Real Estate Live

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Maryann Haggerty and Elizabeth Razzi
Washington Post Real Estate editor and columnist
Friday, November 14, 2008; 1:00 PM

Welcome to Real Estate Live, an online discussion of the Washington area housing market with Post Real Estate editor Maryann Haggerty and columnist Elizabeth Razzi.

Maryann has been with The Post for 18 years and has served as real estate editor for the last five years. She's been a business and real estate editor and reporter for about 25 years. In all that time, she still hasn't figured out where you can find a lovely but inexpensive house in a charming neighborhood.

Razzi is the Local Address columnist for The Post's Sunday Real Estate section in Business. She's written about real estate and other personal finance topics for magazines and newspapers since the days of double-digit interest rates. She is also the author of two consumer-advice books, "The Fearless Home Buyer" (2006) and "The Fearless Home Seller" (2007).

Today, they'll discuss the local housing market -- from condos and investment properties to contracts and mortgages.

For more on local real estate, visit washingtonpost.com's Real Estate section.

The transcript follows.

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Elizabeth Razzi: Hello, everyone!

Glad you folks are back. Reports from the field are always welcome. And, please, get your comments in early! There's always great stuff coming in at the last minute when we sometimes don't have time to get it posted. Let's dig in.

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Columbia, Md.: How should prospective home-buyers figure out how to make an offer on a home in today's market? Given the continuing decline in home prices, it just doesn't seem accurate to get comps on nearby sales unless they were very recent. Care to update your advice for the current market?

Maryann Haggerty: You still want comps, you just want them VERY recent. We'll rustel up a recent column by Real Estate writer Ken Hrney about some of the ways appraisers are dealing with this (including how they factor listing prices into their valuations.)

Elizabeth Razzi: You also need to keep an eye on today's asking price for similar homes still being marketed.

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Washington, D.C.: My husband and I are arguing about which house to buy. And it's been hard because we are gonna take the plunge even though most of the stuff I read says that anyone who buys (or sells) now, if they have the choice to wait, is an idiot. So I need your expert advice. In this economy, and with housing slumping into the near future, what are the most important factors to take into consideration? A house that needs a little work in an A-plus area, or a house that needs zero work in a B-plus area?

Elizabeth Razzi: Thank you for this week's Official My Spouse and I Disagree question! Seriously, I think it's a great sign when couples are comfortable with their disagreements over a house. It gives you a built-in devil's advocate that helps assure a good decision in the end. And no, I wouldn't call you an idiot for buying now -- as long as your employment is reasonably secure and you intend to live there at least five years. I would favor the house that needs work in the A-plus area. You can't improve neighborhoods, after all. Just be sure you're honest with yourself about how much work it really needs.

Maryann Haggerty: If you have cash now, there are places where you could get a great deal. Of course, there's always the chance that prices could keep dropping. That's the chance you take.

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Bethesda, Md.: With the economy tanking and home prices falling rapidly, why aren't we seeing rental properties lowering rents, too? (I'm talking managed rental properties, not homeowners renting out a room.) With home prices lowering to the point where people can finally begin to buy something in their affordability range, I would think that there'd be something of a demographic shift from apartment renting to home buying. Yet I still see rental prices going up and up, and in this economy, I personally have a hard time justifying paying $1300 for my studio apartment.

Elizabeth Razzi: The simple answer is rents haven't fallen because landlords are still finding enough people willing and able to pay those rents. Bethesda is a convenient location; you'll pay a price for that.

Maryann Haggerty: Landlords will charge what the market will bear. (Even the biggest apartment companies actually are a very good example of responding to market pricing pressures, because they don't actually have to manufacture a product to fill a need.)

I admit, rents continue to astound me, especially in upmarket buildings. Earlier this week I was editing a story about an older building where 1BRs go for JUST $1,400.

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Fairfax: I pre-qualified for a mortgage, but that was about 2/3 months ago, and I'm sure things have change even since then. What should people expect when they apply for a mortgage these days? What are you hearing about credit standards, rates, etc.?

Maryann Haggerty: Much tighter in the last couple months. Stay in touch with your lender; that should help prevent too many surprises. Any details from chatters who have been out there in recent weeks?

