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Jumbo lending crunch killing high-end sales

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The limited availability and high cost of "jumbo" loans not backed by the government is taking a toll on sales of high-priced homes, a trend that's rippling through housing markets and the economy, according to a new research report by the National Association of Realtors.The report floats the idea of temporarily lifting the $729,750 conforming loan limit in place for high-cost markets, using government bailout money to expand jumbo lending, and encouraging more competition among lenders by facilitating warehouse lending to small- and medium-sized lenders.Homes priced above $750,000 accounted for 4.4 percent of sales in 2007, but this year represent only 2.3 percent of sales, NAR said. The months' supply of high-priced homes has risen from 18.7 months to 41.1 months during the same period, compared with 10 months of inventory for all homes.Rising inventories put downward pressure on home prices, and the reduced availability of jumbo loans appears to have worked its way throug...