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Key facts on foreclosure

These days the news is full of stories of distressed homeowners landing in foreclosure. Mortgage borrowers can face foreclosure for a variety of reasons — CNNMoney recently wrote about a family who ended up in foreclosure because their title company went under and interrupted their refinance proceedings — but it’s a process you typically want to avoid no matter the cause.

While the foreclosure process differs from state to state, there are some general guidelines to know about foreclosure. Knowing these can help if you find yourself slipping behind on your mortgage.

The cost of missed payments

It usually takes about three to six months of missed mortgage loan payments to get the foreclosure process started. Late fees for a missed payment are likely to kick in after 10-15 days, and once you go 30 days without a payment, you will be considered in default on your home loan.

While you may be inclined to avoid your mortgage lender in the event of late or nonexistent payments, that’s not a wise approach. Contacting your mortgage lender as soon as you begin having financial problems can give you more options for help than if you wait. Avoiding your lender and falling further behind on payments is actually likely to speed up the foreclosure process and deepen your troubles.

Types of foreclosures

If you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of defaulting on your mortgage, there are three types of foreclosures you might suffer.

The first is a judicial foreclosure, which involves the mortgage lender filing suit with the judicial system. In these cases, you would receive a note in the mail demanding payment and have 30 days to respond. If you don’t make a payment in specified time frame, the property can then be auctioned to the highest bidder by a local court or sheriff’s office.

Similarly, a power of sale foreclosure can occur if you’ve defaulted on a home loan and have not responded to demands for payment over a specific period of time. But in this case, the mortgage company can carry out an auction of the property rather than having the sheriff ’s office or local courts do it, which is what distinguishes it from a judicial foreclosure.

The last type is strict foreclosure, which is not allowed in all states. In this type of foreclosure, when you default on a mortgage loan, the lender files a lawsuit against you. Then if you don’t make payments within a time specified by the court, the mortgage lender can take ownership of the property. This type of foreclosure is most commonly associated with homes where the loan amount is higher than the value of the property.

While foreclosures can come in different types, the end result of all is still likely to be unpleasant. The best defense against foreclosure, outside of staying out of default in the first place, is working closely with your lender to manage any difficulties you encounter in making your payments.

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