Sales of foreclosed properties accounted for one in three of existing-home sales in California during the first quarter, compared with 3.2 percent a year ago, according to data aggregator DataQuick Information Systems.

Foreclosure resales varied "significantly" by area, DataQuick said, from 5.1 percent of sales in San Francisco County to 66.7 percent in San Joaquin County.

The number of default notices sent to California homeowners during the first quarter rose 143 percent from a year ago, putting the number of homes headed into foreclosure at the highest level recorded by DataQuick since it began tracking that statistic in 1992.

Lenders sent out 113,676 default notices between January and March of this year, a 39.4 percent increase from 81,550 the previous quarter, and a nearly threefold increase from 46,760 notices mailed in the first quarter of 2007.

DataQuick said the median age of loans that defaulted in the first quarter was 23 months, up from 16 months at the same time last year. Most were originated between August 2005 and October 2006 — a period of "loans-gone-wild" activity, DataQuick President Marshall Prentice said in a statement.

Multiple-loan financing such as "piggyback" seconds — which complicate the process of engaging in workouts with borrowers — peaked in the fourth quarter of 2006, when 60.9 percent of home purchases were financed that way, and has since plummeted to 15.9 percent, DataQuick said.

Homeowners in San Francisco, Marin and San Mateo counties were the least likely to go into default, DataQuick found, while the likelihood of default was highest in Merced, San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties.

DataQuick saw defaults in most counties hit levels the company has never seen. One notable exception was Los Angeles County, where the 20,339 defaults recorded in the first quarter rivaled, but did not surpass, the 21,444 seen in the first quarter of 1996.

Trustee deeds recorded, indicating the actual loss of a home to foreclosure, totaled 47,171 during the first quarter, the highest number since DataQuick began tracking the statistic in 1988. Trustee deeds recorded were up 48.9 percent from the previous quarter and 327.6 percent from a year ago.


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