U.S. homeowners who refinanced in the third quarter lowered their principal balance in 29 percent of the new contracts, data show. In the quarter, 83 percent of those refinancing their first-lien mortgage either kept the loan amount the same or reduced it. Breaking that down, 54 percent maintained the same loan amount, while 29 percent reduced the principle, the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp. said Wednesday. The average reduction in interest rate came to 1.7 percentage points, \"or a savings of about 31 percent in interest rate,\" Freddie Mac said. That was the largest percent reduction in 27 years, Freddie Mac said. Meanwhile, in the third quarter an estimated $7.7 billion of home equity was turned into cash during refinancing, an increase from the $5.9 billion in the second quarter, but still low by historic standards. By comparison, $84 billion was cashed out in the second quarter of 2006, the peak for converting equity into cash while refinancing, the mortgage broker said.