What Happens After a Sheriff's Sale of a Foreclosed Property?

When a property owner fails to make a certain number of consecutive mortgage payments, the lender begins the foreclosure process. Eventually notices of the sale arrive in the property owner’s mailbox and appear in local newspapers. If the property owner doesn’t bring the mortgage payments current, the sale proceeds. Sheriff’s sales or foreclosure auctions, which sell foreclosed property, often occur on the steps of the county courthouse. The minimum bid at the auction usually is the amount owed to the lender. What happens after the public auction varies depending on state and county rules and laws.

Sale Is Over

The highest bidder buys the house. Often full payment in the form of a certified check or cash is required immediately after the auction. Some states and counties allow payments several days to months after the auction. Sometimes the second-highest bidder is offered the chance to buy the property if the highest bidder doesn’t pay.

Minimum Bid at Auction

If the minimum bid is not reached, the lender owns the property. The bank, mortgage company or other lender takes ownership. The lender often hires a real estate broker to sell the home. Real estate companies and lenders provide lists of real-estate-owned (REO) property available for purchase.

Redemption Period

In some states and counties, the owner has the right to redeem the property after the auction. The owner pays the purchase price, late fees, court fees and interest. The purchase price is returned to the highest bidder if the house is redeemed within a stated time period. If the property isn’t redeemed, the highest bidder receives title to the property after a specified time period.

Condition of House

Often a house inspection isn’t possible before the sheriff’s auction. The property is sold “as-is." Tenants or the property owner might still reside in the home. The highest bidder receives title to the property after the listed redemption period. At that time, the new buyer takes ownership and evicts the tenants, if necessary. The new owner often buys title insurance. This insures the new buyer against loss from title defects. The property purchaser also makes sure the new deed is recorded with the county recorder’s office.


About the Author

Kim Dieter has taught agriscience classes, developed curriculum and participated in the school accreditation process at the secondary and community college levels since 1980. She holds a Master of Science degree from the University of California, Davis, in animal science.