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Understanding Second Mortgage Foreclosure

Second Mortgage Foreclosure
Betsalel Cohen
UpdatedNov 26, 2023
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    10 min read
Key Takeaways:
  • Homeowners with a second mortgage can face foreclosure even if the first mortgage is current. Understanding the foreclosure process, including its steps and impact on credit scores, is essential.
  • Alternatives to Foreclosure: It's essential to explore options like loan workout plans, forbearance, and mortgage modification to prevent home loss and potentially manage second mortgage payments.
  • Due to the complexity of mortgage agreements and varying state laws, seeking personalized legal and financial advice is crucial for making informed decisions.

Dealing with a second mortgage can be a tightrope walk, especially when the shadow of foreclosure looms. It's a situation that can quickly turn from manageable to overwhelming, leaving you grappling with questions and uncertainties.

Are you at risk of foreclosure even if your first mortgage is in good standing? What can you do if you fall behind on your second mortgage payments?

This guide is crafted to address these pressing concerns. We delve into the complexities of second mortgage foreclosure, clarifying the process, its implications, and available alternatives.

Can the second mortgage holder foreclose if the first mortgage is still current?

It's possible legally, although not practical economically, for a second mortgagee to foreclose. If you miss payments on a second mortgage or home equity loan, the second loan provider can attempt to recoup its funds through foreclosure. This is true even if you pay your first mortgage fully and on time.

Your second mortgage holder is in a weaker position regarding collecting from the foreclosure sale proceeds. However, it doesn't mean that your second mortgage lender will accept non-payment without taking action.

Here's the good news: Lenders don't like foreclosing on mortgages because foreclosure offers a poor economic return. Lenders foreclose only as a way of limiting losses on a defaulted loan.

Pre-foreclosure steps and your second mortgage:

Generally speaking, when homeowners get behind on mortgage payments, lenders will work with them to bring the loan current. However, the owner must communicate with the lender and be honest about the financial situation to do so. The lender's willingness to help with current problems will depend heavily on past payment records. If the borrower makes payments on time and hasn't had any severe defaults, the lender is more likely to agree.

If a homeowner is behind in payments or knows they will be soon, they should contact their lender immediately to discuss payment arrangements.

The impact of second mortgage foreclosure on credit score

A foreclosure on a second mortgage can significantly impact your credit score. Foreclosure is considered a severe delinquency and can lower your credit score by as much as 100 to 150 points, depending on your credit history. This drop can affect your ability to borrow in the future, as lenders view foreclosure as a red flag, indicating a higher risk. The impact isn't just immediate— a foreclosure can stay on your credit report for up to seven years. However, its effect on your credit score diminishes over time, especially if you take steps to rebuild your credit. This includes paying bills on time, reducing outstanding debts, and avoiding new credit inquiries. It's also important to regularly check your credit report for inaccuracies that could further harm your score.

Foreclosure on a second mortgage-the process

Foreclosure is a legal process that lenders use to recover the balance of a loan from borrowers who have stopped making payments. Either the first or second mortgagee can start a foreclosure. The foreclosure process varies from state to state but generally takes two to 18 months. It all depends on the terms of the loan and local state laws. However, if mortgage payments aren't received within 150 days, the bank can proceed with the foreclosure process. The second mortgage would be repaid after the first mortgage is paid in full.

Here's a general step-by-step overview of how the foreclosure process typically unfolds:

