California foreclosure update.

The number of California homes entering foreclosure in the fourth quarter fell 11.9% from the same period in 2010 to the second-lowest level over the last four years, said DataQuick, a real estate information firm in San Diego. A total of 61,517 notices of default, which are filed to initiate foreclosures, were recorded on California properties during the fourth quarter. That was a 13.7% drop from the third quarter of 2011.

Some economists say California and other states will probably see an increase in foreclosure actions (good for inspectors) as banks deal more aggressively with seriously delinquent mortgages. That increase probably will push home prices lower.

Californian homeowners were a median nine months behind on their payments when they received a notice of default from their lender. Among the state’s largest counties, mortgages in San Francisco, Marin and San Mateo counties were the least likely to go into foreclosure. Homes were most likely to enter the foreclosure process in Sacramento, San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties, according to DataQuick. In Southern California, the number of default notices filed on properties fell 10.2% from a year earlier, and the number of homes taken back by banks fell 11%.

Many foreclosures were delayed in 2011 as banks worked through issues surrounding mortgage servicing and foreclosure. Settlement negotiations among attorneys general, federal agencies and the mortgage industry over foreclosure and mortgage servicing abuses dragged on through most of last year.