Process for Real Estate Foreclosures in the United States

Property Foreclosures: What is the process? Can Home Foreclosures be avoided?

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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.

Types of Property Forclosures in the US

In the United States, there are two types of foreclosure in most common law states. Using a "deed in lieu of foreclosure," or "strict foreclosure", the noteholder claims the title and possession of the property back in full satisfaction of a debt, usually on contract. In the proceeding simply known as foreclosure (or, perhaps, distinguished as "judicial foreclosure"), the property is subject to auction by the county sheriff or some other officer of the court. Many states require this sort of proceeding in some or all cases of foreclosure to protect any equity the debtor may have in the property, in case the value of the debt being foreclosed on is substantially less than the market value of the immovable property (this also discourages strategic foreclosure). In this foreclosure, the sheriff then issues a deed to the winning bidder at auction. Banks and other institutional lenders may bid in the amount of the owed debt at the sale but there are a number of other factors that may influence the bid, and if no other buyers step forward the lender receives title to the immovable property in return.

USA: Types of Mortgage Foreclosure

Other states have adopted non-judicial foreclosure procedures in which the mortgagee, or more commonly the mortgagee's servicer's attorney or designated agent, gives the debtor a notice of default and the mortgagee's intent to sell the immovable property in a form prescribed by state statute. This type of foreclosure is commonly referred to as "statutory" or "non-judicial" foreclosure, as opposed to "judicial". With this "power-of-sale" type of foreclosure, if the debtor fails to cure the default, or use other lawful means (such as filing for bankruptcy, which temporarily stays the foreclosure) to stop the sale, the mortgagee or its representative conduct a public auction in a similar manner to the sheriff's auction. The highest bidder at the auction becomes the owner of the immovable 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 or unpaid property taxes). Further legal action, such as an eviction may be necessary to obtain possession of the premises.

Mortgage Foreclosure Defenses

The Constitutional Issue of Due Process has affected the ability of lenders to foreclose property. In Ohio, the Federal District Court has dismissed numerous foreclosure actions by lenders because of the inability of the alleged lender to prove that they are the real party in interest. In Colorado, on June 19, 2008, a District Court Judge dismissed a foreclosure action because of failure of the alleged lender to prove they were the real party in interest

Strict Foreclosure in the United States of America

Strict foreclosure is an equitable right available in some states. The strict foreclosure period arises after the foreclosure sale has taken place and is available to the foreclosure sale purchaser. The foreclosure sale purchaser must petition a court for a decree that cuts off any junior lien holder's rights to redeem the senior debt. If the junior lien holder fails to do so within the judicially established time frame, his lien is canceled and the purchaser's title is cleared. This effect is the same as the strict foreclosure that occurred at common law in England's courts of equity as a response to the development of the equity of redemption.

In most jurisdictions it is customary for the foreclosing lender to obtain a title search of the immovable 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. In all US jurisdictions a lender who conducts a foreclosure sale of immovable property which is the subject of a federal tax lien must give 25 days' notice of the sale to the Internal Revenue Service: failure to give notice to the IRS results in the lien remaining attached to the immovable property after the sale. Therefore, it is imperative the lender search local Federal Tax Liens so if parties involved in 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.

The US congress passed, and President Bush signed into law, a temporary change to the tax code. For the period Jan. 1, 2007, through Dec. 31, 2009, homeowners do not have to pay tax on canceled debt.[

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