pre foreclosure vs foreclosure

Pre Foreclosure vs Foreclosure: What Is the Difference Between Them?

We often see homeowners getting tangled up trying to figure out pre-foreclosure vs foreclosure.

The thing is, lots of folks are confused about what separates these stages. That confusion leads to bad choices and missed chances… 

But, worry not! When people understand the difference between pre-foreclosure and foreclosure, it helps them make better moves – whether they’re homeowners trying to sort things out or investors scoping out new chances.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is for educational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. We are not experts in legal matters, and readers are encouraged to seek the proper professional legal counsel for specific guidance.

What Is the Difference Between Pre-foreclosure and Foreclosure?

The main difference between foreclosure and pre-foreclosure is the stage of the property in the foreclosure process. Pre-foreclosure occurs before the property is repossessed by the lender. Foreclosure however, is the legal process where the lender repossesses the property due to non-payment, usually after the pre-foreclosure stage has passed.


Pre-foreclosure is the initial stage of a property towards foreclosure. It occurs when a homeowner defaults on mortgage payments, triggering a period of financial distress.

This stage emerges after the homeowner misses several consecutive payments, prompting the lender to issue a notice of default (NOD).

Upon receiving an NOD, the property enters the pre-foreclosure period, typically lasting several months, during which the homeowner has an opportunity to resolve the outstanding payments and prevent the property from progressing into full foreclosure. 

During pre-foreclosure, homeowners often aim to negotiate with the lender or explore alternative options to remedy the delinquency. They may consider loan modification, refinancing, or arranging a short sale to sell the property at a price below the outstanding mortgage balance. 

These measures allow the homeowner to avoid the adverse effects of a foreclosure on their credit score and retain some control over the selling process. 

One option during pre-foreclosure is the short sale process, where the property is sold for less than what is owed on the mortgage. This requires approval from the lender and may necessitate proving financial hardship.

When it comes to pre-foreclosure vs short sale, a short sale results in the loss of the property, but it can mitigate the financial repercussions associated with foreclosure. 

Additionally, homeowners in pre-foreclosure might opt to sell their property in the traditional real estate market, given the limited timeframe before foreclosure proceedings advance further. This allows them to settle their debts and avoid the detrimental impact of a foreclosure on their credit history. 

For real estate investors, pre-foreclosure presents an opportunity to potentially acquire distressed properties at a reduced price. Investors may approach homeowners in pre-foreclosure with offers to purchase the property, providing an alternative solution for the homeowner while allowing the investor to secure a property at a potentially lower market value. 


A foreclosure is a significant event in real estate that marks the culmination of a property’s repossession by the lender due to the homeowner’s failure to meet mortgage obligations.

It represents the final stage in the process initiated when a homeowner defaults on loan payments, leading the lender to take legal action to recover the outstanding debt. 

Once the pre-foreclosure phase elapses without resolution, the lender proceeds with formal foreclosure proceedings. This involves a legal process through which the lender takes possession of the property, terminating the homeowner’s rights of ownership. 

The foreclosure process varies by state and often involves several stages:

  1. Initially, the lender files a public notice known as a “Notice of Foreclosure Sale” or “Notice of Trustee’s Sale”, which announces the auction of the property to recover the unpaid loan amount. This notice is typically published in newspapers and posted on the property or publicly accessible locations.
  2. The property is then put up for auction, either at a public auction held by the county sheriff or through a trustee sale. The property is available to investors and the public. and is frequently sold to the highest bidder to pay off the mortgage and other debts. If the highest bid does not cover the debt, the lender may sue the homeowner for the difference.
  3. In the absence of a successful auction sale, the property reverts to the lender and becomes a “bank-owned” or “real estate-owned” (REO) property. These properties are typically listed for sale through real estate agents or auctions, providing opportunities for buyers or investors to purchase them at market value or below. 

Foreclosure has profound consequences for the homeowner, including significant damage to their credit score and the loss of their property. It signifies the legal process through which the lender exercises its right to reclaim the property due to mortgage default. 

Additional reading: How long does foreclosure take?

So, What Is the Difference Between Foreclosure and Foreclosed?

Foreclosure refers to the legal process initiated by a lender when a homeowner defaults on mortgage payments, leading to the repossession of the property, while “foreclosed” describes the status of a property after it has gone through the foreclosure process and is now owned by the lender or bank. 

In essence, the comparison between foreclosure vs foreclosed delineates the process of repossession by the lender and the resultant state of the property owned by the lender. Foreclosure represents the process, while the term foreclosed signifies the property’s repossessed state by the lender.

Additional reading: How to stop a foreclosure auction immediately?

Buying Pre-foreclosure vs Foreclosure

When considering the purchase of a property in either pre-foreclosure or foreclosure stages, several differences and nuances affect the buying process and potential outcomes:

  • Negotiation dynamics: Pre-foreclosure allows direct negotiation with distressed homeowners, whereas in foreclosure, buyers often deal with lenders or bid at auctions.
  • Potential savings: Foreclosure auctions can sometimes yield deeply discounted prices, while pre-foreclosure might offer better price negotiation opportunities.
  • Condition of property: Properties in pre-foreclosure might be in better condition, while foreclosed properties could have unknown issues due to neglect or limited inspection opportunities.
  • Flexibility and process: Buying in pre-foreclosure involves a longer and more intricate negotiation process while purchasing at foreclosure auctions or REO sales requires swift decision-making and readiness to complete the transaction. 

Final Points on Foreclosure vs Pre-foreclosure

Understanding the difference between pre-foreclosure and foreclosure is crucial when dealing with distressed properties. In pre-foreclosure, homeowners get a shot at fixing their financial issues and talking things out directly, but foreclosure means the lender legally takes back the property.

For buyers, these stages mean diverse experiences, from chatting with homeowners to bidding at auctions. Pre-foreclosure might let you talk terms, while foreclosure auctions can bring big bargains. 

Both need serious thought and careful checks. Knowing these differences helps you make smarter choices, whether they’re homeowners or investors in the real estate game. 

If you need help in selling your property despite its condition, SoCal Home Buyers specializes in facilitating property sales for cash, providing you with full support and communication throughout the process.

Additional reading: Can you sell a house in foreclosure?

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