the real property and to notify all other persons who may have liens on the property, whether by judgment, by contract, or by statute or other law, so that they may appear and assert their interest in the foreclosure litigation. This is accomplished through the filing of a lis pendens as part of the lawsuit and recordation of it in order to provide public notice of the pendency of the foreclosure action. In all U.S. jurisdictions, a lender who conducts a foreclosure sale of real property that has a federal tax lien must give 25 days notice of the sale to the Internal Revenue Service. Failure to give notice results in the lien remaining attached to the real property after the sale. Therefore, it is imperative the lender search local federal tax liens, so that if parties to the foreclosure have a federal tax lien filed against them, the proper notice to the IRS is given. A detailed explanation by the IRS of the federal tax lien process can be found.
In 2009, the United States Congress tried to rescue the economy with a $700 billion bailout for the financial industry; however, there was a growing consensus that the deepening collapse of the housing market was at the heart of the country’s acute economic downturn. After spending billions of dollars rescuing financial institutions only to see the economy spiral even deeper into crisis, both liberal and conservative economists and lawmakers pushed to redirect an economic stimulus bill to what they saw as the core problem: the housing market. But beneath the consensus over helping the housing market, there were huge differences over who should benefit under the competing plans. Democrats wanted to aim money directly at people in the greatest distress; and Republicans wanted to aim money at almost all homebuyers, on the theory that a rising tide would eventually lift all boats.
Usually a lender obtains a security interest from a borrower who mortgages or pledges an asset like a house to secure the loan. If the borrower defaults and the lender tries to repossess the property, courts of equity can grant the borrower the equitable right of redemption if the borrower repays the debt. While this equitable right exists, it is a cloud on title and the lender cannot be sure that they can repossess the property. Therefore, through the process of foreclosure, the lender seeks to immediately terminate the equitable right of redemption and take both legal and equitable title to the property in fee simple. Other lien holders can also foreclose the owner's right of redemption for other debts, such as for overdue taxes, unpaid contractors' bills or overdue homeowner association dues or assessments.
As per the foreclosure data report of RealtyTrac for January 2014, 1 in every 1,058 homes in U.S received a foreclosure filing. This figure falls in the higher spectrum of foreclosure frequency. As of August 2014, the foreclosure rate was 33.7%, 1.7% up from the last year. The rise in foreclosure activity has been most significant in New York and New Jersey, the two most densely populated areas in U.S. Closely following them is Florida.
Watch out for lease-purchase contracts. With these, you could be legally obligated to buy the home at the end of the lease – whether you can afford to or not. To have the option to buy without the obligation, it needs to be a lease-option contract. Because legalese can be challenging to decipher, it’s always a good idea to review the contract with a qualified real estate attorney before signing anything, so you know your rights and exactly what you’re getting into.