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Mortgage Balances Rise in 2014

Two-Story-HouseAverage mortgage balances ticked up over 2014, continuing a trend of yearly growth since the housing recovery kicked off in 2012.

According to a report released Wednesday by credit reporting firm TransUnion [1], the average mortgage balance per consumer increased to $187,139 by the end of last year's fourth quarter, up from $185,496 in Q4 2013.

"Much of this gain can be attributed to those consumers who took advantage of a low interest rate environment to purchase homes with jumbo mortgage loans," said Ezra Becker, VP of research and consulting in TransUnion's financial services business unit.

Going by a lagging indicator, the share of jumbo mortgages as a portion of all originations increased by 8 percent in the third quarter of last year compared to 6.8 percent a year prior and 5.8 percent in Q3 2012.

The findings echo what the Mortgage Bankers Association [2] (MBA) has reported for much of the last year. Though mortgage application activity has been weak overall among American consumers, MBA has seen a steady increase in demand for jumbo loans, spurring lenders to enhance their offerings in that line.

TransUnion recorded 53.2 million mortgage accounts of as the fourth quarter, up from 52.9 million a year prior but down by more than six million compared to the end of 2009. For the third quarter, the company reported a 7 percent quarterly increase in new account originations, though that figure was still off from year-ago numbers by 20 percent. New account data is viewed one quarter in arrears to ensure all accounts are included.

The greatest increase in mortgage balances came in the super prime risk category, categorized as consumers in the highest range of credit scores. Balances in that register rose approximately 3 percent in the last year, TransUnion said.

At the same time, the risk tier composition of mortgage originations moved away from super prime and into lower groups. According to TransUnion, the super prime share of originations was 27.8 percent in Q3, down from 32.1 percent in Q3 2013. Meanwhile, the share of non-prime originations climbed from 14.5 percent in Q3 2013 to 16.7 percent in Q3 2014.