Explaining Southern California's economy

Visual Aid: Foreclosure starts in 2008 vs. 2012 — and in blue and red

Foreclosure starts have been falling just about everywhere that went for Obama in 2008. But look at how much work is still to be done in L.A. County.

Real Estate listing and analytics service RealtyTrac has put together what it's calling, with no shortage of good timing, an "Election 2012 Housing Health Check," comparing the state of American housing now with four years ago.

Five metrics went into the analysis: average home prices, unemployment, foreclosure inventory, foreclosure starts and share of distressed sales. The bottom line? According to RealtyTrac, 65 percent of local housing markets are "worse off than four years ago." 

But here's something interesting: on foreclosure starts, activity declined from four years ago in most counties won by President Obama while it generally increased in counties won by his then-challenger, Sen. John McCain. 

Some of this is due to sheer volume and the scale of the foreclosure crisis four years ago. If you look at the chart above — conveniently broken out into blue (for counties Obama won) and red (for counties McCain won) — you can see that the foreclosure problem in Los Angeles County couldn't have gotten much worse. And in four years, it's improved dramatically. But L.A. Country is still well ahead of the rest of the country in the number of foreclosure starts.

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August foreclosures: California is finally getting a break

Foreclosure

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

For sale signs are posted on a foreclosed house in Glendale, California. August saw California get some relief from the ongoing crisis.

California has been hit hard by the foreclosure crisis. But it now looks as if the market is working through the state’s huge inventory of distressed properties. Foreclosures starts were down nationwide from last August by 13 percent, snapping a three-month streak of increased. In California, the news was better: foreclosure starts in the state fell by 42 percent, according to RealtyTrac.

Foreclosures in California have been on the ebb for the entirety of the year, but that doesn’t mean the state is out of the woods. We still have the third highest foreclosure rate: 1 in every 340 houses. Only Illinois and Florida were higher.

And California cities continue to struggle with the crisis. The seven highest foreclosure-rate cities for August are all in the state, with Modesto at number one. And all but two of them saw their foreclosure rate increase since July.

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