Lenders started foreclosure proceedings on a record number of California homeowners in the second quarter, the result of declining home values and the rampant spoilage of a batch of especially risky home loans made in late 2005 and 2006, a real estate information service reported.
Mortgage servicers recorded 121,341 "notices of default" during the April-through-June period. That was up 6.6 percent from a revised 113,809 for this year’s first quarter, and up 124.9 percent from 53,943 in second-quarter 2007, according to DataQuick Information Systems.
Last quarter’s number of defaults was the highest in DataQuick’s statistics, which go back to 1992. Notices of Default are recorded at county recorders offices and mark the first step of the formal foreclosure process.
"It’s still very clear that most of the problems are in certain areas and in certain categories. Basically, areas that absorbed spillover activity during the end of the boom cycle in 2006 seem to be the hardest hit. Prices went too high, fueled by the availability of easy-to-get, dicey home loans. An added element was speculative buying," said John Walsh, DataQuick president.
"The small increase in defaults from the first to the second quarter may indicate that we’re nearing a plateau. We won’t know until the end of the year, but it may be that some lenders are starting to prioritize workouts with homeowners instead of grinding things through the foreclosure process. Of course, they may just be swamped and can’t handle processing any more paperwork," he said.
Most of the loans that went into default last quarter were originated between September 2005 and November 2006. The median age was 26 months, up from 16 months a year earlier.
On primary mortgages, California homeowners were a median five months behind on their payments when the lender filed the notice of default. The borrowers owed a median $11,583 on a median $346,400 mortgage.
On home equity loans and lines of credit, homeowners were a median eight months behind on their payments. Borrowers owed a median $3,492 on a median $60,000 credit line. However the amount of the credit line that was actually in use cannot be determined from public records.
Although 121,341 default notices were filed last quarter, they involved 118,020 homes because some borrowers were in default on multiple loans (e.g. a primary mortgage and a line of credit).
Last quarter’s default numbers were a record in almost all of the state’s 58 counties. That included Los Angeles County, where last quarter’s 21,632 residential defaults surpassed the prior record of 21,444 recorded during first-quarter 1996.
On a loan-by-loan basis, mortgages were least likely to go into default in San Francisco, Marin, and San Mateo counties — an historical norm. The likelihood was highest in Merced, San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties.
Of the homeowners in default, an estimated 22 percent emerge from the foreclosure process by bringing their payments current, refinancing, or selling the home and paying off what they owe. A year ago it was about 52 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.
Multiple-loan financing peaked in Q4 of 2006 at 60.9 percent of all financed home purchases. Last quarter it was 11.5 percent.
Trustees Deeds recorded, or the actual loss of a home to foreclosure, totaled 63,061 during the second quarter. That’s the highest since DataQuick began tracking Trustees Deeds in 1988. Last quarter’s total rose 33.5 percent from 47,221 in the previous quarter, and jumped 261 percent from 17,458 in second-quarter 2007. In the last real estate cycle, Trustees Deeds peaked at 15,418 in third-quarter 1996. The all-time low was 637 in the second quarter of 2005.
There are 8.4 million houses and condos in the state, DataQuick reported.
Foreclosure resales have emerged as a significant market factor, accounting for 40 percent of all California resale activity last quarter. A year ago it was 5.4 percent. Foreclosure resales vary significantly by area, from 3 percent in San Francisco County to 75.1 percent in Merced County.
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