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Facing Foreclosure–How Long Can You Stay in Your House?

Published by julia | Filed under Buyer / Seller Tips, Listings, Real Estate

Finding out you’re facing foreclosure is a devastating experience, and one of the first questions you’re likely to ask is, “How long can I stay in my house?” Many homeowners facing this situation mistakenly think that they have to move out right away once they get the foreclosure papers in the mail. Fortunately, this is an erroneous assumption. In many cases, you can stay in your house for months, even years, after the initial foreclosure paperwork is filed. Here’s how.

First of all, know that it’s impossible at the start of the process to know just how long it’s going to take to go through to completion. Different states have different foreclosure laws, and the back-up of foreclosure filings made ahead of yours can often hold up the final dispostion of your case for quite a while. In other cases, you may find your case moving through the court system quite swiftly. The important thing is to remain informed throughout the entire process, so you know exactly what’s going on and can make plans accordingly.

First, remember that a foreclosure filing will generally only happen after you’ve missed several mortgage payments and the mortgage company has been unable to get in touch with you regarding it. Once the foreclosure is filed, you’ll typically have already lived in your house for several months without making a payment.

Once the foreclosure notice is filed, you’ll receive notice of this from your local circuit court. You may choose to answer the notice or not. However, by answering the notice, you can often prolong the court proceedings for a few more months, so it’s worth considering. You can also often delay the foreclosure even more by requesting a hearing with the court to defend yourself against the foreclosure suit. You don’t need a lawyer for this, but having one may help you have an easier time of it in court during your hearing.

Basically, the more you fight it, the longer it will take for a final foreclosure determination to take place. Even once your house has officially been turned back over to the bank, you’ll still be given a certain amount of time to move out, usually a week or so. Some homeowners who have been foreclosed on are now actually squatting in their former homes. This means they refuse to move out once the bank has taken ownership. These former homeowners can often get away with this for quite some time if the house is not sold at auction right away (and in this market, the chances of a successful auction sale are minimal). As long as the house is a bank-owned property that isn’t checked on frequently (common for rural properties), you may be able to stay on indefinitely.

Just remember, the longer you can draw out the process, the longer you can stay in your house. There are plenty of people who haven’t made a mortgage payment in 2 years or more who are still in their houses, either through dragging out the court process or by squatting. You can use these tactics, too! Just remember, if your house is foreclosed on, you will eventually have to leave the home, so while you’re staying there as long as you can, also start making plans for where you’ll go when you ultimately do have to move. Saving money for a move during this time is an excellent idea.

September 5th, 2009

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