Business

Mass. foreclosures increase by almost 50 percent

The number of foreclosures initiated against Massachusetts homeowners has increased by nearly 50 percent in the past year, according to a Boston firm that monitors real estate transactions.

The Warren Group said Tuesday that lenders filed foreclosure petitions on 1,264 homes statewide last month, a 45.6 percent jump compared to February 2015. The previous year, foreclosure petitions were filed on 868 homes, double the year before.

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Tuesday’s new data marks the 24th consecutive month of year-over-year increases in so-called petition starts, which are the first step in the foreclosure process.

However, The Warren Group attributes a considerable portion of this rise to a backlog that developed while lenders waited for new rules on residential foreclosures to take effect. Those rules, now in place, were intended to create more protections for homeowners, and the resulting backlog is now being cleared out.

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So while the hike in recent foreclosure petitions appears relatively dramatic, it is much lower than the number of completed foreclosures that occurred during the recession, when nearly 22,000 foreclosure filings occurred in one nine-month period in Massachusetts in 2009.

“While there’s no doubt some new delinquencies are occurring, the majority of what we’re seeing as ‘new’ foreclosures are loans that have been delinquent for quite some time,” said Warren Group CEO Timothy Warren Jr. “Lenders continue to work through what remains of their backlog from several years ago, when the entire industry ground to a halt to await the outcome of legislative and regulatory changes and updates.”

Among other real estate data released Tuesday: 644 auction notices -- alerts that an auction has been scheduled -- were filed in Massachusetts last month, an 8.8 percent increase from February 2015. So far this year, there have been 1,389 auctions in the state, a 19.2 percent increase from the same stretch in 2015.

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And paperwork on 519 completed foreclosures was filed last month, a 66.9 percent increase from February 2015. Since the start of the year, 867 foreclosures have been completed in Massachusetts, a 52.6 percent increase from the same time period the year before.

Sacha Pfeiffer can be reached at pfeiffer@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter at @SachaPfeiffer.
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