Foreclosure


Foreclosure is the legal proceeding in which a bank or other secured creditor sells or repossesses a parcel of real property (immovable property) due to the owner’s failure to comply with an agreement between the lender and borrower called a "mortgage" or "deed of trust". Commonly, the violation of the mortgage is a default in payment of a promissory note, secured by a lien on the property. When the process is complete, it is typically said that "the lender has foreclosed its mortgage or lien."

In the United States, there are two sorts of foreclosure in most common law states. Using a "deed in lieu of foreclosure," the bank 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 exposed to auction by the county sheriff or some other officer of the court. Many states require this latter sort of proceeding in some or all cases of foreclosure, in order 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 typically bid in the amount of the owed debt at the sale, and if no other buyers step forward the lender receives title to the immovable property in return.

Other states have adopted non-judicial foreclosure procedures, in which the mortgagee, or more commonly the mortgagee’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 provides a temporary automatic stay to the foreclosure proceeding) to stop the sale, the mortgagee or its representative will conduct a public auction in a similar manner as the sheriff’s auction described above. The highest bidder at the auction becomes the owner of the immovable property free and clear of any interest of the former owner but the property may be encumbered by any liens superior to the mortgage being foreclosed (e.g. a senior mortgage, unpaid property taxes etc). Further legal action, such as an eviction may be necessary to obtain possession of the premises.

"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 will cut 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 cancelled 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 will result in the lien remaining attached to the immovable property after the sale. Therefore, it is imperative that the lender obtain a search of the local Federal Tax Liens so that if the persons or companies involved in the foreclosure have a federal tax lien filed against them, the proper notice to the IRS will be given. A detailed explanation by the IRS of the Federal Tax Lien process can be found here.

Foreclosure Investment

Some individuals and companies are engaged in the business of purchasing properties at foreclosure sales. Distressed assets (such as foreclosed property or equipment) are generally considered to be high-risk investments because their net value on the secondary market is difficult to determine.