Elizabeth Razzi: Let me repeat my old warning about the difference between pre-qualified and pre-approved. Pre-qualified is a near-meaningless term. Somebody punched a few income and debt numbers into a calculator and said you'll probably qualify. To be pre-approved, you go through practically all of the loan-application process, including having your credit scores pulled. All that's missing are the details on the home you want to buy. Make sure you've been pre-approved.

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Maryann Haggerty: What a gray day. So let's huddle around the light of our computer screens and chat...

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Bethesda, Md.: Do you think help will come to ALL home owners that have the adjustable mortgages and are at risk of falling behind. Or will help will come only to the people that have already fallen behind.

Maryann Haggerty: So far, you pretty much need to have already fallen behind.

Elizabeth Razzi: So far it's been pretty darn tough to get effective help to those who have already fallen behind. I wouldn't get my hopes up if I were you.

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Alexandria, Va.: I know this is anathema to realtors, but isn't renting a better value than buying, even in this market? That's what a study by an Old Dominion University economist found last week.

I make an average salary; yes prices have dropped. But they have not dropped enough (at least not in close-in areas, and by close-in I mean 10 miles from D.C.). The only difference now is that I can find a 300,000-dollar house in Prince William instead of in West Virginia! But Prince William is still too far!

Elizabeth Razzi: Just for the record, I'm no Realtor. But the answer to your question depends so much on what you want. If you're looking at a roof over your head, then renting may give you most bang for your buck--at least right now. Ten years from now, if you're in the same rental, you may regret that decision. If you're looking investment value alone, buying a home at foreclosure auction in Prince William could look like a brilliant move, when you look back from the future. Rents are still expensive, especially close-in.

Maryann Haggerty: I'm not a real estate agent, either. I've seen A LOT of those studies over the years. I see that the ODU study is comparing monthly rent of $1,287 for a 3BR house to $1,441 pre-tax mortgage payment on a 3BR house. (Obviously, life is cheaper in Hampton Roads.) I'm not quite sure how you can compare without taking tax consequences into account, but hey.

It strikes me that you have to look at your circumstances in real numbers. Can you get the rental you want at the price you want? Or maybe--and this is the case for many people--what works for you now is to rent a SMALLER place than you would buy, and save up your money until it makes sense for you to buy.

Historically--and I'm going back centuries here--the owner class is better off than the renter class.

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Alexandria, Va.: I thought my little neighborhood was holding up well, but a house down the street just went on the market as a foreclosure. I don't know what they're asking-- it doesn't seem to be listed in MLS. Is this a bad omen for the neighborhood?

Maryann Haggerty: One foreclosure is not necessarily a bad omen. Not a good one, but not a harbinger of doom.

I'd call the agent (if there is one) and ask what they're asking.

Elizabeth Razzi: Foreclosures are hitting inside the Beltway later than they did in the outer suburbs. But it doesn't look like a meltdown for Alexandria like Prince William and parts of Fairfax County have had. That foreclosure is not a good development, but one is no cause for panic.

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washingtonpost.com: In Times Like This, Only the Freshest Comps Will Do (Post, November 8, 2008.)

Maryann Haggerty: Here's the Ken Harney column about comps I referred to earlier...

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Washington, D.C.: How's the vacation home market these days? Good time to be looking for something in the mountains or at the beach?

Elizabeth Razzi: They're experiencing the same declines, sometimes more, as everyone else. You're going to find lots of selection and competitive prices, whether you're looking to rent or buy. If you've got the money, a recession is a wonderful time to spend it. Trouble is, who has money?

Maryann Haggerty: Vacation markets have always been more cyclical than year-round markets. That's just the way it is.

That said, I'm trying to negotiate a short-term rental right now (as a tenant). And I'm reminded that telling a landlord how lousy the market is usually is not a very effective bargaining technique.

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Washington, D.C.: Could you possibly summarize how the second proposed stimulus package could help the average homeowner?

Elizabeth Razzi: Wow. No. In a chat? Well, let me try. If the Treasury's plan manages to get credit flowing again, and if, as a side-effect, some jobs are not lost, then it would benefit all homeowners, and renters too. Will it really do that? I don't know.

