Foreclosure is the legal process in which a bank or other secured creditor either sells or repossesses a parcel of real property, home or land, after the owner has failed to comply with the mortgage or deed of trust agreement with the lender. Most frequently, the violation of the mortgage agreement is the default of payment. The completion of the foreclosure process allows the lender to sell the property, and keep the proceeds to pay off the mortgage as well as any legal costs. The length of the foreclosure process varies from state to state.
If the foreclosed property is sold for less than the remaining primary mortgage balance, and there is no insurance to cover the loss, the court overseeing the foreclosure process may enter a deficiency judgment against the borrower. Deficiency judgments can be used to place a lien on the borrower’s other personal property, obligating the borrower to repay the difference or suffer the loss of their property. It gives the lender a legal right to collect the remainder of debt out of borrower’s other existing assets.
However, there are exceptions to this rule. If the mortgage is classified as “non-recourse debt,” then the borrower has no personal liability in the event of foreclosure. This is often the case with residential mortgages. If so, the lender may not go after borrower’s personal assets to recoup additional loss.
The lender’s ability to pursue a deficiency judgment can be restricted by state laws. In California and some other states, original mortgages (the ones taken out at the time of purchase) are typically non-recourse loans, however, refinanced loans and home equity lines of credit aren’t.
If the lender chooses not to pursue deficiency judgment-or can’t because the mortgage is non-recourse and writes off the loss, the borrower may have to pay income taxes on the amount unpaid if it can be considered “forgiven debt.”
Any other loans taken out against the property being foreclosed (second mortgages, HELOCs) are “wiped out” by foreclosure (in the sense that they are no longer attached to the property), but the borrower is still obligated to pay them off if they are not paid out of the foreclosure auction’s proceeds.
How Does a Foreclosure Affect the Borrower’s Credit?
A foreclosure can be reported as a Foreclosure or Repossession and carries a derogatory payment status of 8 or 9 (M1, R1 and I1 being the best and M9, R9, I9, etc. being the most negative) which is just under a Public Record. There is a misconception that foreclosures are considered Public Records to the scoring system, however, they are not. Although there is a Public Notice Record on file once a foreclosure is filed, but this record is completely different than a credit report public record.
A Foreclosure will remain on a credit report for 7 years from completion date. And the score will drop from 50-250 points. The difference in point loss depends on how many points your client has to lose in the payment history factor of their credit. So if someone has a 750 credit score, and they opt to foreclose, their score could drop up to 250 points. However, if someone has a 500 credit score, they may lose 50 points for the same derogatory.
If a Deficiency Judgment or Tax Lien is filed in connection with a Foreclosure, the credit score can drop an additional 100 points.
Fannie Mae Waiting Period
The current selling guideline from Fannie Mae has upped the previous 4 year period of how much time must elapse after a foreclosure to 5 years from the date the foreclosure proceeding is completed, not started.
The exception for extenuating circumstances has been increased from a 2 year to a 3 year waiting period.
WORD OF CAUTION: If you are going through a foreclosure due to circumstances of losing a job, a medical crisis, sub-prime mortgage crisis fall-out, I suggest that you fully document your experience now, and not wait until later. This is because the details and emotional energy of what you are going through will be more difficult to document and prove down the road if you decide to apply for a loan in 2 years based on an extenuating circumstance claim.
In General: When it comes to foreclosure and how it affects the ability to obtain credit in the future, there are multiple points of extremely negative impact. Deficiency judgments for the amount not collected by the lender in the foreclosure sale can end up on the borrower’s credit report as a derogatory mark. Additionally, there is a high risk that the borrower will be hit with a substantial tax penalty which can result in a tax lien, which also appears on the credit report. As a general rule, other than a bankruptcy, foreclosure is the least desirable of all of the options available when a borrower is upside down in a home mortgage.