An improving economy and a “robust” housing market led to a February drop in the start of foreclosure proceedings in Massachusetts, the Warren Group reported Tuesday.

Timothy M. Warren Jr. Photo taken from the Warren Group’s website.

There were 439 foreclosure petitions filed in February, the first step in the foreclosure process. That number was down 48.7 percent when compared with the number in February 2013, said the Warren Group, a Boston firm that tracks real estate activity.

February 2014 was the 16th consecutive month that petitions in the Bay State have decreased on a year-over-year comparison basis, the firm said.  

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“The year-over year decline in foreclosure starts is due to a robust real estate market and improving economic conditions,” Timothy M. Warren Jr., chief executive of the Warren Group, said in a statement.

Nevertheless, the number of foreclosures rose in February. There were 280 foreclosure deeds filed statewide, a 16.2 percent increase from 241 deeds recorded in February 2013, the Warren Group said.

“The increase most likely reflects homes which have been in the foreclosure process for quite some time and have now been completed,” Timothy Warren said in his statement. “The number of foreclosure deeds peaked at 1,391 in March 2010. The last time foreclosure deeds exceeded 500 was in September 2012. Clearly, the worst of the foreclosure crisis is now behind us.”

Last week, the Warren Group issued its monthly report on Massachusetts home sales. Home sales in the state fell while prices rose in February as a lack of property listings stifled the market, Warren Group said. Single-family home sales declined 4 percent from February 2013, while the median price increased 2 percent, to $285,500.