Number of Californians entering foreclosure jumps in third quarter

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A big August surge in foreclosure actions by Bank of America and Bank of New York sent the number of California homeowners entering foreclosure to levels not seen in a year.

The third-quarter jump in notices of default, the first formal step in the foreclosure process, came after such filings had dropped to a three-year low earlier this year. Defaults were up 25.9% from the prior quarter, according to according to San Diego-based DataQuick, a real estate information service.

Banks have fired up the foreclosure-processing machinery in recent months after a long lull as they tried to negotiate settlements with regulators over faulty foreclosure practices. That slowdown created a backlog after a slew of investigations were launched following last year’s so-called robo-signing scandal, where banks used improper practices and documents to foreclose on troubled homeowners.

“Obviously, some lenders and loan servicers have begun to plow through their backlogs of delinquent loans more aggressively,” DataQuick president John Walsh said in a statement.


California properties received an estimated 71,275 notices of default during the three months ended Sept. 30, with some properties receiving multiple notices due to more than one loan. The majority of those loans were from the peak bubble years of 2005, 2006 and 2007, when lending practices were at their loosest, DataQuick said.

Separate third-quarter data released earlier this month by the Irvine-based firm RealtyTrac showed the number of homes entering foreclosure surged in states where repossessions take place largely outside of the courtroom. These nonjudicial states include California, Nevada, Arizona, Oregon and Washington.

Experts said that these Western states would experience any foreclosure surge first, as it is easier to get the process rolling again in these places.

While more California homes entered the foreclosure process in the third quarter, the number of homes taken back by banks continued to decline, according to DataQuick. The number of filed trustees deeds -- which are the papers that record the repossession of a home -- declined 8.4% from the prior quarter and dropped 14.3% from the third quarter of 2010. A total of 38,895 trustees deeds were filed in the third quarter.

Experts said that banks are probably waiting for some kind of settlement to be hammered out before really picking up the pace on foreclosures again. The increase in new California proceedings comes as talks over a broad foreclosure settlement by state attorneys general with the nation’s five-largest mortgage servicers have experienced setbacks -- dragging on far longer than expected.

California recently stepped out of those discussions, declaring it would pursue its own path.


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-- Alejandro Lazo