CHICAGO -- First-time homebuying is booming, according to 250 real estate agents randomly surveyed by Calabasas, California-based ARCS Mortgage Inc.

The survey, released last week, showed that sales of homes to first-time buyers climbed more than 40% this year. Such buyers account for half all real estate sales by agents.

And first-time buyers need help. More than 70% of real estate agents surveyed say buyers ask them for assistance in finding a mortgage. To ease the process, most all prefer that buyers get pre-approval for loans before searching for a home. Only 25% actually do.

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