The number of distressed property owners is still surging in San Luis Obispo County, California, based on data from a real estate research company based in San Diego.

In the last quarter of 2009, the number of homeowners in default soared by 41 percent to 436 households, compared to 309 in 2008. Meanwhile, the number of homes that were listed for foreclosure sales reached 245 units, up by almost 35 percent from 182 during the same period in 2008. Compared to the third quarter, however, defaults and foreclosure sales in the fourth quarter in 2009 were lower.

There were 539 default notices in the third quarter, up from the 370 notices filed in the third quarter in 2008. Meanwhile, the number of homes listed for foreclosure sales fell to 223 homes, down from 248 in 2008.

Across California, the number of default notices dropped by more than 24 percent in the fourth quarter from the previous quarter, a sign seen by some analysts as the start of recovery.

However, if statewide distressed property figures in the last quarter of 2009 are compared to data in 2008, the results seem to be pointing to more foreclosures this year.

More than 84,500 default notices were given to homeowners across California in the last quarter of 2009, marking a 12.4-percent rise from the 75,230 notices sent out in the last quarter of the previous year. The number of trustee deeds also increased, with more than 51,000 homes listed for foreclosure sales in the last quarter of 2009, an increase of 10.6 percent from the 75,230 homes listed for trustee sales in 2008.

According to the San Diego-based researchers, more mortgage loans would fall into default in Riverside, Merced and Stanislaus counties this year largely because of unemployment problems. The counties expected to resolve their default problems this year are San Francisco, Marin and San Mateo.

The researchers, however, could not determine how much of the changes in number and in the direction of mortgage defaults during the last quarter of 2009 were driven by market conditions, changes in foreclosure policies by lenders, or the existence of local-government mandatory mediation programs.

In a foreclosure report released by another firm, distressed property numbers in the San Luis Obispo area soared in 2009 by 63.1 percent from 2008. Nearly 3,000 homeowners or 2.6 percent of all households in the metro area were notified of default or foreclosure in 2009.

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