40% of all California resale activity in the first quarter of 2011 can be attributed to real estate owned (REO) inventory — 3% lower than the same period in 2010. REO resales varied significantly from county to county, from rates as low as 12% in San Francisco County to as high as 61% in Stanislaus County.

68,239 Notices of Default (NODs) were recorded in California in the first quarter of 2011, down from 81,054 in the first quarter of 2010. By percentage, the most notable drops in NODs took place in Imperial  (-41%), Merced (-28%), San Benito (-28%), and Monterey (-27%) counties.

This is the lowest number of NODs issued in any quarter since the second quarter of 2007. NOD volume peaked in the first quarter of 2009 with 135,431 NODs recorded. 2010’s peak was the third quarter, with 83,261 NODs recorded.

Also in the first quarter of 2011, a total of 43,052 homes were foreclosed upon. This is up from the recent low of 35,431 in the fourth quarter of 2010, and slightly higher than the 42,857 homes forclosed on one year earlier.

Statewide, high-tier regions (zip codes with median home prices higher than $800,000) saw an 8% increase in foreclosures from the fourth quarter of 2010, and a 2% drop over the preceding year. Foreclosures in low-tier areas (zip codes with prices lower than $200,000) rose 23% from the fourth quarter of 2010, dropping 2% from one year earlier. Low-tier neighborhoods continue to see the highest concentration of both NODs and foreclosures.

The most recent data indicates that it takes an average of nine months to complete a trustee’s sale following the recording of the NOD. One year earlier, foreclosure proceedings generally elapsed over an average period of seven and a half months. MDA Dataquick, a real estate information service, sees the extended processing time as a product of legal complications and lender backlogs combined with the pursuit of loan modifications and short sales to circumvent foreclosure.

It is estimated that 24% of homes sold at trustee’s sales were bought by individuals other than the lender or government groups — almost unchanged from 25% last year, indicating that speculators are not yet gone from the real estate market. [For more information and trends on NODs and Notices of Trustee’s Sale (NOTS) in California, see the first tuesday Market Chart, NODs and Trustee’s Deeds: Grim signs of real estate’s present condition.]

Re. “California Mortgage Defaults Drop Again, Foreclosures Up,” from MDA Dataquick