When you bought your first home, you were thrilled to tell everyone that you were finally a homeowner. It had been your dream for 10 years and you made it happen.

But are you really a homeowner? If you saved up the money and bought that house outright, then you are. If you took out a mortgage, experts warn that you’re actually a borrower, not an owner.

In essence, though you may own the house, the bank really owns it. Your mortgage is a secured loan. It’s tied directly to the home — unlike a credit card or some other form of unsecured loan. If you don’t pay what you owe every month, the bank has a legal right to come take the home through the foreclosure process.

Of course, this is far different than renting in numerous ways. No one else is allowed to come into the house, and you can’t be “evicted” for anything but nonpayment. It is your house. But, if you ever get that foreclosure notice in the mail, you’ll suddenly realize that owning a home in this sense is very different than owning your other assets.

There are a few things you should know about a foreclosure. Typically, it takes a string of missed payments to trigger it. Even when it begins, you’re not kicked out immediately. There is a legal process that must be followed, starting with notifying you of the impending foreclosure.

If this process begins, take the time to learn all that you can about your options and your legal rights. While home ownership can be complicated, these rights must be upheld every step of the way.

Source: Zillow, “What is a Foreclosure?,” accessed Aug. 16, 2017