Bank owned home foreclosures in Springfield, Massachusetts soared by 76.7 percent in January this year, based on data from Boston-based research firm Warren Group.

Springfield became the focus of the mortgage industry nationwide last year when Massachusetts Judge Keith Long ruled that two foreclosures in Springfield were invalid because of the defective documents submitted by the big banks that foreclosed on the properties.

In January, a total of 76 foreclosures were completed in Springfield, up by almost 77 percent from the 42 foreclosures completed in January 2009. The city followed the foreclosure trend of its county, Hampden, which posted 109 completed foreclosures, a 49.3-percent increase from 73 foreclosures in 2009.

In Hampshire County, actual foreclosures soared by 150 percent in January from 8 deeds to 20 deeds. In Franklin County, foreclosure deeds increased in number to 18, up by a whopping 350 percent from only four deeds in January last year.

Statewide, completed foreclosures also rose, although not as sharply as in the Springfield area. The total of 1,061, however, was the highest number of actual foreclosures among all January postings in Massachusetts since 2006. In January last year, the total number of bank owned home foreclosures statewide was 978.

According to Peter Gagliardi, head of HAP Housing in Springfield, more completed foreclosures are expected because mortgage lenders have been holding back over the past few months. HAP Housing, which manages the Western Massachusetts Foreclosure Prevention Center, has helped more than 2,000 distressed families since 2008.

Based on data gathered from distressed homeowners served by HAP, Gagliardi said that unemployment, and no longer subprime mortgage loans, has been pushing more homeowners to default.

The unemployment rate in December in Springfield hit 13.2 percent, the ninth highest jobless rate for any city in Massachusetts. The rate was a sharp rise from the November rate of 11.8 percent and from the December 2008 rate of 9.5 percent. The only other month that hit the 13-percent level was January 1993.

Nevertheless, according to the nonprofit Associated Industries of Massachusetts, there are some positive developments in the jobs sector in the coming months. Its monthly survey found that 25 percent of employers plan to hire workers in the next 6 months.

If the 14 percent of employers who reported they are going to cut jobs in the next 6 months pursue these layoff plans, the number of bank owned home foreclosures will certainly increase.

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