LA County foreclosures down 43.5% in first quarter

The number of Los Angeles County homes slipping toward foreclosure dropped by 43.5 percent in the first quarter of the year, compared to the same period in 2009, a real estate information service reported today.

Lenders sent default notices to 15,797 homeowners in Los Angeles County in the first quarter, down from the previous year's first-quarter total of 27,981, according to La Jolla-based MDA DataQuick.

In Orange County, default notices were sent to 5,270 homeowners, down 37.5 percent from the 2009 first-quarter total of 8,427.

Statewide, default notices were sent to 81,054 homeowners in the first quarter of the year, DataQuick reported. That was a 4.2 percent decrease from the previous quarter's 84,568 notices and down 40.2 percent from the same quarter in 2009, when 135,431 default notices were sent.

John Walsh, MDA DataQuick president, said it was difficult to determine if the dramatic dropoff in default notices was the result of shifting market conditions or changing banking policies.

"Several factors are at play here and it's hard to know how they play into each other right now," Walsh said. "A year and a half ago the subprime loan mess was the black hole. Now, playing catch-up, is the financial distress households are experiencing because of the recession.

"Add to the mix shifting policy decisions, both by lending institutions and in public policy," he said.

Default notices do not always lead to a home foreclosure, according to DataQuick. Some homeowners emerge from the foreclosure process by bringing their payments current, refinancing or selling the home.

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