In August, lenders completed 566 foreclosures in Massachusetts – the lowest monthly level recorded so far this year, according to The Warren Group, publisher of Banker & Tradesman.

August marks the third consecutive month of year-over-year foreclosure deed decreases. It is also the fewest number of completed foreclosures in any month since February 2011, when there were 521 foreclosure deeds statewide. Foreclosure deeds dropped 40 percent to 566 from 947 in August 2011. A total of 5,975 foreclosure deeds have been filed so far this year, an 8.4 percent increase compared to 5,511 deeds recorded during the same period last year.

“Fewer foreclosures were completed in recent months, which may indicate a greater effort from lenders to find loan alternatives,” said Banker & Tradesman Editor Cory S. Hopkins. “As banks continue to return to more normal foreclosure procedures and the housing market follows the same path, we are likely to see more good news in coming months.”

Year-over-year petitions rose slightly in August, increasing 4.2 percent to 1,456 from 1,397 in August 2011. Petitions have increased every month so far this year, except in July when starts dropped 16.8 percent year-over-year. A total of 12,079 foreclosure petitions have been initiated so far this year, up 46 percent from 8,253 petitions filed the same period last year.

“Foreclosure starts are close to exceeding the total amount in all of 2011 – a seemingly bad sign,” Hopkins added. “However, we’re comparing to a slow year when banks nearly halted their foreclosure proceedings. I don’t think this is cause for much alarm, but something to keep an eye on as foreclosures petitions are often a leading indicator of activity to come.”

The number of auction announcements tracked by The Warren Group also decreased in August. Auction announcements declined 18 percent to 1,084 from 1,329 in August 2011.  From January through August, 10,384 auctions have been announced, a 9.2 percent decline from 11,436 auctions during the same period in 2011.