The number of payments you can miss on your mortgage before the foreclosure process begins depends on a few different factors. Because of this, there are no one-size-fits-all answers to this question.

Primary among the factors that affect how long a borrower can go without paying before being forced into foreclosure are the practices and policies of your lender. If the lender has a large portfolio of low-risk loans, it may be more lenient regarding missed payments. Often, it will forgive an occasional missed payment and may not refer your situation to the housing authorities until you miss four or more payments. 

If the lender has a portfolio of high-risk loans, however, the possibility of foreclosure proceedings beginning even after just two missed payments is high. Even if you are a low-risk borrower, the proceedings may be triggered by standards due to the overall default risk of the mortgage pool owned by the lender.

Key Takeaways

  • There are numerous factors that affect the number of missed mortgage payments that will lead to foreclosure. 
  • The most important resource for finding out how many missed mortgage payments will lead to foreclosure is the declared practices and policies of your individual lender. 
  • The risk level of the lender’s portfolio may inform their policies with regards to missed payments. 
  • The state of your local housing market may also play a role in your lender’s policies.
  • If you are having difficulty making your mortgage payment, the most important thing you can do is remain in open communication with your lender.

Housing Market Factors

The general state of your local housing market is another factor that plays a role in the timing of foreclosure proceedings. If the neighborhood or region has many pending foreclosures, it is likely you will be able to stay in your home longer, as local housing authorities may be backlogged and lacking the resources to process so many cases. There have been situations where people missed 10 or more monthly payments before finally losing their home.

If you are in default, your mortgage servicer should contact you multiple times to attempt to alleviate the situation. Typically, by the 36th day after your last payment, the lender contacts you by phone. By the 45th day after you miss a payment, your mortgage servicer must contact you in writing and provide information regarding the options available to you.

Although most lenders and services will not begin the foreclosure process over a single missed payment, missing one mortgage payment does put you in breach of your mortgage agreement. That’s why it’s so important to communicate with your lender if you are going to be late on a payment or miss a payment.

Typical Mortgage Foreclosure Timeline

While circumstances and location can dictate variances in the timeline of a mortgage foreclosure, there is a template for how it usually happens. No matter the circumstances that led to a missed mortgage payment, you should remember that mortgage companies want to get their money without a messy foreclosure process if possible; it’s more cost effective. This means they'd like to make an arrangement with you for payment, if possible.

A 15-day grace period is common. If you pay within this time, you’re all good. If you fail to pay, and then miss another payment, things get more complicated. Late fees can be added, and once you miss the second payment, you’re in default.

If you miss a second mortgage payment, you’re likely to see a change in the mortgage servicer. They will normally become more assertive in the way they deal with you. This can be a frightening situation to deal with, but you still may be able to reach an agreement with the lender.

At 90 Days Late on Your Mortgage

If you don’t come to an agreement with your mortgage lender, and you miss three mortgage payments, it is a serious situation. You will receive a letter from the mortgage lender stating you have 30 days to bring your account up to date. If you want to stay in your home, you need to speak to the lender in order to try and avoid foreclosure proceedings. They will normally expect full payment of the money that’s owed, but you may still be able to reach a payment arrangement.

Once the 30-day has ended, if there has been no payment made and no agreement reached, foreclosure starts. If you're counting, that’s four missed monthly mortgage payments before foreclosure begins.

Laws governing foreclosure can vary from state to state. In some states, mortgage lenders must meet with borrowers before they can file for foreclosure.

After three to six months of delinquency, the lender records a public notice with the County Recorder’s Office, indicating the borrower has defaulted on the mortgage. This is usually called a Notice of Default (NOD) or a lis pendens—Latin for “suit pending.”

The Bottom Line

If you're facing foreclosure, your best bet is to stay in communication with your lender and talk with them about your situation. They may have programs to help you keep your home. If all else fails, selling would be a better alternative to having the house being foreclosed upon.