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BOSTON, March 1, 2012 – Massachusetts foreclosure activity soared in January, posting double digit increases in both starts and completed foreclosures, according to the latest report from The Warren Group, publisher of Banker & Tradesman.

The number of foreclosure petitions statewide increased more than 68 percent – rising to 1,333 from 793 in January 2011. Petitions, which mark the first step in the foreclosure process in Massachusetts, dropped in all but two months in 2011.

Foreclosure activity was slow throughout much of last year as banks worked through legal and documentation issues. By contrast, 1,873 and 1,960 foreclosure petitions were filed in January 2010 and 2009, respectively. Foreclosure petitions in January rose in every county in Massachusetts. January petitions were 32 percent higher than the number filed in December and are at the highest level since August 2011.

“Banks were slow to initiate foreclosure petitions in much of 2011, so now we are seeing the backlog of foreclosures work through the system,” said Timothy M. Warren Jr., CEO of The Warren Group. “The increase doesn’t necessarily indicate a declining economy, but rather a step toward seeing a clear picture of the market.”

In January, there were 662 foreclosure deeds filed statewide, a 25 percent increase from 529 deeds recorded in January 2011. Foreclosure deeds represent completed foreclosures. This is the fewest number of deeds statewide since May, when 571 foreclosures were completed.

The Warren Group also tracked an increase in auction announcements in January. A total of 1,512 auction announcements were tracked in January, a 31 percent incline from 1,150 during the same month the previous year.