Once a borrower falls two payments or 60 days behind on his monthly mortgage payments, the lender will issue a notice of default, the first step of the foreclosure process. At this point, the homeowner may try to sell the home as a short sale if they owe more on the mortgage than the home is worth. This is a long and difficult process that requires the approval of all lien holders on the mortgage.
If the short sale fails, the lender will appoint a trustee to sell the home at a public auction to an all-cash buyer. The trustee is usually an investor representing the collective interests of all the lien holders on the home. If the home doesn’t sell at auction, the lien holders are either paid off through private mortgage insurance payments if the homeowner paid insurance as part of his monthly mortgage payment. If he didn’t have mortgage insurance, the secondary lien holders end up taking a loss on their investment.
Finally, the lender with the primary mortgage on the home becomes the sole lien. The lender’s bank usually hires a real estate agent to list the home in the Multiple Listing Service (MLS). Foreclosures listed in the MLS are easier to buy than short sales because there is only one lien holder, the bank; whereas with short sales, multiple lenders may need to approve of the sale. Learn how to buy a foreclosure.