California Foreclosure Activity Hits Three-Year High
Second quarter California foreclosure activity rose at the fastest pace in at least 14 years, the result of waning home price appreciation.
Lenders sent 20,752 default notices to homeowners statewide during the April-through-June period. That was up 10.5 percent from 18,778 the previous quarter and up 67.2 percent from 12,408 in the second quarter of last year, DataQuick Information Systems reported. Last quarter's year-over-year increase was the highest for any quarter since DataQuick began tracking defaults in 1992. Notices of default are formal documents filed with the county recorder's office and mark the first step in the foreclosure process.
Despite the second quarter surge, defaults remained below historically normal levels. On average, lenders filed 32,762 notices of default each quarter over the past 14 years. Last quarter's 20,752 total was the highest since 25,511 were filed in first quarter 2003.
"This is an important trend to watch but doesn't strike us as ominous," said Marshall Prentice, DataQuick's president. "The increase was a statistical certainty because the number of defaults had fallen to such extreme lows. We would have to see defaults roughly double from today's level before they would begin to impact home values much."
"We hear a lot of talk about rising payments on adjustable-rate loans triggering borrower distress," Prentice continued. "While there's no doubt some of that is going on, as far as we can tell the spike in defaults is mainly the result of slowing price appreciation. It makes it harder for people behind on their mortgage to sell their homes and pay off the lender."
Other factors that contribute to higher defaults include the amount of equity owners have in their homes, the type of mortgage and how long the mortgage has been held.
DataQuick, a subsidiary of Vancouver-based MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates, monitors real estate activity nationwide and provides information to consumers, educational institutions, public agencies, lending institutions, title companies and industry analysts.
Foreclosure activity hit a low during the third quarter of 2004, when lenders filed 12,145 default notices. That year California home prices rose at an annual rate exceeding 20 percent. This year annual price gains have slipped into single digits in many of the state's larger housing markets. Last month San Diego and Sacramento counties saw their median home prices dip about 1 percent compared with a year ago. Second quarter defaults shot up about 99 percent in San Diego County and 109 percent in Sacramento County from last year.
Still, today's statewide foreclosure activity amounts to about one-third of the peak level in the first quarter of 1996, when 59,897 defaults were filed. The state was in a housing slump back then and foreclosure activity tugged home values down by about 10 percent in some areas.
Today, only about seven percent of homeowners who find themselves in default lose their homes to foreclosure. Most stop the process by bringing their mortgage payments current, or by selling their home and paying the home loan(s) off.
Notices of Default houses and condos
County/Region 2005Q2 2006Q2 % Chg
Los Angeles 3157 4587 45.3%
Orange 697 1280 83.6%
San Diego 894 1778 98.9%
Riverside 1121 2287 104.0%
San Bernardino 1093 1839 68.3%
Ventura 250 452 80.8%
818 481 9211
Keller Williams Porter Ranch