From Lily at the U-T:

Foreclosures are inching up again, while closely watched defaults shot up 34 percent in March — the largest monthly increase for San Diego County in more than two years.

Analysts at DataQuick Information Systems on Tuesday reported there were 1,837 mortgage defaults in March, up 34 percent from February but down 19 percent from a year ago. 

The company’s numbers also show there were 1,047 foreclosures in March, a 17 percent increase from February but an 8 percent decrease from the same time last year.

Some industry leaders predict monthly numbers will continue to rise this year as banks are apparently becoming more expedient with foreclosure processes and people continue to walk away from their homes, even when they’re able to afford the mortgage payments.

March’s monthly increases may indicate that lenders are becoming “more comfortable going forward with notices of defaults,” said Dave McDonald, a branch manager for New American Funding in Bonita and a past president of the California Association of Mortgage Brokers’s San Diego chapter.

Another factor that could lead to more defaults: homeowners who took on five- and seven-year adjustable rate mortgages, or ARMs, during the height of the market. McDonald said those consumers are expecting drastic changes in their loan terms this year and in 2012, which could mean increases in monthly payments. In the past, he’s seen them go as high as $800 more a month for some homeowners.

Since refinancing is an unlikely option, McDonald suspects many will end up defaulting on their loans.  “It’s the next wave (of defaulters,)” McDonald said.

Gary Laturno, a San Diego real estate broker whose expertise is in foreclosures, is still in the wait-and-see category with foreclosures and defaults this year.

Still, Laturno concedes the state of the county’s distressed market is volatile. He’s still seeing a number of “strategic defaulters,” homeowners who walk away from their homes because they are so underwater, even when they can afford to make the payments.

“I think we have a long way to go” before the distress is over, said Laturno, also a San Diego attorney.

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