Foreclosures have fallen sharply in the Northern San Joaquin Valley, dropping to a six-year low, newly released data show.
Only 512 Stanislaus County homes were lost to foreclosure during October, November and December 2012. That's the lowest number since early 2007, when the region's foreclosure crisis began, according to statistics gathered by DataQuick.
Since the foreclosure crisis began, more than 28,000 Stanislaus homes have been repossessed by lenders because of delinquent mortgages.
The worst year for Stanislaus homeowners was 2008, when 8,178 homes were foreclosed. In 2012, by comparison, just 2,468 homes were lost, and foreclosures have been dropping virtually every quarter.
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Here's more good news: Far fewer notices of default — the first step in the drawn-out foreclosure process — were filed last year. Stanislaus' total in 2012 was 4,039, compared with the 10,631 notices filed in 2008.
The number of mortgage default notices has declined consistently every quarter.
Because fewer Stanislaus homes are entering the foreclosure process — which typically takes nine months to complete — the number of homes ultimately repossessed should continue dropping in 2013.
"Home values increased through most of 2012, and the rate of increase picked up toward the end of the year. That means fewer and fewer homeowners are underwater, where they owe more than their homes are worth. That in turn means they can sell and pay off the mortgage, or perhaps refinance at today's low interest rates," said John Walsh, DataQuick's president.
"This trend alone suggests we'll see a continued decline in foreclosure rates this year," Walsh said. "Another factor is the foreclosure-avoidance goals of various settlements between lenders and the government."
The default and foreclosure trends are the same in Merced and San Joaquin counties. Since 2007, Merced has lost 15,017 homes to foreclosure, including 1,039 last year. In San Joaquin, 80,566 homes have been lost, including 3,190 last year.
Bee staff writer J.N. Sbranti can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2196.