  1. Missed payments and notices: The process begins when a homeowner misses mortgage payments. Lenders usually offer a grace period, but once this period expires, the loan is considered in default. The lender will then send a notice of default, informing the homeowner of the missed payments and potentially upcoming foreclosure action.
  2. Opportunity to cure the default: The chance to avoid foreclosure may be available to homeowners who may have missed payments. This period, called pre-foreclosure, can last anywhere from one to three months, depending on the state's laws.
  3. Notice of foreclosure: If the default isn't cured, the lender will file a notice of foreclosure with the court and send a copy to the homeowner. This notice marks the formal beginning of the foreclosure process.
  4. Foreclosure Sale Notice: The lender will then issue a notice of sale, setting a date for the auction of the property. This notice is often posted on the property and in public places and may be published in local newspapers.
  5. Auction: The property is auctioned to the highest bidder on the set date. The starting bid usually includes the loan balance, accrued interest, additional fees, and attorney costs.
  6. Post-Foreclosure: If the property isn't sold at auction, it becomes a real estate-owned (REO) property of the lender. The lender may then try to sell it through a real estate agent or at a future auction.
  7. Eviction: After the sale, the new owner will try to evict the former homeowner if they're still living in the property.
  8. Deficiency Judgment: If the sale price at auction is less than the amount owed, the lender might get a deficiency judgment against the borrower for the remaining amount. Deficiency judgment laws vary by state.
  9. Redemption Period: Some states offer a redemption period after the sale, during which the original homeowner can buy back the property by paying the full sale price plus additional fees.

Pro tip: the specific steps and timelines can vary based on state laws and individual loan agreements.

Considerations before foreclosure on a second mortgage

Deficiency balance

If the sale price is less than the value of the mortgage, the homeowner could owe a deficiency balance in some states. This is called a deficiency judgment. The good news is that this new deficiency balance (if it exists and if your lenders pursue it) is an unsecured debt that may be enrolled into a debt settlement program.

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Recourse loan vs. Non-recourse loan

In some states (such as California) and in some circumstances, the second mortgage may be a non-recourse loan. A non-recourse loan means the lender has no recourse to collect any deficiency balance against the borrower. Its only recourse is the security on the property itself. You must review your loan documents and state laws to determine if your second mortgage is a non-recourse loan. Contact an attorney in your state who's experienced in property law to determine whether your mortgages are recourse or non-recourse.

Learn more>> Each state legislature created unique foreclosure and anti-deficiency laws. Follow the links just mentioned to learn the foreclosure rules relevant to you.

Property Values and economic considerations

The current property values and the overall economic climate heavily influence the decision of a second mortgage holder to initiate foreclosure. Here's a deeper look into how these factors play a role:

  1. Assessing Property Value: The second mortgage holder will assess the property's current market value. This value determines how much money could be recovered through a foreclosure sale.
  2. Comparing Debts and Property Value: The critical factor for a second mortgage holder is if the property value is more than the first mortgage and any property taxes. If the property value is higher, there's a greater likelihood that the second mortgage holder can recover some or all of their loan amount through foreclosure.
  3. Example Scenario:
    • High Property Value: imagine a property valued at $500,000. The first mortgage balance is $300,000, and $10,000 in property taxes are due. In this case, if the second mortgage is $100,000, foreclosing might make sense because the property sale could cover all debts.
    • Low Property Value: If the same property is valued at only $350,000, foreclosing is less attractive for the second mortgage holder. After paying off the first mortgage and property taxes, there'd be little to no funds left to cover the second mortgage.
  4. Impact of Falling Property Values: In a declining market, where property values fall, second mortgage holders might be more hesitant to start foreclosure. The risk of not recovering their investment increases as property values drop.
  5. Strategic Considerations: Second mortgage holders may also consider the likelihood of future property value appreciation. If the market is expected to improve, they might delay foreclosure, betting on higher future values to recover more of their loan.
  6. Economic Climate: The broader economic environment plays a significant role. In a strong economy, property values are generally higher, and foreclosure might be more financially possible for a second mortgage holder. Lower property values and a higher chance of a borrower's default make foreclosure riskier in a recession.

When a second mortgage holder initiates the foreclosure process, it pays off the first mortgage holder's balance due. The second mortgage holder won't benefit from foreclosure if the sale price isn't enough to pay off the first mortgage and property taxes.

Property values change. Lenders will consider the market value of the property and the amount it can get from a foreclosure holder.

Alternatives to Foreclosure

Loan workout plan

A loan workout plan is an agreement between the homeowner and mortgagee to prevent the loss of a home. The borrower must adhere to the specified deadlines to prevent a foreclosure. Therefore, they must be realistic about what they can do to get the loan back on track. The plan will depend on the default's seriousness, chances of getting money to fix it, whether it's short-term or long-term, and the property's value.

