Can I Stay in My Home After a Sheriff’s Sale?

I recently posted a piece about how long mortgage foreclosure takes in Pennsylvania. A different question came to me today from a client, who asked how long he could expect to stay in his home after his sheriff’s sale was completed.

Basically, it’s going to really depend on the circumstances. First, you should realize that most foreclosures result in the home being taken back by the bank. In other words, it’s somewhat rare for a private investor to purchase a home in a sheriff’s sale (it happens, but the circumstances have to be right for it to occur). More commonly, here’s what happens. The mortgage lender will bid for the house at the sheriff’s sale and take back the house. They won’t actually get a deed to the house for about 30 days however (I’m talking about Allegheny County where there are a lot of foreclosures because the population is greater).

In the week following the sheriff’s sale, the mortgage company will send a realtor out to the house to see if it’s still occupied. If it is indeed still occupied, then the mortgage company will file a Complaint for Eviction. This gives the occupant about 15-30 days before the eviction hearing to be held before the local magistrate.

At any point during that time, the occupant can still leave without any real legal problem. I’ve also seen mortgage companies attempt to avoid the eviction process by offering occupants cash payments if they would leave peacefully. One thing I always advise clients though is that once they leave the property, they should take all of their possessions with them. Don’t leave the premises and think that you’re going to return to retrieve possessions, because the mortgage company may (and legally, can) change the locks.

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