Foreclosure is a legal process in which a bank can take possession of a home. This situation comes about when a home owner can no longer make their mortgage payments. While it may seem like there isn’t much one can do as economic situations can rapidly change, you can protect yourself from going into foreclosure.

Here are Ten Commandments every homeowner should abide by to avoid foreclosure:

1. Pay attention to your finances: Once you start falling behind on your payments, the bank would send out a notification that if you miss many more payments, you could face forfeiture with further disclosure.

2. Inform the bank if you find yourself falling behind on your payments, and let them know your intentions of paying. By communicating clearly, the bank might choose to grant you an extension on your payments. The bank doesn’t want to amass a large amount of stagnant properties not bringing in revenue either. So it is in the bank’s best interest to help you as well.

3. Respond to late payment notifications from the bank. As soon as you get one of these notifications in the mail, call your banker and explain your situation. If you can come to an agreement with the bank before the issue gets out of hand, you can prevent going into foreclosure. The bank may even give different payment options.

4. Know your rights. Read through all the documentation you signed for your home loan. It would be a good idea to get in touch with a licensed real estate agent or real estate attorney who can explain the applicable foreclosure laws and bylaws which you are governed by.

5. Explore your options. There are several options to avoid foreclosure and you can find information on many of them online. You just need to remember to be careful. Unfortunately there are those that are only out to make a quick buck, and don’t really care if you go into foreclosure or not.

6. Reach out and ask for help only from foreclosure certified realtors. Not all licensed real estate agents are also foreclosure certified. Some real estate agents will say they are certified when they aren’t, or some may be certified and not mention it. The best way to check is to run their name through the Illinois License Board website.

7. Go over your books. Go back and take a look at your income, spending, and expenditures for the past 6 months. By taking a look and re balancing your check book, you might find some areas you can cut back on, or cut out completely to help your situation. If you can always make sure that you have enough cash on hand for home payments, you will never go into foreclosure.

8. Get rid of what you don’t need or use. Do you have jewelry, trinkets, old toys or clothes taking up closet space? Have a yard sale. Do you have an extra car you haven’t been driving? By selling off that car you will not only have some extra cash in your pocket, but you will also be saving money on insurance as well.

9. Be weary of foreclosure prevention companies. When people start falling behind on their home payments, many start to panic. This panic leads for a desperate search for a “quick-fix” and this is where foreclosure prevention companies come into play. They offer their services to help negotiate with the bank or with the government to prevent foreclosure on your home. However, the fees they have often leave you in a worse position than when you started, and they really don’t offer anything you can’t do yourself.

10. Avoid foreclosure scams. There are those unscrupulous people out there that would try and take advantage of you. If you are facing potential foreclosure, it is always best to renegotiate with the bank. There are companies and people out there who offer to take over your home payments, but if you aren’t careful and read all the fine print, you could find yourself out on the street in no time. Many of these companies charge interest rates higher than the bank. Or there might be a clause in the contract which states if they can find a buyer for the home they can sell the property out from under you to pay back the loan with interest. Always be careful, and always read the fine print.