Foreclosures and default notices in San Diego County continued their downward trend in May, as rising home prices continued to give people enough equity to get out of bad loans.

Last month, banks foreclosed on 141 properties in San Diego County, real-estate tracker DataQuick reported Tuesday. That was down from 162 last month and 175 in May 2013. Foreclosures are well below the peak of 2,004 properties repossessed in July 2008, the middle of the Great Recession.

Default notices, which banks file to trigger the foreclosure process, fell to 419 in May, down from 462 in April. In May 2013, lenders filed 642 default notices, which peaked at 3,832 in March 2009.

DataQuick analyst Andrew LePage noted that for the first five months of the year, foreclosures are at an eight year low and default notices are at a nine-year low.

“This is a continuation of the mop up stage of the foreclosure crisis,” he said. “That’s not to say a single month or quarter couldn’t shoot up a bit, because we’re at low enough numbers now where just a handful of lenders changing their policies on processing distressed loans could move those numbers up significantly.”

Borrowers who were previously unable to pay their loans have benefited from large appreciation in the last year, as well as economic growth and a falling unemployment rate, LePage said.

In May, the median home sale price in the county was $440,000, a seven-year high, according to DataQuick. While appreciation has slowed since 20-plus percent annual gains in 2013, it still gives many who can’t pay their mortgages the opportunity to sell their house or refinance to avoid a foreclosure.

“They’re going to do everything possible to keep the home and avoid foreclosure if they have reason to believe prices are rising,” LePage said. “It wasn’t so long ago people weren’t sure whether there was hope or not.”

This article was originally published in the San Diego Union Tribune and can be found it its entirety HERE.