Sonoma County home foreclosures fell this spring to their lowest level in six years, a drop attributed partly to new state rules and to rising home prices.
County homeowners lost 128 homes to foreclosure in the second quarter, according to San Diego-based information service DataQuick. That was the lowest number since 94 foreclosures in the first quarter of 2007.
The number of homes entering the foreclosure process rose this spring, but it still amounted to the second-lowest total for any quarter in nearly seven years.
County homeowners received 286 notices of default in the second quarter. That was a 47.4 percent increase increase from the 194 notices in the first quarter but still a decrease of 57.9 percent from the 680 such notices a year earlier.
Default filings plummeted statewide early this year when a package of new state foreclosure laws took effect known as the “Homeowner Bill of Rights.” Analysts said foreclosure activity in California and other states temporarily has dropped before while the lending industry took time to adjust to new rules.
But the drop in foreclosure activity also appears tied partly to rising sales prices. In Sonoma County, the median price for a single-family home reached $439,000 in June, an increase of 26.2 percent from a year earlier.
“A foreclosure only makes sense when the home is worth less than what is owed on it,” said John Walsh, DataQuick president. “As home values rise, fewer homeowners owe more on their homes than the homes are worth.”
Foreclosures peaked in Sonoma County in 2008, when 2,800 homes were taken back by banks or sold to third parties at auction. But foreclosures have been falling for four straight years, dropping sharply last year to slightly more than 1,200.
For the second quarter, California recorded 9,840 trustees deeds, which marks the formal loss of a home to the foreclosure process. That total was a drop of 27.6 percent from the prior quarter and a decrease of 55 percent from a year earlier.
Lenders filed 25,747 default notices statewide from April through June. That was an increase of 38.7 percent from the first quarter but a decrease of 52.9 percent from a year earlier.

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— Robert Digitale