SAN DIEGO (CBS/AP) — A real estate research firm says California home foreclosure activity has fallen to a six-year low.

DataQuick said Wednesday that default notices totaled a little over 38,200 during the fourth quarter, down 38 percent from the same period of 2011. It was the lowest tally since the fourth quarter of 2006.

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Default notices are the first step in the foreclosure process.

The San Diego-based firm credits rising home values, an improving economy and shift toward short sales—when the sale price is less than what is owed on the property.

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The median sales price for new and existing houses and condominiums in December was up 20 percent from a year earlier, with the San Francisco Bay area witnessing its sharpest increase in more than two decades.


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