As you might expect, contesting a foreclosure in a judicial foreclosure state is very different than doing so in a nonjudicial foreclosure state. (If you don’t know which kind of foreclosure you’re likely to come up against, see our Summary of State Foreclosure Laws.) And the amount of delay you’re likely to get also depends on the foreclosure procedure used in your state.
In judicial foreclosures, just filing an answer to the foreclosure petition or complaint might give you several additional months. This is because once you contest the case, you’re entitled to your day in court. So the court will set a date for a hearing at which the judge will hear your argument about why the foreclosure should not go forward.
It’s impossible to generalize just how long it will take to get your hearing; some states and courts are faster than others. But it’s likely to take anywhere from two to six months. And the first hearing may not be the end of it. If you have solid evidence of wrongdoing by the foreclosing party, you may be able to force a type of trial at which you and the foreclosing party will be expected to produce witnesses that the judge can question and that the parties can cross-examine.
If you don’t respond and let the case go by default, you are looking at a month at the most before the court issues a foreclosure judgment. In most states, the judge then orders a sale to be held. In Connecticut or Vermont, however, the judge can transfer title then and there, without a sale.
In nonjudicial foreclosure states, the only way to raise a defense to the foreclosure (other than filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy) is to file an action in state court seeking a court order (temporary injunction) holding up the sale until you have gotten a chance to argue your case. In most states you must post a bond (a kind of insurance policy) to protect the owner from financial losses during the delay caused by the case. This requirement alone can be expensive and might defeat the purpose of your bringing the case if your primary goal is to buy some extra time to live in your house payment free.
Also, if you must hire a lawyer for this court process, your costs will be considerable—maybe several thousand dollars. Your case may be dismissed just a month or two after you file it, meaning you will have spent a lot of money for very little delay. Of course, if you have a good shot at saving your house, the risk may be worth it.