So what exactly goes on with the California foreclosure process? What are the steps? How long does it take? When can a bank auction off a property?
Prerequisite: Deed of Trust With Power of Sale
Contrary to popular belief, banks can’t just take back a property when an owner stops making payments. In non-judicial foreclosure states, the right to foreclose and sell the property actually lies with a 3rd party, known as the trustee; who has a fiduciary responsibility to both the lender and the borrower.
When you purchase a property, ownership is transferred to you using a document known as a deed. When you take a loan (in a non-judicial foreclosure state), you sign a deed of trust, which gives this third party trustee the right to sell the home if you fail to make payments. This power of sale is what makes non-judicial foreclosure possible.
The Notice of Default
Here’s the first step in the California foreclosure process. The foreclosure process is first triggered when the lender notifies the trustee that the owner is not paying their loan, as agreed. Upon receiving that notice from the lender, the trustee will issue a Notice of Default, which is typically published in the local paper, posted on the property, and recorded at the County Recorder’s office. This notice provides the borrower with a period of time (varied by State), in which to either dispute the lender’s claim that the borrower has defaulted on their loan, or to pay it current prior to the house being sold. Here are some of the common features of a Notice of Default:
- Puts owner and public on notice that the foreclosure process has started.
- State statutes define when a Notice of Default can be issued.
- Typically lists the default date and default amount. The default amount can be more than the loan amount in the case of a balloon payment.
- Provides lender contact information to the borrower.
The Notice of Trustee Sale
Once the owner has received the notice of default and has been given an opportunity to bring the loan current, the next step in the California foreclosure process is that the trustee will proceed with scheduling the auction date and time if the owner has not yet brought the loan current. The Notice of Trustee Sale sets forth that auction date, time, location, and in some States, the opening bid amount. A few states only issue a Notice of Trustee Sale, but in those states there is usually an extended period of time before the Notices of Trustee Sale is issued; and the auction notice also serves as a Notice of Default as well. Here are some of the common features of a Notice of Trustee Sale:
- Sets date, time and location of foreclosure auction.
- State statutes specify the required information, format, and procedures for Notices of Trustee Sale, as well as how the trustee sale must be conducted.
- Provides bid amount.
- The published bid amount usually equals the principal balance + past due payments + late fees + foreclosure fees.
The Trustee Sale Auction
The last step in the California foreclosure process is the auction. On the date and time of the trustee sale auction, one of four things may occur with the property:
- The auction for the particular loan may be cancelled.This may occur because the property was sold before the auction, and therefore the loan was repaid (or partially repaid in the case of a short sale); the owner was able to refinance the loan; the owner came up with the cash to bring the loan current; or, there may have been an error made in the sale process, and the trustee has decided it would be better to restart the process.
- The auction may be postponed to a later date and time. Common reasons for postponement include: mutual agreement, where the borrower and lender agree to delay the sale; beneficiaries request, where the lender decides to postpone; trustees discretion, where the trustee decides to postpone, often because it can’t reach the lender for bidding instructions; bankruptcy, which actually doesn’t completely stop foreclosure, but instead puts a temporary stay on the sale until the lender can get a motion granted by the judge allowing them to continue the sale; and operation of law, where a court has ordered that the sale not be held.
- The property may be Sold to 3rd.The loan being foreclosed on was offered for sale by the trustee, and a bidder (other than the lender) ended up purchasing the loan.
- The property was Sold to the Bank.Remember that it is the trustee, not the bank, that sells the home. Since the lender clearly has the most to lose in the transaction, and because they are the beneficiary of any funds received from the sale, they are allow to place the first bid, and are allowed to credit bid (bid without bringing cash to the sale), up to the amount they are owed.
Before bidding at auction it is important to consider the following factors:
- Auctions open to the public—Typically held on the courthouse steps.
- Payment requirements will vary from state to state, but generally the property must be paid for, in full, at the time of the auction, and bidders are usually required to show proof of payment, typically cashier’s checks or cash, in order to qualify for bidding.
- Generally, you are not able to perform any inspections on the property, other than a visual inspection from the street or neighbors yard. Hidden work can be extensive, so auction investors need to be prepared to suffer losses from time to time.
- Subject to existing liens and encumbrances. Remember that properties aren’t sold at foreclosure auction—loans are. One of the great things about foreclosure auctions is that it wipes out loans that came after the one being taken to auction. This can help clear up excess debt on the property, allowing it be resold at an affordable price point. The flip side is that the buyer is responsible for any loans or liens on the property prior to the loan being taken to auction. For example, delinquent property taxes, which are a lien on the property, are almost always the responsibility of the new owner.
- No title insurance. One of the things that can help buyers sort out what debt they might get stuck with after buying a property at a trustee sale, is a preliminary title report; which would show which existing loans and liens the buyer would be responsible for. One important thing to note is that even the best title companies make mistakes, and occasionally miss items that can have a dramatic impact on the amount owed on the property. To reduce or eliminate this risk, title companies offer homeowners and lenders a title insurance policy which agrees to defend against or pay any claims that their preliminary title report failed to show. Unfortunately, such insurance is generally not available for purchase at trustee sale.
The Trustee’s Deed
Once the property is sold at auction, the property has been foreclosed. Ownership of the property is transferred to the new owner (whether the bank or a 3rd party bidder) with a Trustee’s Deed, and any secured interest in the property held by junior lienholders is wiped out.
Even though the bank or 3rd party bidder now owns the home, they may have to evict the current occupants. Eviction processes vary from state to state, and can also vary depending on whether the property is occupied by the former owners, or a renter. Lease agreements recorded after the foreclosing lien, are wiped out by the foreclosure, just like other liens and encumbrances.
So there you have it; these are the steps to the California foreclosure process. Now, what if you’re “upside down” in your mortgage and have to short sale. What is that all about? How do you invest in the foreclosure market?
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