For most mortgage lenders, it’s "Three strikes, and you're out" when you miss too many payments.

Missing just one mortgage payment puts you on the lender’s radar. If you miss more than one, though, lenders can kick-start foreclosure proceedings that could cost you the roof over your head.

Foreclosure can sneak up quickly, so if you are in a bind, make sure you understand the process and your options.

So, how many mortgage payments can you miss before foreclosure?

The short answer: 3-6 payments.

In most states, you can miss up to three payments before formal foreclosure proceedings begin. Some common timelines after missed payments include:

  • One month late: the lender contacts you requesting payment and assesses late fees
  • Two months late: your account is reported as 30 days delinquent to credit bureaus
  • Three months late: the loan is considered 90 days delinquent and the foreclosure process can start
  • 4+ months late: foreclosure proceedings like court filings begin and your credit takes a major hit
  • Six months late: the lender can schedule a foreclosure sale date for your house

This timeline varies by state laws and lender policies, but missing four or more consecutive payments often initiates foreclosure. Act quickly at the first sign of trouble to avoid escalation.

6 options to avoid foreclosure

You have options if you temporarily cannot make mortgage payments. Let's walk through some of those so you don't lose hope. If you start early, there are always solutions. Consider these options:

  • Loan modification: adjust the loan terms to lower monthly payments
  • Forbearance: temporarily reduces or suspends payments
  • Repayment plan: gradually catch up on missed payments
  • Reinstatement: pay the total amount owed in a lump sum
  • Sell your home: bankruptcy stops foreclosure so you can sell
  • Deed-in-lieu of foreclosure: voluntarily sign over ownership to the lender

Communicate with your lender early about hardships to negotiate alternatives, like hardship forbearance. This helps avoid foreclosure.

Step-by-step process after missed payments

If you’re curious about how many mortgage payments can be missed before foreclosure and what happens once payments are missed, here are some common steps to better understand the foreclosure timeline:

  1. Notice of default: In most states, this first notice arrives after 90 days of delinquency and alerts you that foreclosure may start if the default continues.
  2. Foreclosure notice: If you don't resolve the default, another notice arrives with the lender's intent to foreclose. It specifies an amount owed and a deadline to pay it.
  3. Public notice of sale: If the default remains unresolved, a notice about auctioning your house is publicly filed and sometimes published.
  4. Auction sale: Your home is auctioned off to the highest bidder. Any proceeds go toward your unpaid mortgage. You must vacate the property.

This process usually takes about 6–12 months. But timeframes depend on state laws and lender policies.

How missed payments affect credit

A foreclosure will devastate your credit, but even before that, your score drops with each missed payment.

Here's the credit impact of late mortgage payments:

  • Thirty days late: reports to credit bureaus are made, lowering your score up to 110 points
  • Sixty days late: another 50-point drop as seriously delinquent
  • Ninety days late: 100-point plummet and future credit becomes costlier
  • 120+ days late: credit score continues to decline until foreclosure, plus a 7-year credit report stain

Timely payments help scores, but just one 30-day late payment causes a 90- to 110-point hit. Scores remain depressed until positive information offsets late payments.

State laws determine timelines and processes

Each state sets specific foreclosure laws and procedures that lenders must follow. Common state distinctions include:

  • Judicial vs. non-judicial foreclosure: In judicial states, lenders must sue in court for a foreclosure judgment. Non-judicial states have streamlined out-of-court processes.
  • Right to reinstate: Some states give homeowners the right to reinstate a mortgage and stop foreclosure after payments become current again.
  • Right of redemption: This allows homeowners to redeem their property by repaying the balance, even after the sale.
  • Deficiency judgments: These determine whether lenders can sue former homeowners for losses not covered by foreclosure sale proceeds.

Timeframes vary, so review your state’s laws and lender policies to understand the process.

But if you or someone you know is wondering how many months you can go without paying your mortgage, most states allow 3-6 missed payments before permitting foreclosure.

If you're struggling to pay, the clock is ticking so reach out for help as soon as possible.

Alternatives: loan modifications, forbearance, and repayment plans

Instead of missing multiple payments until foreclosure, you may qualify for alternatives.

Loan modifications adjust the terms of your existing mortgage to make payments affordable. Modifications may include:

  • Lower interest rates
  • Extended repayment timeline
  • Adding missed payments to the balance
  • Lower monthly payments

Forbearance lets you reduce or suspend payments temporarily for hardship reasons. Forbearance is not forgiveness—you must eventually repay the amounts paused.

Repayment plans allow you to gradually become current by making extra payments over several months. This avoids default.

Acting preemptively by requesting alternatives early maximizes the chances of approval and prevents foreclosure proceedings from starting.

Short sales to avoid foreclosure

If you can't reinstate the loan and want to avoid foreclosure, selling your home may be an option.

Short sales let you sell and use the proceeds to pay off a portion of the mortgage debt, even if it's less than you owe. The lender accepts this as payment in full. This is preferable to foreclosure.

With a deed-in-lieu of foreclosure, you voluntarily transfer ownership and the deed to the lender to satisfy the mortgage debt.

This transitions the property to the lender without going through formal foreclosure.

Both options let you avoid some credit damage and foreclosure fees by proactively surrendering the home, but you must vacate the property.

Act now

Nothing jeopardizes your home and financial standing faster than missed mortgage payments snowballing into foreclosure.

But you have options, from loan modifications to short sales, if you are willing to act early.

Contact your lender at the first sign of hardship and review state laws so you understand the foreclosure process and timeline.

The sooner you can remedy missed payments or negotiate other solutions, the better the outcome for your housing situation and financial future.

Don't lose your home without exploring every option first.