Foreclosure Law in California
In Santa Monica, California, foreclosure is a legal process through which an entity which has issued a mortgage takes possession and/or ownership of the property that secured the mortgage, because the person who took out the mortgage has consistently failed to make payments on it. The property in question is usually a house.
When consumers have to deal with foreclosure, it almost always involves a home. The bank will typically take possession of the house, and then sell it at auction, to try to cover the balance of the mortgage. Banks usually want sell the property quickly, for as much money as possible.
In California, and every other state, foreclosed homeowners can go through a "foreclosure by judicial sale." In this type of foreclosure sale, a court supervises the sale, ensuring that the bank makes every reasonable effort to get the highest price possible for the house. The purpose of this is to maximize the chances that the bank gets, at the very least, the remaining balance of the mortgage. Although this may seem counter-intuitive, it is intended to protect the borrower: it helps prevent them from still owing money after the house is sold at auction.
Some states treat mortgages as "non-recourse loans." A non-recourse loan is one that is secured by the borrower's property, but for which the borrower is not personally liable. Basically, this means that a lender in a foreclosure can take the house that was mortgaged, but nothing else. If the house sells for less than the lender is owed, it cannot go after the borrower.
How to Possibly Avoid Foreclosure in Santa Monica, California
First and foremost, you need to communicate with your lender, and not ignore the issue. Ignoring a problem with your mortgage will not make it go away, and can only make things worse. You should be honest with your lender, and stay in touch with them as much as possible.
Bear in mind that banks aren't in the business of real estate speculation - they're in the business of lending money, and making profits through interest on their loans. In short, the bank doesn't really want your house - they'd much rather have you continue making your mortgage payments. For banks, foreclosing on a home is a last resort. Basically, nobody likes foreclosures, and everyone wants to avoid them.
If you experience a sudden change in your financial situation, your lender, in an effort to prevent you from defaulting, might be willing to accept lower monthly payments, at least temporarily.
Finally, there is the "short sale." Usually considered a last resort, a short sale results in the borrower losing their home, but discharges almost all of their remaining mortgage debt. If the house is worth far less than the balance of the mortgage, this might be a good option. In California, when a house is sold in a short sale, the proceeds go to the lender. If it sells for less than the mortgage balance, whatever's leftover is forgiven. If it sells for more, the surplus goes to the homeowner.
Can a Santa Monica, California real estate attorney help?
If you live in Santa Monica, California and believe that your house is in danger of being foreclosed, you may have more options and protections than you think. You may not know what all of them are, but an experienced real estate lawyer probably will.