San Diego foreclosures near 14-year low

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Foreclosures in San Diego County have hit record lows, following a national trend of better fortunes for homeowners coming out of the Great Recession.

There were 2,744 foreclosure filings in 2019 in San Diego County, said Attom Data Solutions, which includes default notices, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions. That's down from 3,390 in 2018 and 4,025 in 2017.

It is the lowest number of foreclosure filings for San Diego County in more than a decade, and a sharp contrast to the 49,125 foreclosure filings in 2009.

Todd Teta, Attom chief product officer, said the reduction of foreclosures is the result of a drop in mortgage rates, rising wages, a strong stock market and stricter lending requirements.

"(Those factors) have made it easier for people to pay off their home loans and avoid even a warning of foreclosure," he said.

Teta said lower mortgage rates have allowed homeowners to refinance their loans into lower monthly payments. At the same time, higher investment returns and rising wages have made making those payments easier. He said a tightening of mortgage requirements after the recession meant a lot of the people who would have problems making payments today were not able to get home loans.

Attom said one in every 436 homes in San Diego County in 2019 was in the foreclosure pipeline, compared to one in every 275 at the national level.

Kelly Cunningham, of the San Diego Institute for Economic Research, said a big reason for a lack of foreclosures is a hot real estate market that allows people to quickly sell homes if they get into trouble. That wasn't much of an option during the recession unless one was willing to sell at a steep discount if they found a buyer.

"It's a reflection that the (real estate) market is still pretty strong," he said, "and that we are not building enough homes to meet demand. That is keeping prices high."

Cunningham, like many local economists and analysts, argues that housing production in San Diego County has not kept up with demand and has led to extreme home price growth that puts homeownership out of reach for an increasing number of San Diegans.

San Diego County built around 6,491 housing units in the first nine months of the year, said the Real Estate Research Council of Southern California, down 24% from the same time last year.

Cunningham said the status of homebuilding in the county would continue to make selling a property a much easier option than entering the foreclosure process.

Nationally, and locally, the number of mortgages in active foreclosures is below 1%.

Real estate research firm Black Knight said the foreclosure rate in San Diego County hit a 14-year low in November, below the national and California averages.

Around 0.125% of county mortgages were in active foreclosure in November, compared to the 0.160 percent California average and the 0.469% national average.

The data could be interpreted to argue it is time to loosen mortgage requirements again, but most experts are against that because they say it could lead to similar circumstances that contributed to the recession.

"It should be noted that concern is rising about lenders again loosening mortgage guidelines and raising the risk of more foreclosures," Teta said. "That, along with any kind of economic downturn after a decade of growth, could turn the foreclosure trend back around in the wrong direction."

Tribune Content Agency
Foreclosures Housing market Attom Data Solutions California
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