Few homeowners, though, know exactly what will happen if they just up and leave the home. What will the ultimate fate of the house be? Will the lender go after both spouses' credit records if only one is on the mortgage? What about being sued or having wages garnished after the foreclosure is over? These are important questions homeowners need to ask themselves before giving up the fight and leaving the house.
If they decide to walk away from the house, the lender will immediately begin trying to collect their money, by making hourly phone calls and sending collection letters. After a few months with no response from the owners, they will hire local attorneys and sue for the foreclosure. Once the foreclosure judgment is awarded to the lender, the house will be sold at a scheduled county sheriff sale. And finally, after the house is sold, ownership will transfer to the high bidder at the auction and the eviction process will start in the courts. Within a few weeks to a couple of months, the county sheriff will be ordered to change the locks and remove any remaining people or property. The house will then be put up for sale by the bank, if they were the winner, or the new owners will move into the house.
Of course, if the homeowners have moved out prior to any of these events, this entire process will go ahead without their involvement or knowledge. The most dangerous part is the eviction, but the foreclosure victims will not be evicted if they have already moved into a new apartment or rental house and are no longer living in the original property anymore.
The bank could possible go after the spouse's credit because the husband and wife are married and therefore count as one "economic unit," so to speak. Whether the lender is able to do it or not depends on how much the bank knows about the spouse who is not on the loan. They need to have quite specific information in order to report negative information to the credit bureaus, or else anyone would be able to report unpaid debts about anyone else for any reason at all. Do they have a social security number? A birth date? Is there some document proving the marriage and that the spouse is responsible for the mortgage, even as a community property issue? If this information is not provided to the credit reporting agencies, it may be difficult for the lender to report the late payments and foreclosure.
The lender may be able to go after other assets and income after the foreclosure, if the state in which the property is located allows for deficiency judgments. Not all states allow this, so it is important that homeowners look up the applicable foreclosure laws. But banks almost never sue their former clients after foreclosure; they know that they could not make the mortgage payments to begin with, so there is little reason to assume that they can make payments on a judgment involving the mortgage. And it will cost the mortgage company more time and money to hire attorneys to sue the former owners again, when they have not collected a single cent from the original foreclosure lawsuit. In other words, it is just not worth their time.
Making the decision to give up on a house is never an easy one, and one that we do not ever recommend. There are always various methods that can be used to stop foreclosure, and homeowners should exhaust all of them before admitting defeat. But, not all circumstances allow homeowners to work vigorously on numerous options to save their homes. In these cases, knowing the potential consequences of simply leaving the home is vital for homeowners to make an informed decision and begin the process of starting over with no regrets or worries about the former home.