Janet: First off, let me say I'm extremely sorry to hear of your misfortune. I have handled a number of distress sales and it is the most disturbing aspect of the business.
Mr. Adams has done a good job of recapping the situation. Where he and Ms. Larsen conflict, I'd advise you listen to Mr. Adams.
I'd go on to add a thing or two that may be new. First, in a Sheriffâ€™s Sale, the mortgage holder NORMALLY ends up buying. They have an up to date appraisal and won't let the property go for less. Would you, if you could afford to cover the cost? Remember that the mortgage company is basically paying themselves and, since they are usually the prime creditor, they can also clear any secondary loans by paying the sheriff less than the amount of the primary loan. You end up still being liable for any amounts that you owe. Whether you will be pursued further, I have no idea. That's not the Realtor's end of these affairs.
Now, the mortgage company will receive a sheriff's deed. When? Sometimes not for weeks. They then have to update the title search to find any other liens on the property and quiet the title by informing those lien holders that the primary lien has eradicated any claims they may have previously had. This takes time.
The mortgage company will usually place the property with a Realtor for sale. In some cases, if the value of the property is low (wrecked, abandoned houses for example) they may just let them go to an auction of many distressed homes.
If they do list with a Realtor, the agent will be directed to effect a removal of any tenant, whether former owner or renter. The first attempt will be by trying to talk you into leaving voluntarily. They may offer a contract, giving you a MODEST sum in exchange for a contract to vacant on a date fixed, time certain. The sum is paid when you are out and give up the keys. Sometimes I have seen the tenant abandon worn-out household items, saving them the cost of having them taken out of the place.
If this scenario plays out, you will find that the time you need will usually be granted. In your case, it's less than two months.
If you refuse or are not approached in this way, then an eviction can be ordered. In these times, the sheriff is quite busy and the time between that of the request and the actual eviction date can amount to a good deal of time. That MAY get you to the January date that you are seeking. If not, the sheriffâ€™s officers will show up on the eviction date. If the mortgage company is wise, they will have a representative with a locksmith and a moving company in tow. The movers will take the contents of the property to a storage location and usually pay the first month's rent. This cost is normally borne by the new owner, not the person being evicted. If, perchance, you have a place to move to and it is nearby, the movers will usually just take it to the new place instead of to storage. (Saves the one month fee.)
If the new owner does not engage a mover, then the locksmith will change the locks before the contents of the house are removed, not after as would happen in the case outlined above. Since this is the personal property of the former tenant, the tenant has the right to remove the contents and the new owner cannot take anything. Now comes the tricky part. You can directly negotiate a day when the new owner will open the place to let you remove your property or, if need be, you have the sheriff's department arrange that date. Obviously, if you do not act in a reasonable time, (sorry, but I don't have a specific length of time for you) the owner can declare the personal property abandoned and throw it in the trash. I have been told that he cannot sell it or convert it to his use without incurring the obligation to pay you for it. You would have to consult an attorney to get details on that situation.
So, you can see things are not as bleak as they seem. The sheriff will notify you of any action that they will take ahead of time. I believe that the new owner (mortgage company or anyone else) becomes your landlord on sufferance, meaning that, while they don't want you there, the landlord-tenant laws of the state bind them. They cannot just toss you out in the street nor lock you out without the sheriff's department eviction.
Some may advise that you seek legal protection and consult an attorney. You certainly do have the 10-day reclaiming right but I assume that, as in most cases, you would not let it get this far if you had the funds to reverse the sale. I donâ€™t recommend paying for an attorney if you are content to let matters take their normal course
Best of luck to you.