[Los Angeles Times]

California’s foreclosure crisis eased considerably during the final quarter of last year, with the number of homes entering foreclosure dropping to a six-year low.

The steep decline, accompanied by a similar drop in home repossessions, clears the path for a quickened pace of recovery this year. Fewer foreclosures on the market should lead to higher home prices and a healthier real estate market.

“Ultimately, fewer foreclosures means an even tighter market, which means a more rapid recovery,” said Christopher Thornberg, a principal at Beacon Economics. “I see very little to forestall the real estate market this year.”

The real estate research firm DataQuick reported a 22.1% decline in default notices during the final three months of 2012 compared with the previous quarter — and a 37.9% drop from a year earlier. A total of 38,212 default notices were logged on California houses and condominiums last quarter, the lowest number since the final quarter of 2006. A default notice is the first formal step in the state’s foreclosure process.

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