California Foreclosure Starts Dip to Eight-Year Low

 

La Jolla, CA.–The number of California homeowners pulled into the formal foreclosure process dropped to an eight-year low last quarter, the result of an improving economy, foreclosure prevention efforts and higher home prices, a real estate information service reported.

A total of 18,120 Notices of Default (NoDs) were recorded by lenders and their servicers on California owners of houses and condos during the October-through-December period. That was down 10.8 percent from 20,314 for the prior quarter, and down 52.6 percent from 38,212 in fourth-quarter 2012. Last quarter’s tally was the lowest since 15,337 NoDs were recorded during fourth-quarter 2005. NoDs peaked in first-quarter 2009 at 135,431. DataQuick’s NoD statistics go back to 1992.”Some of this decline in foreclosure starts stems from the use of various foreclosure prevention efforts – short sales, loan modifications and the ability of some underwater homeowners to refinance. But most of the drop is because of the improving economy and the increase in home values. Fewer people are behind on their mortgage payments. And of those who do get into trouble, many, if not most, can sell and pay off what they owe. Also, those who are underwater and close to slipping into foreclosure are far less likely to give up their homes now that appreciation has returned to the housing market. There’s a strong incentive to hang on,” said John Walsh, DataQuick president.

Continuing a years-long trend, mortgage defaults remained far more concentrated in the state’s most affordable neighborhoods. Zip codes with 2013 median sale prices below $200,000 collectively saw 3.1 NoDs filed last quarter for every 1,000 homes in those zip codes. The ratio was 2.0 NoDs per 1,000 homes for zip codes with $200,000-to-$800,000 medians, while there were 0.7 NoDs filed per 1,000 homes for the group of zips with medians above $800,000.

Most of the loans going into default are still from the 2005-2007 period. The median origination quarter for defaulted loans is still third-quarter 2006. That has been the case for more than four years, indicating that weak underwriting standards peaked then.

Although 18,120 default notices were filed last quarter, they involved 17,773 homes because some borrowers were in default on multiple loans (e.g. a primary mortgage and a line of credit).

Among the state’s larger counties, loans were least likely to go into default last quarter in Marin, Santa Clara and San Mateo counties. The probability was highest in Tulare, Fresno and Riverside counties.

At formal foreclosure auctions held statewide last quarter, an estimated 40.0 percent of the foreclosed properties were bought by investors or others that don’t appear to be lender or government entities. That was down from an estimated 48.0 percent the previous quarter and down from 41.8 percent a year earlier, DataQuick reported.

 

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