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Average US mortgage size hits record-high US$354,500

New York

THE average size of mortgages US consumers were looking to obtain to buy a home or to refinance one hit a record high of US$354,500 last week, suggesting resilience in the higher end of the housing market, the Mortgage Bankers Association said on Wednesday.

On the other hand, the rise hints that first-time buyers face a challenge in finding their home of choice heading into spring, which is typically the busiest time of the year for home sales, the Washington-based industry group said.

"With more inventory in their price range compared to first-time buyers, move-up and higher-end buyers continue to have strong success finding a home," Joel Kan, MBA's associate vice- president of economic and industry forecasting, said in a statement.

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The MBA's seasonally adjusted index of loan applications to buy a home grew 4.3 per cent to 250.8 in the week ended March 8.

Demand for mortgages for home purchases was bolstered by a decline in most mortgage rates last week, Kan said.

The average interest rate on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances of US$484,350 or less decreased to 4.64 per cent from 4.67 per cent.

Most other fixed mortgage rates that the MBA tracks fell by 0.05 to 0.06 percentage point last week.

However, interest rates on 30-year "jumbo" mortgages with loan balances greater than US$484,350 averaged 4.45 per cent, up from 4.41 per cent the week before. REUTERS