Maryann Haggerty: Good try.

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Washington, D.C.: Last time I checked (Mar 08) my credit score was around 750 which my lender said was sufficient to get me best rates. A friend of mine who's buying said the best rates are reserved for people with credit scores of 800+. Can you tell me how does one without any debt (renter) to get his credit score over 800? tks!

Elizabeth Razzi: According to the Myfico.com web site, 760 is the beginning of the best tier for interest rates. That could change, depending on the lender. How to boost yours? One of the fastest ways is to reduce the amount of debt (car loan, credit cards, student loans) outstanding compared to the amount of credit available to you. For example, if you have a $10k limit on your credit card, pay down the balance. And make payments on time, of course.

Maryann Haggerty: You actually do need to use your credit--ie, have debt AND PAY IT PROMPTLY. Having absolutely no debt at all isn't necessarily the best thing for your credit rating. _______________________

Washington, D.C.: Since I am a relatively new homeowner after purchasing a condo last year, I'll be able to deduct the interest paid on my mortgage for an entire calendar year when tax preparation time rolls around. Is there an average percentage that a taxpayer could anticipate receiving back of what he/she paid in total mortgage interest over the course of 12 months?

Maryann Haggerty: It depends on your marginal tax bracket. If you're in the 25 percent bracket (and nothing else in your finances has changed, including your withholding, your income levels, etc.) you will get back 25 percent of the interest you paid.

As a new homeowner, you want to prepare your tax returns as early as you can, 'cause it's fun that first year.

Elizabeth Razzi: You don't even have to wait that long. Go to your employer's HR office and complete a new W-4 form to adjust your withholding to reflect your new, lower tax burden. You can also find a withholding calculator to help figure out your liability on the IRS.gov web site.

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Rent Stability Report from the Field: Down here where it's 79 and sunny outside, we have a bunch of friends who short-sold their $350,000 houses and are renting for $1,600 a month. That's why rents are staying stable: once you've lived in a nice house and were paying $3,000/month, you don't want to downsize to a dump-- so rents are staying high, because the rent is still way less than the previous mortgage.

Elizabeth Razzi: Thanks for the report. You don't say what field you happen to be reporting from, but I'm guessing Florida, given the weather report.

Maryann Haggerty: Yeah, sounds like Florida--where $1,600 isn't a dump.

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Restructured mortgages: Do you know if those people who will benefit from missing mortgage payments by having their loans restructured will have such restructuring adversely impact their credit scores? Frankly, it seems unfair to the rest of us -- who will paying for the restucturing in the form of higher interest rates on future mortgages -- that holders of restrucutured mortgages get advantages that others pay for. Doesn't this just incent them to continue to over-extend themselves financially? Thank you.

Elizabeth Razzi: Yes, I expect their credit scores will take a serious hit. I'm not so sure, though, that beneficiaries of restructuring will feel gung-ho about taking on more credit. I think many of them will detest debt of all types for the rest of their days.

Maryann Haggerty: There will always be some people who take undue advantage, but I don't think most people will fall in that category.

I haven't seen anything that definitively answers your question about the effect of modifications no credit scores, but it can't be good.

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Rockville, Md.: There's a kind of conventional wisdom that right now is good time to do home improvements like build a deck or remodel a kitchen. (Whether these are just the pontifications of the people who build decks or remodel kitchens, I have no idea.) Do you know of any source, like a website, that actually (unbiasedly) analyzes what kinds of major projects are good deals right now?

Elizabeth Razzi: I don't know of such a web site. But I do know that a lot of people who work in construction and remodeling, and their suppliers, are hurting. It only stands to reason that you can get a good deal when nobody else is buying. Lots of people who would love to have this kind of work done can't now because they can't obtain home-equity loans or they're worried about keeping their jobs. If you've got the money, it's a great time to get work done.

Maryann Haggerty: It's in times like this that the carpenter actually shows up as scheduled.

