There's been some improvement, but California still led the nation in the number of foreclosure filings in November.

Last month, 73,995 California properties received a foreclosure filing. That was up 22 percent from November 2008 but down 13 percent from the previous month and down nearly 32 percent from the July peak of 108,104, according to RealtyTrac, an online marketplace for foreclosure properties.

Foreclosure filings - which include default notices, scheduled foreclosure auctions and bank repossessions - were reported on 306,627 U.S. properties during the month, a decrease of nearly 8 percent from the previous month but still up 18 percent from November 2008.

"Everything I've sold over the past year has been a straight foreclosure," said George Baskerville, owner of Baskerville Realty in Covina/West Covina.

Those properties move quickly, so he advises prospective buyers to jump in early.

"If you catch it the day it comes out on the market and it's priced reasonably, it'll sell that day," he said. "But if you wait around till next week, there's going to be multiple offers that have been put in."

California also ranked high in its foreclosure rate. The Golden State has the nation's third-highest foreclosure rate, which means that one in every 180 housing units received a foreclosure filing during November.

Nevada led the nation (one in every 119 units), followed by Florida, which had a foreclosure rate of one in 165.

James J. Saccacio, RealtyTrac's chief executive officer, said November was the fourth straight month that U.S. foreclosure activity has declined after hitting an all-time high in July.

"Loan modifications and other foreclosure prevention efforts, along with the recently extended and expanded homebuyer tax credit, are keeping a lid on the most visible symptoms," he said in a statement.

Saccacio stressed however, that a full industry recovery will only come when unemployment recedes to normal, healthy levels and when "availability of credit reaches a more rational balance between the extremes of the past few years."

The jobless rate has ticked up to 15 percent and higher in some local cities, although the most recent employment figures show that the unemployment rate dropped or held steady in all San Gabriel Valley cities and the Whittier area.

But employment aside, there are some great housing deals to be had, Baskerville said.

"One home that sold for $750,000 two years ago came on the market recently for $450,000, and it sold right away," he said.