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.

READ MORE: Homeless Encampment On BART Property In Concord Evicted

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.

READ MORE: Hercules Neighborhood Put on Lockdown Due to Law Enforcement Activity

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.

 

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

MORE NEWS: Suspect in 1978 Marissa Harvey Sexual Assault and Murder Cold Case Due in Court