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Woodbridge, Va.: Just wanted to tell my tale about dealing with private sellers in this market, especially in PWC. I've been looking for a home in a certain neighborhood and found one with the perfect layout, in great condition, but it seemed overpriced based on recent comps, not including the bank-owned sales. So I turned in what I thought was a FAIR price, not because I'm trying to get a steal, but I'm trying to buy a home that will appraise so the sale will go through. However, they flat-out rejected my offer without any counter-offer. It turns out even their listing agent thought their asking price was too high and would not appraise and thought my offer was very strong and they were wrong to reject it. So, they turned down a buyer who loved their house, wants to move at this time of year, who could obtain financing, and even waived the financing contingency in the contract. Their house is now still on the market even though they were hoping to close by the end of the year, while I ended up buying a bank-owned property in the same neighborhood. Good luck to them!

Maryann Haggerty: Some sellers remain in denial.

Elizabeth Razzi: I've heard so many people relate this very same story. Sellers, take note!

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Washington, D.C.: I am not concerned about my Arlington, Va. apartment, right next to Va. Square Metro, declining too much in value. Right next to the metro, two bed-room/two-bath, and very modern appliances. Should I be?

Maryann Haggerty: If you like the apartment, don't lose sleep.

Elizabeth Razzi: Maryann is right. But if you insist on worrying, check the listings to see what asking and sold prices are for your building. If you don't need to sell, though, why go through the fuss?

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Alexandria, Va.: I'm considering a job in Alexandria. I do have two elementary school age children and would like to have a 3BR 2BA with no more than an hour commute at less than $1,500/month. Where should I be looking for housing?

Maryann Haggerty: You don't say whether it's rental or purchase, whether you have any money for a downpayment or whether your credit is any good. Nonetheless, I would say check Alexandria (although that will probably be too pricey), then look at western Fairfax County and northern/eastern Prince William.

Elizabeth Razzi: You might explore Prince George's County as well. The Potomac River is a strange psychological barrier. Neither Virginians nor Marylanders tend to look on the other side!

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Imperial Beach, Calif.: I'll be moving to D.C. and would like to live and invest in a property in the city. In this market what areas would you suggest has the highest potential in holding it's value? I'm single and in the military so I'll probably only be here for 3 years. Rent's look outrageous. More than San Diego's.

Elizabeth Razzi: Please. If you're single and in ther military and only expecting to be here three years, rent. You need the flexibility to pick up and go in three years. Yes, prices are outrageous, but so are sales prices.

Elizabeth Razzi: I meant, of course, that rents and sales prices are BOTH way expensive here.

Maryann Haggerty: Military is the classic example of folks who are better off renting, especially in a turbulent market. As you have probably heard among your colleagues, a lot of folks who were scared into buying during the boom years are now facing serious problems because they can't control their transfers.

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RE: House that needs work in A+ neighborhood: I just bought one of these! And, negotiated a deal with the sellers, who gave me a "decorator's allowance" payable to my home improvement company. This, on top of a good price, almost all closing costs. Be creative... if the price you're buying for is in line with the comps and the place is not a complete wreck therefore appraises correctly, the "allowance" worked for me, to get almost all the necessary work paid for. I am only out of pocket some $9K--and the work done was 2 complete bathroom re-dos to the studs, new kitchen, all hardwood throughout. My 2 cents.

Maryann Haggerty: Congrats! Sounds like you made the best of the market. (And now you have some nice bathrooms.)

Elizabeth Razzi: Yay -- Sounds like you got a great deal.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Thought you'd appreciate this experience: Last winter I offered $318 on a short sale -- asking price started at $425 (mortgage balance). The agent kept dropping the price until she got offers. She dropped to $330 and got bombarded... I understand most offers were in the high 200s. Mine was highest. After not hearing back for several weeks, I moved on and found a great place - very happy about my purchase. However, out of curiosity I tracked that house. It went into foreclosure 4 months later and just sold about 3 months ago for guess how much!? 215k. I am SO glad my $318k wasn't acted upon through the short sale! Too bad for that mortgage company though...

Maryann Haggerty: Interesting...

Elizabeth Razzi: There's so much going on behind the scenes with the lenders on short sales--and it all stays invisible to the buyer.

