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Southern California home prices rise; foreclosures fall statewide

February 13, 2013|By Alejandro Lazo
  • Real estate agents attend an open house in Highland Park.
Real estate agents attend an open house in Highland Park. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles…)

Southern California’s housing market in January posted strong median home price gains as new foreclosure starts plummeted dramatically across the state.

The six-county region's median home price rose 23.5% from the same month a year earlier to $321,000, according to real estate research firm DataQuick. Home sales rose 10.6% to 16,058 over the same period.

The rise in home prices came as foreclosure starts in California took a massive tumble. The foreclosure decline came as new state laws aimed at prohibiting certain aggressive bank repossession practices went into effect. 

The real estate website ForeclosureRadar.com reported a 60.5% decline in the number of default notices issued in California in January compared with December. The number of default notices — the first formal step in the state’s foreclosure process — fell 77.7% from December 2011. A total of 4,500 such filings were logged last month, the lowest number since at least September 2006, when the website’s records begin.

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The website gave no explanation for the sharp decrease in notices of default, but noted that the drop coincided with a package of tough new laws that provide homeowners with some of the nation's strongest protections from bank repossession practices taking effect in January.

Most notably, the Homeowner Bill of Rights bans the practice of “dual tracking,” in which a lender seizes a home even while negotiating a lower mortgage payment with the owner.

Passed last year, the legislative package was sponsored by California Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris and written by 10 Democratic lawmakers.

The laws also outlawed so-called robo-signing -- the improper or faulty processing of foreclosure documents -- and would allow state agencies and private citizens to sue financial institutions, under limited conditions, for economic compensation and for additional civil damages of up to $50,000 if lenders willfully, intentionally or recklessly violate the law.

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