Only 533 Stanislaus County homes were lost to foreclosure this spring, the lowest quarterly total in five years.
An additional 1,133 Stanislaus homeowners, however, were formally warned that their mortgages are in default and that lenders are going to confiscate their homes if they don't take action.
The newly released foreclosure statistics from DataQuick show the housing crisis is easing but not close to being over.
Since the mortgage madness began in late 2006, more than 27,300 Stanislaus homes have been taken back by lenders or sold to the highest bidders on the courthouse steps.
The same is true for more than 14,600 Merced County homes and more than 36,200 San Joaquin County homes.
But foreclosure data for April, May and June indicate that the worst may be over for the hard-hit Northern San Joaquin Valley.
"We're gradually climbing out of this foreclosure mess," said Andrew Le-Page, a DataQuick analyst. "Foreclosures probably will be with us for years to come, but the rates will be well below peak levels."
"We're five years into this crisis, and we've worked through a lot of those distressed properties," said Sean O'Toole, who runs ForeclosureRadar.
That doesn't mean homeowners are in good financial shape. "We have an awful lot of underwater mortgages out there, and there are many homeowners who are in default, but (lenders) have not started the foreclosure process on them yet," O'Toole warned. "We still have a long way to go."
About 25 percent of homes for sale in Merced County are foreclosures, said Andy Krotik, branch manager of Coldwell Banker Gonella Realty. "There was a time a couple years ago when foreclosure were as much as 65 percent of the market for sale."
"What's happening is there's been tremendous pressure from the Department of Treasury on banks to do more loan modification and short sales," Krotik said. "People, instead of walking away from their homes, are trying to negotiating with lenders."
Chuck Bukhari, a Modesto real estate agent with Keller-Williams, also said more lenders have started approving "short sales."
Short sales let homeowners sell for less than they owe on their mortgage without having to make up the difference.
"Now, many of the banks are approving short sales within four to six weeks of getting an offer," Bukhari said. By contrast, he recalled several years ago spending nearly three years trying to close a short sale.
According to real estate professionals, as the number of foreclosed properties shrinks, the inventory of homes for sale will get tighter -- driving prices higher.
"Prices are rebounding," Krotik said. "You don't know you've hit bottom until you're on the way back up."
Merced Sun-Star staff writer Joshua Emerson Smith contributed to this report.
Modesto Bee staff writer J.N. Sbranti can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2196.