Know your redemption rights

The right of redemption is not available in every state, and even among states that offer it, procedures vary greatly.

  • You may obtain a right of redemption only if your state offers a judicial foreclosure—that is, a foreclosure that proceeds through the courts.
  • The terms vary even among judicial foreclosure states. If you live in Kansas, you may have as long as a year to regain ownership through redemption. In Maine, you’ll have three months. But if you live in New York, you have no redemption rights at all, even though it is also a judicial foreclosure state.
  • Be prepared to deal with your home’s new owners, as they may take possession of your home even if your right of redemption is still valid.

To check your state’s foreclosure laws, review this helpful guide

Be prepared to pay

Unfortunately, redemption is only a last chance—not a magic bullet. If you haven’t heard of the right of redemption, it’s because they rarely happen, even in states that allow them. Why? You must come up with the price paid by whoever purchases your house plus associated fees and taxes. The same situation that led you to foreclosure probably will keep you from getting the cash or financing for redemption. So unless you just won the lottery or your rich uncle died and left you a bundle, you won’t get redemption. 

Understand reinstatement

Reinstatement is different from redemption, although it’s easy to confuse the two. Reinstatement, available in many states, allows you stop the foreclosure process up to five days before the auction. To do this, you must:

  • Bring your loan up to date with all fees, expenses, and late charges.
  • Pay with “real money.” That is, come with a certified check, not a credit card.
  • Be willing to take a hit in your credit score. However, you keep your house and the same mortgage, and over time you can repair your score. And at this point, your credit score probably already has taken a hit.

Note the important distinction: in reinstatement, you only have to come up with what you missed; in redemption, you have to come up with the entire amount owed on the house.

Again, to find out if reinstatement is available for you, consult a lawyer and a foreclosure counselor. You should talk to your lender about whether it’s invoking acceleration—that is, declaring the entire amount due after several missed payments. Although, based on the terms of your loan, that may be the lender’s right—effectively disallowing a reinstatement—your bank may be willing to negotiate a reinstatement.

Even if you can scrape together money for a reinstatement by pawning some jewelry and borrowing cash from relatives, you can’t do that every month. If sufficient income looks like it will be a long-term problem, you might be better off saving your money for new housing and proceeding with a foreclosure, short sale, or deed in lieu of foreclosure.