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Falls Church: Thanks for your great discussions. My wife and I are planning a move overseas for about 1-2 years. We currently own a condominium and do not want to sell it, so we would like to rent it out (even though the rent won't come close to covering the mortgage), and believe that going with an agency is the best choice since we'll be overseas and not very easily accessible if any issues occur. Since this probably common in the D.C. area, do you have any thoughts if going with an agency is the best option, and are there certain things that I should be looking out for? Thanks again!

Maryann Haggerty: You want an established agency, licensed and bonded of course, with great references. And you want to check those references.

Personally I can't imagine living overseas and NOT using a rental agency to handle property left behind, but I do know that many people feel that, especially with current communications abilities, it's possible to landlord from a distance.

Elizabeth Razzi: Absolutely, you should pay for professional management. You can't find out by email that renters have sold all your kitchen appliances. Just steer clear of paying someone who normally sells homes to manage the rental of yours. Times are lean in the real estate biz now, and they may jump at your work. But you deserve someone who has experience managing rentals.

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So far, you pretty much need to have already fallen behind.: Why is this approach by the government reactive and not proactive?

Elizabeth Razzi: Well, so far it seems like they're barely able to keep up with the reactive approach. What do you think would be the proactive solution?

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South Riding, Va.: I heard on the radio a report on restructuring mortgages and that some proposed 30% of income, others 38% of income for the more affordable, restructured mortgages. Is that of people's net or gross income?

Elizabeth Razzi: Usually those percentages are figured on gross income.

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Yeah, sounds like Florida--where $1,600 isn't a dump.: $1600 isn't a dump around here...but it is only 700 sf.

Elizabeth Razzi: Now, I don't think anybody meant to imply that $1600 is a dump. Just a phrase...But you're right...it will be small.

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Washington, D.C.: Hi Maryann and Elizabeth! We are planning on buying in the next 6 months (although we keep pushing it back, so no promises!) We have found a couple of properties in D.C. neighborhoods that we like. They are multi-unit buildings that need remodeling and he wants to live in one unit and rent the other three. I like the idea, but am a little skeptical about the time it's going to take to be a landlord (we both work, he travels frequently and we have 2 kids). We've gotten tons of different opinions on this, most negative but not all. Just wondering if you have any insight or perspective on what to consider before buying a property of this type?

Maryann Haggerty: He travels frequently and you have two kids? Ma'am, how handy are you with plumbing tools?

Really, it comes down to how much works you (two) are willing to do. Small-scale landlording is actual work. It's the kind of work that could be fantastic, for instance, someone who wants to stay home with the kids. But does it fit your life? Talk to people who have done this, if you can, and then think seriously about your abilities and needs

Elizabeth Razzi: At least you'd want to have all the remodeling done before tenants move in and your husband travels. Old plumbing & wiring causes more trouble than new stuff.

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Re: Neighborhood foreclores: A post above mentioned a foreclosure on their block. How and where can one find out about foreclosures in their neighborhoods? Is there a database? Thanks!

Maryann Haggerty: Our lovely producer has found us a link to some foreclosure notices (coming up momentarily.) Also, of course, many services sell foreclosure listings.

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washingtonpost.com: Legal Notices for Foreclosed Homes.

Maryann Haggerty: Here's that link

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It's in times like this that the carpenter actually shows up as scheduled.: Shows up as scheduled? Heck after the last few years, it's an improvement that they're finally returning phone calls. Yes, the work has finally dried up and they have to resort to customer service because they are no longer overwhelmed with work.

Elizabeth Razzi: I believe this chat provides an important venting service to the community, dontcha think?

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Washington, D.C.: Hello. I recently read (in the Post, I think) that in this market comps should be as recent as possible, and in any event no older than 90 days. If there have been no sales in the neighborhood in that time period, is it appropriate to use similar neighborhoods some miles away (e.g., the next Metro stop)? Is location more important than size or age of the structure in finding comps?

Related: how useful are Zillow "zestimates"?

Maryann Haggerty: Not sure there's a definitive answer to the first part of your question--I suspect it would depend on a lot of factors, and weights would vary. Part B: Zestimates are even rougher than old-fashioned comps, because basically all they are is a desktop computer formula. Zillow points out that their small print explains everything you need to know. They also say the value of my home has gone UP in recent months. I SOOO do not believe that.

