Foreclosure activity in Massachusetts slowed in June, compared to May, fueling cautious optimism that the state’s housing crisis may be stabilizing.
The number of foreclosure petitions, the first step in a property seizure, dropped to 1,254 in June, representing a nearly 30 percent drop compared to a month before and the lowest number of foreclosure starts this year, according to Warren Group, a Boston company that tracks local real estate.
Foreclosure deeds, the last step in the process, also fell to 715 in June, a 5 percent drop compared to May and nearly 24 percent below the same time last year, according to Warren Group.
The slowdown in foreclosure activity follows a surge this year as lenders sped up seizures of properties that had long been in mortgage default.
The surge had followed a slowdown in property seizures last year fueled by allegations of fraudulent and sloppy legal practices.
Jon Skarin, senior vice president of the Boston-based Massachusetts Bankers Association, said recent foreclosure activity is likely more linked to the economy than last year, where numbers were skewed by national events related to the lending industry.
“You are definitely seeing it stabilize and possibly go down a little bit,” he said.
Timothy M. Warren Jr., chief executive of Warren Group, said the June drop is a positive sign.
“The foreclosure landscape is changing, and activity is abating on a month-to-month basis,” he said. “It’s pretty significant to see foreclosure petitions drop by almost 30 percent from just a month ago.”
Despite recent improvements, foreclosure activity is up for the year. Between January and June, lenders filed 9,131 petitions to foreclose in Massachusetts, a nearly 69 percent increase compared to the same period in 2011, Warren Group said.
There were 4,450 Massachusetts homeowners who lost their properties to foreclosure during the first six months of this year, an increase of almost 18 percent compared with the same time last year, Warren Group said.
The new numbers come out as state lawmakers consider legislation that would require lenders to talk with interested troubled homeowners before a foreclosure.
The legislation would require banks to notify homeowners about their right to a mediation process before foreclosing.
Lewis Finfer, director of the Boston-based nonprofit Massachusetts Communities Action Network, called on lawmakers to pass the bill, a provision he says is crucial to help struggling homeowners, many unable to pay their mortgages because of unemployment or cuts in pay.
“Mediation is an important tool to lessen foreclosures,’’ he said. “It makes banks sit down in a serious way and discuss and negotiate.”