It could be longer but Not shorter.
You have posted some great questions. The pre-foreclosure period really begins when a homeowner defaults on their mortgage. In the old days, before there were so many defaults, federally backed loan modification programs, etc, most lenders would start the formal foreclosure process (the filing of the Notice of Default - NOD) approximately 60 - 90 days after the homeowner's default. The timeframe, once the NOD is filed is approximately 111 days (90 days for the NOD, 21 days for the Notice of Trustee Sale - NTS). And no, this legal time period does not depend on the individual bank. These are the minimum timeframes required by California State Law.
That being said, in today's market, we are seeing all sorts of delays in the process.
First, anyone who either begins a loan modification or short sale negotiation with the bank often never sees an NOD filed on their home. Example: I had one short sale take 16 months. The lender turned down the first 4 offers and finally took an offer almost 20% below the highest offer. Meanwhile HOA dues and taxes became delinquent. The home owner made no payments to the bank during this entire period. No NOD was ever filed.
Second, even once the NOD is filed, the bank may put off filing the NTS. This could be due to negotiations with the homeowner, too much foreclosure inventory in the area, simple oversight. It is hard to say which occurs more often, but we are seeing lenders wait 6 - 8 months from the filing of the NOD to file the NTS which allows them to finally foreclose on the property.
Third, even after the NTS is filed, the bank will postpone the auction date for pretty much any reason. List the house for a short sale? Postpone. Start loan modification negotiations? Postpone. Call and say you are working on getting the money together? Postpone.
And then there are those few lenders who still follow the traditional timeline. 60 days delinquent, file NOD. 90 days later, file the NTS. 21 days later, Auction on the courthouse steps. The key to extending this timeframe is communication with the lender. Banks do not want to own homes. They want their money.
So that's the long answer to your short question. Hope it is useful. Let me know if you would like more information. I have worked with foreclosures since 2004 (yes there were foreclosures even when prices were going up) and can probably point you in the right direction if you want to know more. Dare to Dream.
Shel-lee Davis, CDPE
Your Real Estate Consultant for Life
RE/MAX Palos Verdes Realty
These are the time frames by statute, however some lenders are overwhelmed and have time frames that are longer.