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Massachusetts foreclosure activity in April remained at levels dramatically higher than those recorded last year. In fact, foreclosure petitions, which mark the first step in the foreclosure process in Massachusetts, posted the highest number in nearly two years.

The number of foreclosure petitions statewide rose almost 47 percent year-over-year to 1,750 from 1,191 in April 2011. In the three previous months, petitions have ranged from 1,333 to 1,621. This was the highest level of petitions since September 2010, when there were 2,358 starts. Through April of this year, 6,098 petitions to foreclose have been filed statewide, up 64 percent from 3,726 during the same period in 2011.

“Foreclosure activity was so low last year that we’re inevitably seeing a rise in foreclosures across the state,” said Cory S. Hopkins, editorial director of The Warren Group. “It’s necessary for a wave of foreclosures to work through the system this year, but it shouldn’t cause panic. In order to return to a healthier market, the backlog of distressed properties needs to be cleared from banks’ books.”

Foreclosure deeds, which represent completed foreclosures, increased more than 19 percent to 714 in April from 598 in April 2011. A total of 2,968 foreclosure deeds have been recorded in the first four months of the year, up 30.5 percent from 2,275 a year earlier.

The number of advertised auction notices dropped slightly in April. There were 1,354 auction announcements in April, down 2 percent from 1,382 a year ago. Year-to-date auction notices are up 18 percent to 5,528 from 4,675 last year.