Foreclosure activity increases 7.6 percent in SLO County

Foreclosure activity continues to rise in San Luis Obispo County, a sign that distressed properties still play a role in the overall health of the local real estate market.

The number of properties with a foreclosure filing in the first quarter was 1,263, up nearly 7.6 percent from the same quarter a year ago, according to RealtyTrac, an online firm that publishes data on foreclosure activity nationwide.

That means there was one in every 93 housing units with a foreclosure filing, which includes default notices, scheduled auctions or bank repossessions.

It’s the highest quarterly total recorded since 2005, when RealtyTrac began tracking the area. The county had its highest yearly total in 2010, with 5,007 foreclosure filings, up from 4,900 in 2009.

In March, the county saw its second-highest monthly total — 517 — for properties with foreclosure filings. The highest monthly total so far was in March 2010, with 543.

The county’s activity level is bucking a trend seen in some California communities and other parts of the country, which have already experienced a peak and are now in decline, said Daren Blomquist, director of marketing and communications for RealtyTrac.

The San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles area was ranked in the top 25 of metropolitan areas with populations of 200,000 or more with respect to the number of foreclosure filings in the first quarter, according to RealtyTrac.

San Luis Obispo County is behind the trend in terms of the peak, Blomquist said.

“We believe we have seen the peak in some of the hardest-hit markets in California, but it will be around 2012 when markets like San Luis Obispo County see a peak in foreclosure activity,” he said. “And it could be as many as a few years after that where the numbers return to a normal healthy balanced market.”

While the county may not have reached its peak yet, Blomquist said it’s a positive sign that the real estate market here is headed toward recovery. Other areas of the country like Florida, which has been dealing with controversy surrounding improperly processed foreclosures, have seen a drop in activity. But that activity will likely increase later as more foreclosures make their way through the system, he said.

“The foreclosure volume is overwhelming the system, and we’re seeing backlogs,” Blomquist said. “You may see decreases in the short term, but there are just too many for the market to absorb. In the SLO market, you’ve been able to absorb the foreclosure inventory, and in many ways, for the market, it’s better to have that certainty that the foreclosures are there and being cleared than to have a shadow inventory that will hit in future months.”