If the default is caused by a temporary condition likely to end within 60 days, the lender may consider granting "temporary indulgence." Those who have suffered a temporary loss of income but can demonstrate that the income has returned to its previous level may be able to structure a "repayment plan." This plan requires normal mortgage payments to be made as scheduled, along with an additional amount that'll end the delinquency in no more than 12 to 24 months. In some cases, the additional amount may be a lump sum due at a specific date in the future. Repayment plans are probably the most often used type of agreement.


In some cases, it may be impossible to make any payments at all for some time. You may be able to get a forbearance plan that'll let you pause or lower payments for a specific period. Usually, the length of the plan won't exceed 18 months and will stipulate the commencement of foreclosure action if the borrower defaults on the agreement.

Mortgage modification as an alternative

In addition to loan workout plans, mortgage modification presents another possible option for homeowners struggling with second mortgage payments. A mortgage modification involves altering the original terms of your mortgage to make the payments more manageable. This could include reducing the interest rate, extending the loan term, or reducing the principal balance. It's designed to provide relief for homeowners facing financial hardship and to prevent foreclosure.

To pursue this option, contact your lender to discuss your financial situation and negotiate a suitable modification plan. It's important to note that while a mortgage modification can offer immediate relief, it may also lead to increased total interest costs over the life of the loan. Therefore, it's advisable to consider both the short-term benefits and long-term implications before proceeding with a mortgage modification.

Possible payment solutions and debt negotiation

Second mortgage holders often initially take a hard-line stance in negotiations with homeowners in default. You may find it best to liquidate an asset voluntarily instead of facing a wage levy that could cause significant financial havoc.

However, if the lender is convinced that you cannot repay the second mortgage and are considering bankruptcy, the lender's position will soften and consider a lump-sum settlement. Some second mortgagees will settle for 10 to 30 cents on the dollar, depending on the company's policies.

If collection efforts ensue, negotiate with the creditor to reach an out-of-court settlement on the debt. If necessary, enroll the debt in a debt negotiation program. Another option is to negotiate the debt yourself.

It's crucial to underscore the importance of seeking personalized legal and financial advice. It's important to remember that every individual's situation is unique. The complexities of mortgage agreements and foreclosure processes can vary significantly based on personal circumstances, state laws, and specific loan terms. Therefore, consulting with legal and financial professionals is essential to guarantee that you receive advice tailored to your unique situation. They can offer invaluable insights and strategies to help you make informed decisions and navigate these challenging waters more confidently and clearly.

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Next steps

Foreclosure is a serious situation that has serious repercussions. If you can, you want to avoid foreclosure as much as possible. Here are some possible actions to take:

I hope this information helps you Find. Learn & Save.




EEvan Schultz, Oct, 2022
My second mortgage forclosed on my home in AZ and sold at auction. They were 10% loan. The 80% (I put 10% down on the home myself) loan holder is working with me and accepting continued payments. When they sold at auction, did they sell my entire house? or just the 10% investment that they had in the home? The third party purchaser only paid 64K. I still owe 189k to the primary loan holder. I have not yet received an eviction notice and this sale happened a little over 2 days ago now.
MMaggie, Mar, 2021

Property shows satisfaction on 1st mortgage . 2 be mortgage for 285k is now in foreclosure for 180k. Is it possible that I can contact the mortgage company and offer to take over the mortgage for ownership? I’m 22 just graduated college. Please help

JJosh, Aug, 2021

Hello Maggie,

 Typically, foreclosures occur when the homeowner is behind in making payments on the mortgage loan used to purchase the home. Ultimately, this means that the ownership of the home switched from you to the bank.

Maggie, we are sorry that you are dealing with this financial stress. The bank should actively seek ways to resolve the debt and return ownership to you.  After significant time has passed, you may get an eviction notice.
 Our affiliates like Freedom Debt Relief can help explore options to resolve your dilemma.  They can be reached at 800-852-1431. They will review your situation and provide some options that may lead to your financial success. 

