Growth in first-lien home equity loans and in borrowing by senior citizens were among the findings of the annual Consumer Bankers Association Home Equity Lending Study, according to BenchMark Consulting International.Among the study's 23 participants, 37% of originations were first-lien positions rather than the historically dominant second liens. "The growth of these first-lien positions in home equity portfolios indicates this is a good time to ensure specific risks have not been overlooked," said Jim Leath, manager of BenchMark's consumer lending and mortgage banking practice. The finding that seniors represent a growing segment of home equity borrowers, and at higher amounts, was "a bit of a surprise," Mr. Leath said. "Most people think of seniors as nonborrowers," he noted. "The pattern we found here was that rather than drawing on invested, fixed income for non-need spending, seniors are looking more to home equity for vacations, luxury items and other purchases." The survey also found an increase in 90-day-plus delinquencies, which "implies that we may be taking on some hard-core risk," Mr. Leath said. BenchMark, a division of Fidelity Information Services Inc., has dual headquarters in Atlanta and Munich, Germany. It can be found online at http://www.benchmarkinternational.com.

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