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Preforeclosure: What It Is And How To Buy A Preforeclosure Home

4-Minute Read
Published on September 21, 2021

No one saw 2020 coming. For far too many of us, the consequences have been cruel. With the federal moratorium on foreclosure coming to an end toward the end of the year, many folks are fearful about what 2022 will bring.

If you haven’t been able to make your mortgage payments, you may have gotten a letter from your lender to let you know that your property is in preforeclosure. If you don’t take action, you may be in jeopardy of losing your home. This is an emotionally and financially devastating predicament.

While preforeclosure is a foreboding term and a serious situation, there are ways to recover a house from this state. Understanding what foreclosure is and what options borrowers have while in preforeclosure can help them avoid the loss of their home.

What Is Preforeclosure?

Preforeclosure is the first step in the foreclosure process. It’s designed to give homeowners options to stay in their homes before a foreclosure. Preforeclosure occurs when a homeowner fails to make mortgage payments, prompting the lender to issue a notice of default. This is a legal notice and means that the lender has begun the legal process of foreclosure.

How Does The Preforeclosure Process Work?

The preforeclosure process comprises a few steps, the first of which begins when a monthly payment is missed.


When a homeowner misses 3 months of mortgage payments, they are in default of their mortgage. That’s the unofficial beginning of the preforeclosure process.

Contact The Lender

When it becomes clear to a homeowner that they will not be able to make payments, the best and first action they should take is to contact their mortgage servicer. While it may seem like the last thing a homeowner would want to do when they discover they can’t make a payment, in most cases, lenders will work with homeowners while they get back on their feet.

Lenders put time and effort into the mortgage process, and they don’t want to see the transaction fail. Additionally, lenders try to avoid it if possible. Legal fees make the foreclosure process very expensive. Keeping the lines of communication open is vital to maintaining that relationship.

Rocket Mortgage services your mortgage even after it’s sold, so homeowners who borrowed from us won’t be calling a stranger when they’re faced with something as difficult as foreclosure. We are eager to work with you to get past any problems the pandemic may have created.

Ask For A Mortgage Forbearance And Develop A Repayment Plan

It can’t be said enough: Calling your lender is your best shot at help.

Lenders can work with borrowers to arrange a mortgage forbearance – or a pause in payment – and help them devise a repayment schedule that both parties can live with. If carried out, the repayment schedule will bring the mortgage up to date, and the mortgage will be reinstated.

Notice Of Default

Homeowners who have fallen behind on their mortgage payments will get a letter from their lender to let them know that their property is in preforeclosure. Generally, lenders wait for 3 months or more of missed payments before sending the notice of default, which is a written notification to the homeowner that the lender will pursue legal action if the debt is not paid. The lender will also give public notice to the County Recorder’s office to preserve their right to file a lawsuit with the court.

This officially begins the foreclosure process, which can last 3 – 10 months. Homeowners who don’t take action may be in jeopardy of losing their home for good.

Sale Of The Home

The bank’s goal is to get the money they are owed on the property. If the borrower continues to be unable to make payments and hasn’t communicated with the lender, the lender will initiate a judicial foreclosure or execute a deed of trust, or nonjudicial foreclosure. The method used depends on the laws of the state where the property is located.

Often, an auction or trustee sale will take place. In either case, the lender’s goal is to sell the property to recoup what it can of its losses on the loan.

Usually, auctions begin with a minimum bid of the amount owed on the loan. Then, the foreclosed home is sold to the highest bidder. If your home is sold during the auction, you will be required to move out.

What To Do If Your Home Goes Into Preforeclosure

If your home does go into preforeclosure, you have a few available options.

Consider A Loan Modification Or Refinance

Homeowners who have built equity in their home, or whose homes have appreciated significantly in value since purchase, have options – especially if they start the refinance process before they miss a payment. It’s another reason why speaking to your lender as soon as possible is important.

For those farther down the path to foreclosure, another option is to enter into a loan modification. Essentially, it’s a rewrite of a homeowner’s current mortgage without the closing costs. This option will likely extend the life of your loan, but by spreading out the payments over more years, it will also give you more affordable payments.

Try A Short Sale

You also have the option to sell your home during preforeclosure. Most lenders will accept a short sale if you’re in preforeclosure. In a short sale, the buyer pays less than the balance of the mortgage. Because the lender will be accepting less than it is owed, it must approve the short sale. Banks agree to this because it saves them the time and expense of foreclosing on a property.

Get A Deed In Lieu Of Foreclosure

Another way to avoid these proceedings is to surrender your ownership rights to the lender via a deed in lieu of foreclosure. Once the deed is signed, the owner vacates the property. In return, the lender is free to sell the property immediately. In some cases, the lender can still seek reimbursement of any losses on the sale from the homeowner, so borrowers should ask about the lender’s policies before signing away their rights.

This option can be attractive to people who want to avoid a drawn-out foreclosure process and a big hit to their credit score.

Borrow If Needed To Catch Up On Missed Payments

For borrowers who hate to ask for help, asking friends and relatives for a loan will be unappealing, but the best way to get out of preforeclosure is by catching up on all missed payments. Once the mortgage is brought current, most lenders will stop the preforeclosure process.

It may be uncomfortable, but if borrowing is possible, it’s better to do it before the foreclosure process begins to reduce the hit on your credit history.

How To Buy A Preforeclosure Home

If you’re interested in buying a home that’s in preforeclosure, it will be listed as a short sale or a preforeclosure on the listing. The purchase process is a bit different from a traditional home buying process because instead of buying the home for its current value, you’ll simply purchase the mortgage balance from the current homeowner. You’ll then be responsible for that balance, any liens on the property, and the homeowners insurance.


Buying preforeclosure properties can be a good option for real estate investors because they can get steep discounts. This is helpful when reselling a home because it offers greater profit margins.

Many successful investors work with real estate agents who specialize in distressed or real estate owned properties to avoid having to do the legwork of hunting for preforeclosures to buy.

Home Buyers

First-time home buyers might want to avoid preforeclosure listings because they’re often in need of repair and are sold as-is. This means that home buyers must shoulder the costs of any home repairs without financial concessions from the lender-owner.

Note that these repairs might be needed before the home is livable. Often the buyers aren’t able to inspect the home before paying in cash at auction.

The Bottom Line On Preforeclosures

The good news is that preforeclosure properties can be cured. Homeowners have several options to get out of home debt, and often without a huge hit to their credit score. If you’re a homeowner in preforeclosure or you’re considering the purchase of a preforeclosure property, you should speak with a Home Loan Expert today. They’ll be able to walk you through the intricacies of your situation, and help to connect you with professionals who are best suited to helping you through the process.

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Victoria Araj

Victoria Araj is a Section Editor for Rocket Mortgage and held roles in mortgage banking, public relations and more in her 15+ years with the company. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism with an emphasis in political science from Michigan State University, and a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Michigan.