Driven by 23 foreclosures in Vineyard Haven during the first half of 2007, Island home foreclosure activity rose from 17 in 2006 to 40 for the same period in 2007, an increase of 235 per cent.

Some evidence suggests the increase has ties to subprime lending, where lenders do business with borrowers who can’t obtain conventional mortgage financing and charge them higher costs.

Sixteen Island foreclosure auctions were scheduled in 2007 compared with five for the 2006 period on the Island. Petitions to foreclose rose to 24 this year compared with 12 in the first half of 2006.

Edgartown had 11 foreclosure activities this year compared with four in 2006. Oak Bluffs declined to four foreclosure filings from six in the first half of 2006, land records show.

West Tisbury foreclosure activity declined to two from three in 2006. No foreclosure activity in other Island towns was recorded either in 2006 or in 2007.

The explosion in Vineyard Haven foreclosure activity has Island Realtors scratching their heads.

“The only thing I can think of is that there is a greater percentage of year-round residents in Vineyard Haven and in Oak Bluffs,” Bill LeRoyer of Harborside Realty said yesterday.

“I’m assuming off-Island lenders are involved,” said longtime Island Realtor Dale Julier. “I know there was a lot of lending activity several years ago, including Countrywide and some other lenders who are shaky now,” she said.

In fact, the list of top lenders over the past year shows some interesting names. While the blue-chip banks dominate the list of the top 10 mortgage lenders on the Island, the top 10 names on lender lists by town differ dramatically, according to ForeclosuresMass, a Web site that tracks real estate foreclosure activity across the state.

For example, Countrywide, one the nation’s most high-profile mortgage lenders, shows up in the top 10 names in Oak Bluffs. In Vineyard Haven, Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Bayview Loan Servicing LLC, Option One and GMAC Mortgage Corporation are cheek to jowl with Deutsche Bank, Wells Fargo, Sovereign, U.S. Bank National Association and Citimortgage.

It is often difficult to find where mortgages actually end up being held. But virtually all mortgage companies, unlike banks, sell their mortgages.

The Gazette this past week used records to track several painful journeys in recent years toward foreclosure, with one covering nine years. Several troubled Island loans to which several Island loans and at least one Vineyard Haven loan involve U.S. Bank National Association. U.S. Bank is a national bank that previously has run afoul of Securities and Exchange Commission regulations, signing a consent order in 1995 to avoid certain practices.

No Island banks have shown up as lenders on foreclosure documents reviewed by the Gazette this week.