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Banking Publication: Statistics Signal End of Foreclosure Crisis in Bay State

metrowestdailynews.comMay 20, 2013

By Brian Benson

Foreclosure activity dropped dramatically in March, indicating an end to the foreclosure crisis in Massachusetts, The Warren Group said Monday.

Petitions to foreclose fell 82 percent from 1,621 in March 2012 to 284 in March 2013. Foreclosure deeds, or finished foreclosures, fell about 74 percent from 899 to 227 during that time period, according to data released Monday by The Warren Group, publisher of Banker & Tradesman.

MetroWest and Milford area March statistics resemble the statewide trend, with an 84 percent drop in petitions and a 68 percent drop in deeds, according to the data.

The Warren Group CEO Timothy Warren Jr. said higher home prices are helping spur the decline in foreclosure activity.

"As prices go up, it makes foreclosures less likely," Warren said, noting homeowners can sell if they struggle to pay mortgages. "I don’t think prices have returned to peak levels but they’re headed in the right direction."

A study shows Massachusetts ranks 48th nationally in the number of foreclosures started in the first quarter, but 13th in the number of delinquent mortgages, he said.

"Even though people are delinquent, (lenders) are slow to pull the trigger on foreclosures," Warren said.

Warren said some lenders are proceeding cautiously as they wait for rules about how a new state law dealing with foreclosures will be enforced.

Marlborough Code Enforcement Officer Pam Wilderman said city officials continue to feel the effects of the foreclosure crisis

"There has been a vast reduction (in foreclosure activity)," Wilderman said. But there has not been a significant reduction in "the amount of property empty because banks haven’t done anything (to sell it). ... It’s not as active as it was, but the community is still dealing with the fallout" from foreclosures. 

Aby Zemack, of Zemack Real Estate in Framingham, said low foreclosure rates have helped boost home prices since there is less competition from lower-priced foreclosure properties.

Zemack said banks have become more flexible and offer alternatives to foreclosures.

Limited housing inventory has also helped drive up prices, though it is likely a temporary surge, Zemack said.

Bill McCormick, of RE/MAX Executive Realty in Upton, said  foreclosure activity will likely remain low, though people are still struggling.

"I don’t know if this is the end (of the crisis), but we’re in a better place than we were," he said.

Warren and Attorney General Martha Coakley cited foreclosure prevention efforts as a reason for the declining statistics.

Coakley highlighted a law requiring loan modifications if they make sense economically and the state’s HomeCorps program, which increases the number of loan modification specialists available to help borrowers and provides grants to help lessen the foreclosure crisis.

"But there are thousands of homeowners still struggling to avoid unnecessary foreclosures, and that work must continue before declaring victory over the foreclosure crisis," she said.


Back to May 2013 Archive

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