Foreclosures plunge to five-year low in Sonoma County

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Foreclosures tumbled in Sonoma County to their lowest level in five years, but a record number of homeowners still sought to escape their mortgages by surrendering their homes in short sales.

Banks seized 1,228 houses and condominiums in foreclosure proceedings last year, down 35 percent from 2011 and the lowest total since 2007, according to figures published Wednesday by San Diego-based real estate information service DataQuick.

For the first time since the housing crisis began, more homes went through a short sale last year than were taken back by banks in foreclosure. Though the margin was narrow, it marks a significant reversal in a housing market bulging with distressed properties.

Buyers last year purchased 1,246 single-family homes via short sale, according to The Press Democrat's monthly housing report. That figure doesn't include condos that changed hands in a short sale, where a property is sold for less than the amount owed on the mortgage.

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