The number of Sonoma County homes that entered the foreclosure process fell to the lowest amount in four years last quarter.
County homeowners received 738 default notices between April and June, according to DataQuick, a San Diego-based real estate information service.
It was the lowest number for any period since the second quarter of 2007, when 462 default notices were recorded. Such notices are the first formal step in warning homeowners that they could lose their homes for failing to pay their mortgages.
During the second quarter, 495 county houses and condominiums were lost to foreclosure — a rate of more than five homes a day. The amount was down almost 5 percent from the first quarter but up nearly 2 percent from a year ago.
DataQuick analysts reported similar downward trends in default notices for the Bay Area and the state. They suggested the change may be the result of a more stable housing market and of policy changes in the mortgage servicing industry.
“A lot of theories are being floated as to why the numbers are down,” said John Walsh, DataQuick president. “Bank policy changes. Legal challenges. Politics. Holding back temporarily so as not to flood the market. The fact of the matter is that no one really knows, outside of lending and servicing industry insiders.”
Nonetheless, Walsh said, “Homeowner distress spreads fastest when home price declines are steepest. And it now appears likely that, barring some new economic shock, the worst of the price declines are behind us.”
Statewide, default notices for the quarter fell to 56,633, the lowest number in four years.
The number of California homes lost to foreclosure was 42,465. That was down 1 percent from the prior quarter and down almost 11 percent from a year ago.
The all-time peak was 79,511 foreclosures lost in the third quarter of 2008. For the county, the peak was 933 homes lost during the same period.

— Robert Digitale