The county's 20-straight-month improvement string is far better than the 11 consecutive months of decreasing activity seen nationwide, some of which was attributable to the robo-signing scandal, during which some banks were improperly filing foreclosure paperwork. Noteworthy is that Orange County's string began nine months ahead of the robo-signings.
Orange County is "kind of leading the path to recovery," said RealtyTrac's Daren Blomquist. "I think if we begin to see what's happening in Orange County in other counties, that's a good sign."
A few counties across the nation may be nearing a point where they will be able to look back at some point and say this is when they turned the corner, according to Blomquist.
"Even though there's a lot of bad news in this market, there are markets that will look back and see that in 2011 that they were starting to see signs of life," he said. "And Orange County is one of those. A lot of it with Orange County comes down to location. But also jobs, there are good job numbers here, and there is petty healthy demand for property in Orange County. I think we are seeing some glimmers of hope in the Orange County market maybe before we are in other areas of the market."
Tony Bartos, who specializes in foreclosed properties in the Orange County area for Coldwell Banker Previews International, acknowledged the Orange County market is healthier than the region's other counties, not only due to lower unemployment, but because the county had a smaller number of sub-prime mortgages that resulted in the huge foreclosure volumes in the first place.
"However, just because Orange County did not experience as large a wave of foreclosures as other areas, does not mean the market is on the mend," Bartos said. "It's far too soon to say. I would expect increased foreclosures as lenders settle lawsuits with the California attorney general and other states."