The middle-income, move-up homebuyer is staging a comeback, according to Chicago Title and Trust Co.'s annual survey.

The report, which looks at 18 urban markets, found that the share of repeat buyers in the $41,000 to $60,000 income range rose to 24.6%, after falling significantly the past three years.

An increase in consumer confidence and job security, stimulated by a slowdown in corporate downsizing, encouraged this growth, the study said.

Repeat buyers, who purchase more expensive homes and take out larger mortgage loans, also experienced a 4.4% gain in personal income, the study said. And homes bought by this group increased 3.9% in value, to a median price of $170,000. The average monthly mortgage payment for repeat buyers increased $37, to $1,162.

First-time buyers, on the other hand, increased in number, but the value of their homes remained almost stagnant. A historically high 44.7% of all home purchases were made by first-time buyers in 1996, the report said. But the median price only increased 1.4%, to $130,100, perhaps because of this group's measly 1.8% increase in income last year.

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