Regards, Josh



DDouglas, Dec, 2020

Hello, hope all is well during these crazy times. Im in a reverse situation that I do not quite understand. There are two mortgages on a house I just won at. a forclosure auction in PA, one from 2001 and the2nd from 2002. (Just below this are the facts). But it seems the 2nd mortgage holder is the one foreclosing. Where does that leave me with? So I am in a pickle and hopefully did not just lose 250k. Here are the nuts and bolts in recorded order 1. Decision one bank mortgage 136k 2. MERS assignment nominee to Household financial Corp 3. 2nd mortgage for 188k serviced by household consumer discount company 4. Assigned to LSF9 Trust On the title report there is only a judgment fro the 2nd mortgage and they LSF9 were the ones to foreclose on the property. Which just seems off to me to begin with because how can a 2nd mortgage foreclose if the 1st has dibs on the proceeds. Anyway I looked further into it and the MERS loan of 136k is inactive noted in 2001. The servicer seems to be out of business. The 1st loan of 136k still shows up on the title search unsatis As I just payed for this at forclosure, am Going to have to pay off this extra 136k? 2. If the servicer is out of business, is the loan just gone ? 3. If its gone how do get it off the title? 4. If it is not gone how do I find who is servicing it? I am so worried. The debt on the house and upset bid was 218k I payed 247k which cover the cost of the foreclosing lender, but where is this unsatisfied 136k loan at?

JJosh, Aug, 2021

Hello Douglas. 

Thank you for reaching out to us. Please, do not take my answer to be legal advice as I am not an attorney. Only attorneys can offer legal advice. 

Generally, when a single home has two mortgages, the first one has a higher interest against the property. The second could be 10-20%. If you own the home due to the auction, then your liability is pretty small. 

I am assumed you hired a title search company to see who might hold liens against the property. What you can do is purchase title insurance to protect yourself against any liability that was not uncovered prior to the auction.

In regards to the servicer, I do not think they have any weight in the matter. Your coverage should make your investment in your favor or at least reduce the financial cost.

Remember, the mortgager is calling the shots, and hiring the Servicer to facilitate the ledger. Find the mortgager and then you can resolve any pending balance. 

This is really interesting I would love to know what ends up happening. Maybe I can provide you with further assistance once you have gathered a few updates. 

Regards, Josh  

FFrank W, Sep, 2020

2nd Mortgage company foreclosed on property that was upside down, and refused to negotiate with a payment plan. 1st Mortgage current. We were evicted from the property after foreclosure on May 2019. Issue: 2nd Mortgage company has not payed off first mortgage and are renting out the property and using my credit to pay the first mortgage. Is this legal? Aren’t they suppose to pay off the first after auction? Are they suppose to assume the loan and get my name off the first mortgage? Any help appreciated,. Home in California.

DDaniel Cohen, Sep, 2020

Frank, you need to speak with a Real Estate attorney. It is my understanding that the second mortgage holder would have to pay off the first mortgage to foreclose on the property. 

DDonovan D, Oct, 2020

I am in the identical situation in California. Did you discover additional information in regards to your situation?

CChristina Simmons, Feb, 2020

I had taken out a second mortgage in 2005. The bank I took it out with went out of business. it appeared that the loan was bought and sold several times. I never paid on the second once the lender went out of business. A company I had never heard from bought the loan and decided for start the foreclosure process. I never received a letter from this company and did not know that my home was in trouble. I received a phone call from a friend who told me my home was foreclosed on. I went to the county recorder and brought up the paperwork. The company had checked a piece of paper that stated they did not need to let me or the first know about the sale of the property because there was no first associated with the property. I was contacted by the sellers lawyer (the first time I had heard from this company) telling me to leave the property. I lost the house in 2015 and the first still has not been paid off by this company. When the first threatens to foreclose on the new owners they pay. I am being hurt by my credit score because the second will not give the first mortgage their due amount. Who do I talk to for help is there any help. Thank you for any input.

DDaniel Cohen, Feb, 2020

I wish I could offer a Time Machine, Christina. I would urge you to seek legal help before the foreclosure went through.  Speaking with a lawyer is still the best choice, but I am not sure if it is too late to do anything to help you.