As a bankruptcy attorney, I am frequently asked questions about the rules and procedures relating to foreclosure. One of the most common questions asked is how long the foreclosure process takes.
Most foreclosures in California are non judicial foreclosures. This means that the lender hires the trustee on the deed of trust to foreclose on the property.
The foreclosure process, in theory, can start as soon as the borrower misses a payment. But in practice the lenders are letting the borrowers go several and some cases many months before starting foreclosure. It's difficult to say how long your lender will take before starting the process. Some of them are buried in loans that have gone into default. They will obviously take longer than a bank that has relatively fewer loans in default. I would consider calling the lender and asking.
If there are no delays, a foreclosure will be completed in about four months. The lender records a Notice of Default. After the recording of the Notice of Default there is a mandatory three-month waiting period. Then the trustee must publish the notice of trustee's sale for four weeks. Then the property is sold at auction.
But if you file bankruptcy the foreclosure must stop. When this happens the lender must file a motion with the bankruptcy court asking for the judge to lift the stay. These motions are routinely granted. It causes around four to six weeks of delay in the process depending on how busy the bank's attorneys are.
Another important question is whether you will be sued for a deficiency judgment after the foreclosure. If you're interested, I discuss that issue more here.