Nearly 1,200 foreclosures were recorded in March in Massachusetts, according to a South Boston real estate research firm.
The number of foreclosure deeds filed in Massachusetts rose to a new peak in March when 1,167 foreclosures were recorded, according to The Warren Group.
The South Boston-based real estate research company said the figure – a 140 percent increase from March 2007 – represents the highest number of foreclosures recorded in the state since the firm began tracking foreclosure deeds in 2005.
The record was previously set last August, when 1,018 foreclosure deeds were filed. The amount of foreclosures dropped off after that peak, leaving some in the real estate industry to hope that the worst of the state’s foreclosure problems had passed.
Norfolk County was one of the few counties that performed significantly better than the state average last month, with a 64 percent rise in foreclosures from March 2007. Foreclosures were particularly a problem in Boston, as Suffolk County foreclosures rose 240 percent last month.
Tim Warren, CEO of The Warren Group, said the Federal Reserve’s cuts in short-term interest rates have significantly reduced the impact that rising mortgage rates have had on many homeowners.
But many people are still struggling with declining home values that can leave them with no equity in their homes – a problem that can be particularly difficult if a family member loses a job or faces unforeseen medical expenses.
“If home prices are falling, it pushes more people into giving up if it’s a real struggle to meet the mortgage payments,” said Warren, whose company publishes the Banker & Tradesman newspaper.
Tom Callahan, executive director of the Massachusetts Affordable Housing Alliance in Dorchester, said many lenders seem to be unresponsive to distressed consumers who are looking to work out payment plans. He said some lenders may simply be too overwhelmed amid the spike in foreclosures to be able to resolve problems on a case by case basis.
“We continue to see both consumers and foreclosure counselors being frustrated with the lack of response that they’re getting from lenders,” Callahan said. “Increasing numbers (of homes) are slipping into foreclosure because there’s no one at the other end of the line willing to talk about other options.”
John Nestel said he has struggled to reach someone at Bank of America for the past six months to work out a plan to hand over his Cohasset home to the bank, or to at least allow him to sell the home for less than the value of the mortgage. He said he had been trying to reach the bank since October, and only received a proposal – one he considers unsatisfactory – earlier this month from the bank.
Nestel said he bought his house on Jerusalem Road, where some of the South Shore’s priciest homes are located, in 2004 with the goal of living in the home with his family and expanding it – and then later selling it at a profit.
Nestel said he has kept current with his mortgage payments, although it’s been tough because the value of the loan on the house has ballooned to more than $1 million while he has lost his job in the real estate industry.
“I’m trying to get out of here and salvage my credit,” said Nestel, who said he’s not surprised to hear others are finding that lenders are unresponsive. “Lenders are either (a), not organized enough to deal with it, or (b), they’re just trying to bleed everything they can out of people until they’re actually in a foreclosure process.”
Jon Chesto may be reached at email@example.com.