An increasing number of mortgage holders have “creative” financing, but the number of people buying homes above their price range appears to be declining, according to a new poll.

The poll, conducted at the end of August by Harris Interactive for the Wall Street Journal Online, also found that mortgage brokers still have an edge over direct lenders, with 42 percent of respondents using a broker and 28 percent going direct for home loans.

Of the 2,790 people polled, 38 percent of those with a mortgage said they have a “creative” or payment-option loan, up 5 percent from a similar poll last year. Creative mortgages were defined as interest-only, piggyback, payment option or “miss-a-payment” plans.

While 14 percent of mortgage holders who reported having interest-only loans, that’s down from 17 percent of those polled last year. Homeowners with incomes of $75,000 a year or more were almost three times as likely as households with less than $35,000 a year to hold interest-only loans. A greater proportion of 18- to 34-year-olds — 23 percent — held interest-only loans.

The use of payment-option mortgages was up (from 4 percent in 2005 to 9 percent this year), and more people reported holding piggyback mortgages in 2006 (12 percent) than last year (10 percent). Only 3 percent held “miss-a-payment” mortgages that allow borrowers to skip two payments a year, up from 2 percent in 2005.

The 24 percent of respondents who had purchased a home within the last three years were asked if they bought “within your suggested price range.” While 78 percent said they did — compared with 67 percent in 2005 — fewer people reported being able to purchase a home below their price range (5 percent, compared with 12 percent in 2005). The number of respondents who reported purchasing a home above their price range in the last three years dropped from 19 percent last year to 15 percent in the latest poll.

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