The number of foreclosure starts in Massachusetts is continuing to rise, according to The Warren Group, which reported a 54.7-percent jump in March from the same month in 2011.
Foreclosure petitions in Worcester County rose 58.1 percent from 179 to 283, while Middlesex County's went up 64.2 percent from 148 to 243.
The Warren Group said that statewide, lenders filed 1,621 petitions last month, compared to 1,048 in March 2011. That brings the total of foreclosure starts to 4,348 for the first quarter, a 71.5-percent increase from 2,535 in the first quarter of last year.
Foreclosure petitions also rose from February, which saw 1,394 starts.
Warren Group CEO Timothy M. Warren Jr. said the higher numbers are due to banks stepping up foreclosures after a slow period in 2011 brought on by a lawsuit filed by states' attorneys general against lenders and a new law extending the "right-to-cure" period.
Foreclosure deeds, which represent finished foreclosures, were also up significantly in March, rising 36.5 percent to 856 from 627 the previous year. Worcester County was up 47 percent from 117 to 172, while Middlesex County's rose 76.3 percent to 134 from 76. Foreclosure deeds totaled 2,254 in the first quarter of 2012, a 34.4-percent increase from 1,677 in the first quarter of 2011.
Warren said foreclosure activity this year is still well below the peak levels seen from 2007 to 2010, citing that March's number of petitions is 37 percent below that of March 2010.
The number of auctions fell 3 percent to 1,214 from 1,254 in March 2011.
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