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FORECLOSURES UNLIKELY TO STAY AT ALL-TIME LOW RETURN TO NORMAL EXPECTED.

Byline: Gregory J. Wilcox Staff Writer

Foreclosure activity in California is expected to rise next year from record-low levels as home sales soften, price increases moderate and homeowners cope with debt amassed through loose credit, analysts said Monday.

How much it will rise remains a mystery, though.

``The rate of defaults now are at an unnaturally low level. The increase will be one that will bring us to a more normal level,'' said John Karevoll, an analyst at DataQuick Information Systems, a company that tracks real estate market trends.

But debt that consumers have piled on through low-interest, adjustable- rate loans during this period of plentiful credit is also worrisome.

``Households are stretched much more to the max. People are much closer to thin ice than they have been at any time we can remember over the past 20 to 25 years,'' Karevoll said.

At the end of the third-quarter foreclosure activity, as measured by notices of default, was at its lowest level since this record-keeping began in 1992, Karevoll said.

Lenders issued an average of 3,500 default notices monthly from April though September across the state. The count averaged about 600 monthly in Los Angeles County.

For the year's first nine months, 37,875 property owners across the state received a default notice, down from 51,182 a year ago. In Los Angeles County, lenders issued 7,560 notices, down from 13,141 in the comparable period a year ago.

Karevoll said the pace of foreclosure activity will probably increase by next year's third quarter.

A default notice is sent to a homeowner who falls behind in the mortgage payment, with the time threshold varying from lender to lender. Most owners who receive notices do not end up in foreclosure, Karevoll said.

Forecasts for the 2005 residential real estate market call for sales to taper off this year's expected record pace and annual appreciation to retreat from the current 20 percent range to the midteens, then into the low teens.

Alexis McGee, president of Foreclosures.com in Sacramento, agrees that consumer debt is a growing problem, as is the turn the residential real estate market is taking.

And foreclosure activity really has no way to go but up.

``Notices of default are really low and have been low for some time,'' she said.

Once a default notice is issued, the homeowner has four months to resolve the situation, or the lender forecloses on the property.

McGee's company finds distressed properties, buys them from the owners and then sells them for a profit.

``Employment, or the lack thereof, is no longer the primary cause of foreclosure activity,'' McGee said.

Gregory J. Wilcox, (818) 713-3743

greg.wilcox(at)dailynews.com
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Nov 30, 2004
Words:450
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