The number of mortgage default notices filed against California homeowners jumped last quarter to its highest level in more than 15 years, a real estate information service reported.
Lending institutions sent homeowners 81,550 default notices during the October-to-December period. That was up by 12.4 percent from 72,571 the previous quarter, and up 114.6 percent from 37,994 for fourth-quarter 2006, according to DataQuick Information Systems.
Last quarter’s number of defaults was the highest in DataQuick’s statistics, which go back to 1992.
“Foreclosure activity is closely tied to a decline in home values. With today’s depreciation, an increasing number of homeowners find themselves owing more on a property than its market value, setting the stage for default if there is mortgage payment shock, a job loss or the owner needs to move,” said Marshall Prentice, DataQuick’s president.
The median price paid for a California home peaked at $484,000 last March and declined to $402,000 by the end of 2007, although DataQuick said much of that decline was caused by significant shifts in the types of homes that were sold.
Most of the loans that went into default last quarter were originated between August 2005 and October 2006. The median age was 22 months, up from 15 a year earlier, indicating that the pool of at-risk home loans is getting larger.
On primary mortgages statewide, homeowners were a median five months behind on their payments when the lender started the default process. The borrowers owed a median $11,121 on a median $340,000 mortgage.
On lines of credit, homeowners were a median seven months behind on their payments. Borrowers owed a median $3,379 on a median $56,000 credit line. However, the amount of the credit line that was actually in use cannot be determined from public records.
Last quarter’s default numbers were a record in 42 of the state’s 58 counties. In Los Angeles County it was 63.5 percent of the first-quarter 1996 peak.
Notices of default are recorded at county recorders’ offices and mark the first step of the formal foreclosure process.
On a loan-by-loan basis, mortgages were least likely to go into default in San Francisco, Marin, and San Mateo counties. The likelihood was highest in Merced, San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties.
Of the homeowners in default, an estimated 41 percent emerge from the foreclosure process by bringing their payments current, refinancing, or selling the home and paying off what they owe, according to DataQuick. A year ago it was about 71 percent. The increased portion of homes lost to foreclosure reflects the slow real estate market, as well as the number of homes bought during the height of the market with multiple-loan financing, which makes “work-outs” difficult.
Trustee’s deeds recorded, or the actual loss of a home to foreclosure, totaled 31,676 during the fourth quarter, the highest since DataQuick began tracking trustee’s deeds in 1988. Last quarter’s total rose 30.8 percent from 24,209 in the previous quarter, and jumped 421.2 percent from 6,078 in fourth quarter of 2006.
In the last real estate cycle, trustee’s deeds peaked at 15,418 in third-quarter 1996. The all-time low was 637 in the second quarter of 2005.
There are 7.9 million houses and condos in the state, DataQuick reported.
DataQuick, a subsidiary of Vancouver-based MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates, monitors real estate activity nationwide.
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