Foreclosure: What it Means in Real Estate

July 9, 20239 min read
Foreclosure: What it Means in Real Estate
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Key Takeaways:

  • In real estate, foreclosure is a process that starts when the borrower fails to make mortgage payments according to originally established terms and typically ends with the lender repossessing and attempting to sell the property.
  • Once foreclosure has officially begun, the servicer will likely issue a “notice to quit” document or similar directive to vacate the premises, depending on the state.
  • If a lender seizes a property that does not sell, they usually assume ownership of that property and add it to an always-accumulating portfolio of what are called real estate owned (REO) properties – essentially foreclosed properties.

The term “foreclosure” is generally a process both borrowers and lenders want to avoid. However, it can and does happen. In fact, lenders repossessed 42,854 properties last year through foreclosures, a year-over-over increase of 67 percent, according to U.S. News. Also, the most recent COVID-19 foreclosure moratorium expired at the end of 2021, leaving many homeowners newly vulnerable.

All this means is that it is only smart for homeowners and real estate investors to understand what foreclosure means and what their options might be.

What is a Foreclosure?

In real estate, foreclosure is a process that starts when the borrower fails to make mortgage payments according to originally established terms, and typically ends with the lender repossessing and attempting to sell the property.

Lenders are legally permitted to seize the property because it is collateral for the mortgage loan, which is a secured loan. 

The two types of foreclosures are judicial and nonjudicial, and each state determines which one takes place there. Judicial foreclosures, which can occur in all states, are currently required in some 22 states. Here, the lender typically files a suit with the judicial system, after which the borrower has a time certain to respond and pay or face foreclosure. 

Nonjudicial foreclosures, meanwhile, are generally less time-consuming than judicial foreclosures. These generally take place when one’s promissory note is linked to a trust or deed, or the mortgage has a power of sale clause. Such a clause permits the lender to, following a warning and waiting period, auction the home off with no court involvement.

If there is a deed of trust involved, the title company (trustee) is also allowed to, without a court order, seize the property and sell it upon any default.   

How Does a Foreclosure Work?

While the process for foreclosure differs from state to state – public notices, homeowner options, and the process and timeline for selling the property – all states share the same general steps, including:

The Early Stages

A mortgage loan must be at least one payment late before the early stages of the process of foreclosure is triggered. The first nonpayment usually prompts a “missed payment” notice, followed by a “demand letter” that ramps up the seriousness of the situation, but still gives the owner time to arrange to bring the account up to date.

 The Loan is Referred to Counsel

The foreclosure process usually officially begins after 90 days with the loan servicer referring the loan to the foreclosure attorneys. Depending on the state involved, counsel files its first papers, which could be a notice of default or a complaint. 

At this point, the borrower still has about 30 days to settle the payments, reinstate the loan, and avoid foreclosure. This may be through loss mitigation – when borrowers and lenders work together to craft a plan to avoid foreclosure.

Foreclosure is Established

Depending on the state, a judicial or nonjudicial foreclosure is filed (as covered earlier). A nonjudicial foreclosure is less complex and takes less time.


Once foreclosure has officially begun, the servicer will likely issue a “notice to quit” document or similar directive to vacate the premises, depending on the state. If the property’s residents do not vacate the premises, they can have a lawsuit filed against them.

If the foreclosure is approved, and it is judicial, the property is auctioned by the local sheriff to the highest bidder to try to get back the amount the bank is owed. Or the bank – now property owner – sells the collateral through traditional channels.

If it is a nonjudicial foreclosure – also known as power of sale – the process will likely be relatively faster since no courts are involved. The only exception is if the homeowner sues the lender.   

How Long Does a Foreclosure Take?

The length of time foreclosure takes varies by state due to differing foreclosure timelines and laws, but properties nationally that foreclosed between April-June in 2021 spent an average of 922 days going through the process, up 685 days from the second quarter of the year before. 

Hawaii, New York, and Indiana led the states in 2Q 2021 with the longest average number of days. For the same period, Wyoming, Arkansas, and Tennessee were the states with the shortest average times to foreclose.  

Are There Ways to Avoid a Foreclosure?

In all likelihood, even a borrower who has missed a payment, or maybe two, may still be able to avoid a foreclosure.

Options could include:

  • Reinstatement. Establishing a reinstatement period sets up expectations that the borrower will pay the lender what they owe, including any penalties or interest, by a certain date. Typically, the amount is expected to be in a lump sum payment. 
  • Special forbearance. If the borrower is experiencing a temporary financial setback or hardship due to a drop in income or medical bills, the lender may be amenable to lowering or pausing payments for a set period. Note that while the debts remain, options may include partial claims, deferral, loan modification or repayment plans or the like.
  • Short refinance. With this process, the new loan total is less than what is owed. To help the borrower avoid bankruptcy, the lender may choose to forgive the difference. The homeowner should seek a refinance before they miss a payment, since it is not an option once a payment is missed.
  • Ask for a repayment plan. Servicers and lenders understand that life does have occasional surprises and would rather work with the borrower than go through the foreclosure process.  So, they might be open to a repayment plan that will usually call for the borrower to pay a set amount monthly until the account is caught up. After the payment balance is satisfied, the homeowner will resume making their regular payments.
  • Sign a Deed in Lieu. This is a move of last resort, but if catching up on mortgage payments is out, as is qualifying for loss mitigation, signing a “deed in lieu of foreclosure” may help them avoid the typical foreclosure repercussions.

