California home foreclosures climb as risky loans sour

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Foreclosure proceedings against California homeowners jumped by more than 140 percent in the first quarter compared to a year ago, the result of risky loans during boom times, a real estate research firm said Tuesday.

Most loans that went into default originated between August 2005 and October 2006, according to DataQuick Information Systems, which said the market was shaking off its "'loans-gone-wild' activity" during that time.

The median age of a defaulted loan was 23 months.

Lenders sent homeowners 113,676 default notices from January through March, up 143.1 percent from 46,760 during the same period of 2007 and up 39.4 percent from 81,550 during the last three months of 2007.

The first quarter numbers marked the highest foreclosure level since DataQuick began keeping track in 1992.

Default notices hit their highest levels in nearly all of California's 58 counties, but Los Angeles County was just shy of its peak in the first quarter of 1996, DataQuick said.

One of every three resale homes sold in California from January through March had been foreclosed at some point during the previous year, up from 3.2 percent a year earlier, DataQuick said.

In San Joaquin County, foreclosures accounted for two of every three homes that were resold. In San Francisco County, they made up only 5.1 percent.

Mortgages were most likely to go into default in the central California counties of San Joaquin, Merced and Stanislaus, DataQuick said. They were least likely to go into default in the San Francisco Bay area counties of San Francisco, Marin and San Mateo.

Many homes were financed with multiple loans. As a result, the 113,676 default notices sent in the first quarter were recorded on 110,392 residences.

Default notices mark the first step in the foreclosure process.

Trustee deeds _ which represent loss of a home to foreclosure _ totaled 47,171 during the first quarter, up 327.6 percent from 11,032 during the same period of 2007 and up 48.9 percent from 31,676 during the previous three months.

It marked the highest level of trustee deeds since DataQuick began keeping track in 1998 and was more three triple the number during the nadir of the previous cycle in 1996.

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