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Area’s home prices rise, foreclosures fall

Values in metropolitan Boston advance a fifth consecutive month

The latest measures of the state housing market’s recovery pointed in the right direction Tuesday, with foreclosures declining and home prices rising.

Single-family home values in the Boston area were up 0.7 percent in August, compared with July, marking the fifth consecutive month of increases, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices. It monitors repeat home sales and is considered by many in the industry to be the best indicator of the nation’s real estate market.

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The price improvement locally is in keeping with national numbers reflecting a healthier housing market. Over the last year, Boston-area home prices rose by an average of 1.7 percent, Case-Shiller said. Values increased 2 percent during the same period in the 20 US metro areas the index measures.

David M. Blitzer, chairman of the index committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices, said the strong numbers reflect numerous housing indicators that have all turned positive, including an increase in the number of new single-family houses being built, more home sales, and a drop in mortgage default rates.

“The sustained good news in home prices over the past five months makes us optimistic for continued recovery in the housing market,” Blitzer said.

Foreclosure numbers released Tuesday also provided a boost for the Massachusetts real estate market.

Foreclosure petitions, the first step in the home-seizure process, dropped to 973 statewide in September, a 16.4 percent fall from September 2011. It was the first month this year that the number fell below 1,000, according to Warren Group, a Boston company that tracks real estate.

Foreclosures are returning to what one specialist calls a natural level.

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Petitions are still up for the year, however, with 13,429 filed between January and September, an increase of 42.6 percent, compared with 2011.

But fewer people are losing their homes in Massachusetts, Warren Group reported. Foreclosure deeds fell to 510 in September, a 32 percent drop from the same time last year. It was the fourth month in a row of declining deeds, year over year.

Between January and September, there were 6,486 foreclosure deeds filed statewide, a 3.5 percent increased compared with the first three quarters of 2011, Warren Group said.

Timothy M. Warren Jr., chief executive of Warren Group, attributed the slowdown in foreclosure activity to a housing market on the rebound and government efforts to help home­owners.

Warren said past reports have been skewed by the fact that lenders slowed foreclosure activity amid scrutiny of their practices and later increased the rate of seizures to deal with the backlog. But the latest numbers, he said, show genuine improvement.

“Foreclosures are beginning to return to what I would call the natural level,” Warren said, “and the good news is that the numbers are starting to drop.”

Jenifer B. McKim can be reached at jmckim@globe.com.
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