Has anyone actually gone to court over a defaulting borrower?


  • For those who sell property with owner financing, have you ever had to go to court to get your property back from a borrower who stopped making their payments?

    If so, how long did it take? How much did it cost? How valuable was the property?

    Trying to decide if seller financing is worth the risk to move some of my properties.

  • Mod LIM

    Sean Jean, I have not gone to court over a buyer/borrower default, but just wanted to point out, depending on the state that a particular property is in, a seller might have multiple options for the deal structure / contract type that they use for seller-financing, at least one of which might allow the seller/lender to cancel the contract in the event of default, without having to go to court.  Specifically, it's my understanding, if selling through a land contract (I think also sometimes called a contract for deed), in some states you might not even have to record that contract with the county, or even if you do record it, if your contract has the right language and your buyer/borrower defaults, you can cancel the contract without having to go to court. For instance, you may need to serve the borrower notice of default and give them a relatively brief period to get current (30 days in one state that I encountered), after which you can cancel the contract and the property is yours again, free and clear.

    On the other hand, I've also read that in Florida, for instance, even if the lender/seller is using a land contract/contract for deed, it needs to be recorded as a transaction with the county, and in the event of default you need to go through a judicial foreclosure process, the same as you would if you recorded the transfer of deed up-front with a mortgage lien and promissory note against it. Also, if sold using a land contract in Florida, you'd need to record the actual deed transfer once the borrower is done paying off the contract. So in other words, it's my understanding that selling through a land contract in Florida would result in double the recording costs (once when you enter the land contract and again when it's paid off), and no additional benefits to the seller, compared to seller-financing through a mortgage and note.

    So far, I've done a whopping total of one seller-financed deal, so take this all with a grain of salt, but just wanted to share what I think I've learned from my research over recent months and point out that one's experiences with dealing with seller-financed buyer defaults might be very state-specific and contract-specific.

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