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Foreclosure filings plummet last month in Massachusetts

Boston and the surrounding communities saw fewer foreclosures in February.

Boston and the surrounding communities saw fewer foreclosures in February.

Despite a report last month indicating at least 36,000 Bay State residents have not made a mortgage payment on their home in three months, the rate of foreclosure dropped precipitously in February.

According to the Warren Group, a Boston-based real estate firm that tracks housing trends throughout New England, the number of foreclosure petitions statewide dropped almost 58 percent in February. In January, there were 1,874 filings compared to last month's 793.

"Slowing foreclosure activity could be a result of several factors," said Vincent Valvo, group publisher and editor-in-chief of Banker & Tradesman. "Unfortunately, it's more likely that the reduction is caused by lenders slowing their processes rather than improved financial stability among homeowners."

Earlier this week, the Mortgage Banker's Association reported that mortgage loan volume decreased nearly 7 percent last week despite the fixed-rate dropping.

Real estate observers are hopeful people moving into homes this year are more successful in keeping them, as 73 percent of major metropolitan areas saw increases in distressed housing in 2010. The Federal Housing Finance Agency predicts homeownership will stabilize this year.