The rub is that the homeowner must, in signing the deed in lieu, voluntarily relinquish their property deed to the lender. While the home will be lost, the borrower will be released from anything owed on the mortgage and escape the damage that a foreclosure can do to one’s credit. A deed in lieu will also unfavorably impact one’s credit report, but usually not to the same extent.

Note that the lender may turn down a deed in lieu of foreclosure if the house is in poor shape or the property carries other liens or tax judgements. Sometimes, the lender will deny a deed in lieu if it thinks it can recoup more lost money by using foreclosure. 

What are the Consequences of a Foreclosure?

Yes, a foreclosure is a serious occurrence and does have consequences. For the buyer, the foreclosure will show up on their credit report within a month or two and stay there for seven years. This could prevent the borrower from buying again or even renting, at least for several years, or longer. The foreclosure is dropped from a credit report after seven years.

On the other hand, if a lender seizes a property that does not sell, at least right away, they usually assume ownership of that property and may add it to an always-accumulating portfolio of what are called real estate owned (REO) properties – foreclosed properties. 

Such properties are generally popular with real estate investors since the lender – usually a bank – sometimes must sell them for less than their market value. They usually can be found on banks’ websites. 

Investing in Real Estate

No investment is risk-free, and that includes real estate. Still, the asset class remains a generally popular investment. Not only can adding real estate to one’s portfolio guard against inflation, but it can reduce overall volatility. Other possible benefits include leverage, cash flow, income streams and tax favorability.

With more asset classes than any other alternative investment platform, Yieldstreet includes among its offerings private real estate, with minimums starting at $5,000. Since 2000, the private real estate market has outperformed stocks and fixed income on an absolute and risk-adjusted basis.

It also has commercial property offerings including commercial real estate debt. Unlike traditional crowdfunding activities, Yieldstreet’s program pre-funds transactions to create passive income for investors. 

There is also Yieldstreet’s real estate investment trust (REIT), in which capital investments are enabled without physical property ownership. In general, such trusts own commercial properties that include office buildings, hotels, apartment buildings, and apartment buildings. Yieldstreet’s Growth & Income REIT makes equity investments in major markets in the U.S. with various property types. Such types, with starting minimums as low as $10,000, include retail, self-storage, and hospitality and multi-family properties.

Whether it is a private or commercial opportunity, real estate as an asset class also serves another crucial purpose: diversification.  Spreading ones assets around, as well as among, disparate asset types is critical to long-term successful investing. 

Invest in Real Estate

Unlock the potential of private real estate markets.

Alternative Investments and Portfolio Diversification

Alternative investments can be a good way to help accomplish this. Traditional portfolio asset allocation envisages a 60% public stock and 40% fixed income allocation. However, a more balanced 60/20/20 or 50/30/20 split, incorporating alternative assets, may make a portfolio less sensitive to public market short-term swings. 

Real estate, private equity, venture capital, digital assets, precious metals and collectibles are among the asset classes deemed “alternative investments.” Broadly speaking, such investments tend to be less connected to public equity, and thus offer potential for diversification. Of course, like traditional investments, it is important to remember that alternatives also entail a degree of risk. 

In some cases, this risk can be greater than that of traditional investments.

This is why these asset classes were traditionally accessible only to an exclusive base of wealthy individuals and institutional investors buying in at very high minimums — often between $500,000 and $1 million.  These people were considered to be more capable of weathering losses of that magnitude, should the investments underperform.

However, Yieldstreet has opened a number of carefully curated alternative investment strategies to all investors. While the risk is still there, the company offers help in capitalizing on areas such as real estate, legal finance, art finance and structured notes — as well as a wide range of other unique alternative investments. 

Learn more about the ways Yieldstreet can help diversify and grow portfolios.

In Summary

The hope is that investors and homebuyers will never face foreclosure – the possibility of losing their property. However, a major part of avoiding the process is learning what foreclosure is in the first place — and the many possible options available to borrowers experiencing financial difficulties causing them to miss mortgage payments.. The key is to reach out to the bank or lender as early as possible.

We believe our 10 alternative asset classes, track record across 470+ investments, third party reviews, and history of innovation makes Yieldstreet “The leading platform for private market investing,” as compared to other private market investment platforms.

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