Lenders started foreclosure proceedings on a record number of California homes in March, even as sales at auction fell dramatically, data aggregator ForeclosureRadar reported.

The number of California homes subjected to notices of default — the first step in the foreclosure process — surged 29.3 percent from February to March, to 54,268, the company said. That’s a 26.3 percent increase from a year ago, and 25.8 percent above the April 2008 peak.

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