How Many Mortgage Payments Can I Miss Before Foreclosure Happens?

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When borrowers take out a home loan, they have to start making monthly mortgage payments. As many homeowners know, it can be easy to miss a few payments. You might wonder how many mortgage payments you can miss before foreclosure happens. The answer is that you can miss four payments, or about 120 days, before you’re in danger of being foreclosed upon.

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What Happens When You Miss Mortgage Payments?

As a rule, the more mortgage payments you miss, the more trouble you’ll be in with mortgage companies. Missing mortgage payments can cost you more — and with each missed payment, you’ll be inching closer to foreclosure.

Paying your mortgage should be among your top priorities. Missing mortgage payments can be disastrous for your personal credit and can have an adverse effect on your credit score, for which payment history is a major factor. If you do start missing payments, you should be familiar with the penalties and what can happen after each missed payment.

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First Missed Mortgage Payment

If you miss your first mortgage payment, your lender will typically offer you a grace period of fifteen days. During these fifteen days, you can send in your payment without being considered delinquent.

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Once this grace period is up, however, you’ll be charged a late fee. This fee is usually a fairly substantial percentage of your mortgage, such as 2% to 6% of the monthly payment amount. Refer to your mortgage loan documents for the exact fee.

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Second Missed Mortgage Payment

If you miss your second mortgage payment, your mortgage is likely considered to be in default. At this point, the lender will probably contact you to find out why you haven’t made your payments. Additionally, the lender may report your late payment to the credit bureaus, which can affect your credit score and stay on your credit report for up to seven years. This is a good opportunity to explain your situation; your lender may be able to put you on a plan to temporarily reduce or suspend your payment.

Your mortgage servicer will usually become increasingly aggressive about getting paid if you miss your second mortgage payment, but it gets even worse if you continue missing payments.

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Third Missed Mortgage Payment

After you’ve gone about 90 days without making a payment, you’ll receive a demand letter. A demand letter informs you of the amount you are delinquent and that you have 30 days to bring your mortgage current. If you don’t pay the specified amount or make arrangements by the deadline, foreclosure proceedings might begin. You still have time to try to work out an arrangement with your lender, but it’s unlikely that they will take less than the total amount of mortgage payments you owe.

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If you still can’t make the payments within 90 days, however, it’s game over: The lender will begin the foreclosure process and bring legal action against you.

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Fourth Missed Mortgage Payment

After you’ve missed the deadline provided in the demand letter and you are four months behind on your mortgage payments, the foreclosure process will usually begin. First, you’ll be referred to your lender’s attorneys. As a result of your delinquency, you’ll be required to pay any legal fees during this time. You could still have a chance to avoid foreclosure if you can make your payment or work something out with your lender.

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If you’ve reached the foreclosure stage, you have the right to stay in your home throughout the process, but it will be difficult to get your home back. After all legal work has been completed and the lender is legally allowed to foreclose on the home, the process will begin. The exact process will depend on the legal processes in your state. Visit United States Foreclosure Laws to find out more.

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In general, the first thing that will occur in the foreclosure process is that the lender will record a Notice of Default at the county recorder’s office and give you a specified amount of time to pay what you owe. After the specified time period, if you have not made your payments, a Notice of Sale will be recorded. The notice may be mailed to you, published in your local newspaper, posted on your home and also in a public place, such as the local courthouse. After the Notice of Sale is recorded, a certain number of days will pass, according to your state’s foreclosure laws, before the house will be put up for auction. You will immediately lose control of your home once it’s sold.

Foreclosure is the last thing you want to happen to your home, but it can be relatively easy to get caught up in other expenses and even lose the home in a matter of months. By making your payments on time — and if that’s not possible, taking advantage of the grace period — you can avoid any legal difficulty with mortgage payments.

It’s easy to run into foreclosure, but it is possible to avoid it within the due dates of the first three payments. If you’re having trouble making your mortgage payments, contact your lender to see what your options are and avoid foreclosure.

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Cynthia Measom contributed to the reporting for this article. 

Last updated: Oct. 11, 2021

About the Author

Michael McDonald is an assistant finance professor and consultant to companies regarding capital structure decisions and investments. He holds a PhD in finance and his research has been quoted in the Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg. He provides corporate consulting through Connecticut Expert Witness Consulting and teaches classes in the areas of corporate finance and investments.

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