SD foreclosures fall 9.9 percent

The number of San Diego County homes slipping toward foreclosure fell by 9.9 percent in the fourth quarter of 2008, compared to the same period a year ago, while statewide default numbers fell to their lowest level in more than a year, a real estate information service reported Tuesday.

Lenders sent default notices to 5,543 homeowners in San Diego County in the fourth quarter, down from the previous year’s fourth-quarter total of 6,151, according to La Jolla-based MDA DataQuick.

Statewide, default notices were sent to 75,230 homeowners in the fourth quarter of the year, DataQuick reported. That’s a 20.2 percent drop from the previous quarter and a 7.7 percent decrease from the same quarter in 2007, when 81,550 default notices were sent.

The overall drop in default notices had been attributed primarily to a change in the state’s foreclosure process that took effect in September, requiring lenders to take more steps to keep people in their homes, according to DataQuick.

“No one expected defaults to stay at the much lower levels we saw immediately after the new law took effect last fall,’' said John Walsh, DataQuick president. “The bigger question is whether or not the housing market has hit a low and is dragging along the bottom, or if the markets tha so far have remained unaffected by the foreclosure problem are due for a fall. With today’s atypical market trends, it’s impossible to predict.’'

Default notices do not always lead to a home foreclosure, according to DataQuick. In general, an estimated 20 percent of homeowners emerge from the foreclosure process by bringing their payments current, refinancing or selling the home.