The flow of California homes entering the foreclosure pipeline slowed in Q409, another sign that the troubles in hard-hit areas are dissipating into more expensive and previously insulated areas, according the MDA DataQuick. The San Diego-based real estate information service reported 84,568 Notices of Default (NODs) in California in Q409, down 24.3% from 111,689 in the previous quarter. It’s still a 12.4% increase from 75,230 in Q408. California NODs reached an all-time high in the first quarter of 2009 when MDA DataQuick reported 135,431 filings. That number was inflated because of activity put off from the previous four months. The low came in Q304 at 12,417 filings. “Clearly, many lenders and servicers have concluded that the traditional foreclosure process isn’t necessarily the best way to process market distress, and that losses may be mitigated with so-called short sales or when loan terms are renegotiated with homeowners,” said John Walsh, DataQuick president. Ari Afshar of Housing Assist of America, a short sale company in Los Angeles, told HousingWire that short sales are, indeed, picking up. “We are seeing a huge increase in short sales and this is mainly due to the fact that so many potential modification candidates have been turned down. Being that they would do most anything to avoid a foreclosure, they naturally have been turning to short sales as the next best option,” Afshar said. Most of the loans that fell into default in Q409 originated in early 2007, but the median origination month was July 2006, the same month for the previous three quarters and even the last quarter of 2008. It means the foreclosure process moved through one month of bad loans in the last year. “Mid 2006 was clearly the worst of the ‘loans gone wild’ period and it’s taking a long time to work through them. We’re also watching foreclosure activity start to move into more established mid-level and high-end neighborhoods,” Walsh said. “Homeowners there were able to make their payments longer than homeowners in entry-level neighborhoods, but because of the recession and job losses, that’s changing. Foreclosure activity is a lagging indicator of distress.” The foreclosure tracker RealtyTrac came to the same conclusion in its 2009 in its year-end 2009 Metropolitan Foreclosure Market Report. Although the sand states California, Florida, Nevada and Arizona continue to lead in foreclosure activity, cities like Seattle, Washington and others in Oregon are creeping up the list. In California, the amount of Trustee Deeds recorded, which reflects how many homes and condos foreclosed, reached 51,060 in Q409, a 2.1% from the previous quarter, according to DataQuick. But despite the uptick in both defaults and foreclosures, foreclosure resales declined to a 40.7% share of the real-estate market, from 42.7% in the previous quarter. It peaked in the first quarter of 2008 with a 57.8% market share. The top originators of the defaulted loans in Q409 were Countrywide with 5,588 loans; Wells Fargo (WFC) at 3,482 loans; and Washington Mutual at 3,460 loans. Write to Jon Prior.