Marie Merida, a 40-something insurance executive in Washington, is the sort of homebuyer who is driving home sales through the roof this year.

Lured by low mortgage rates, she traded up last week into a $270,000 house in Washington's affluent Shepard Park neighborhood. Her mortgage is $100,000 larger than the one she had for nine years on the home she sold, within two and a half weeks of putting it on the market.

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