Elizabeth Razzi: If you look at Zillow's charts on how prices have changed in ANY neighborhood lately, the values zig up and down more wildly than the Dow Jones index. Zillow has some good information, but the price estimates are just not reliable!

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Arlington, Va.: Problem with moving to PG cty for Alexandria is his car insurance will double. Typically car insurance is way cheaper in Va. than in Md. So her car insurance could go from $500 to $1k.

Elizabeth Razzi: It would be worthwhile checking home and auto insurance rates before making a decision. Still...it's worth a look on the other side of the river.

Maryann Haggerty: Car insurance may go up; property taxes likely go down--there's all sorts of things to weigh.

Personally, the thought of the Wilson Bridge every morning makes my stomach turn. Maybe it'll be better when the construction is finished.

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Alexandria, Va.: I've been convinced that realtor's are a waste of money when buying a home. However, my wife feels like we have no chance at getting a fair price if we don't work with her favorite realtor. How hard is it to get a listing agent to cut their commission? Are they going to be totally unwilling to work with a buyer directly? Are there any downsides besides not being able to get in to those lockboxes?

Elizabeth Razzi: Well, as a buyer, you have zero chance of getting the listing agent to cut his or her commission. That's already determined in the contract negotiated between the seller and the agent. Agents will not be unwilling to work with you directly. In fact, they may relish it. They get to keep all the commission without having to share it with the buyer's broker.

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Baltimore, Md.: I am selling my late father's house, and it is under contract. The inspection found lots of substandard wiring -- apparently my father installed lots of light fixtures back in the 1950's wired with lamp cord. It's costing me $3000 to get an electrician to clean it up. Do you recommend that the sellers get their own home inspection before putting the house on the market? My parents bought the house in 1953.

Elizabeth Razzi: The buyers should get their own inspection before their offer is binding. That's always true. Keep your electrician bills and contracts. If you've installed a new circuit-breaker box and brought the whole house's electric system up to date, you might make note of that in the listing.

Maryann Haggerty: In some circumstances, it can be a good idea for the sellers to get their own inspection. At least you have an idea of what you'll need to fix.
The buyer should still get his own inspection.



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Yep, it's SW Florida: There's an interesting line of demarcation, though. You can live in a really nice house & pool in Naples for $1,600/month if you look hard. But if you can only spend about $900, you can choose among--literally--thousands of empty houses from south of Naples to north of Tampa,and they're not crack houses... those are only $500.

Elizabeth Razzi: If only our reader in Alexandria could commute from the house and pool in Naples for $1,600/month.

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Washington, D.C.: When are you going to publicly apologize for your role in creating the housing bubble by relentlessly touting the mythical benefits of home ownership?

Elizabeth Razzi: Gee, I dunno. Despite this meltdown, I still get to live in the house that I bought years ago. My boring fixed-rate mortgage is affordable. I expect it to be paid off by the time I retire. I can improve my home when I have a little cash to spare--or hold back when budgets are tight. Maybe I'll pass it on to my children someday. The same families have lived in the neighborhood for two generations. I can plant a tree and expect to enjoy it when it's mature. And I've gotten some pretty good tax breaks, too. Apologize? No, sorry.

Maryann Haggerty: ...and I'm also not going to apologize for pointing out that homeowners vote at a higher rate than renters (everywhre but NYC), that they maintain their homes more rigorously and all that other stuff that's actually good for a stable community.

Sorry. Of course this is a lousy time, especially for people who got sucked into the hysteria of the boom. But that doesn't mean that people who are going hysterical in the other direction are any more right.

For years, we were the boring ones who said to buy only if you planned on staying around a while to wait out cycles, blah, blah, blah. I still believe that.



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Expat, Canada: We still have our house in Arlington rented out. Falls Church should check out Professional Property Managers of Northern Va. (www.ppmnva.com)-- We've been happy with them, and especially happy they have had to deal with our picky tenants (seriously, I am not interested in arguing with whether or not they need a new plug in the bathtub).

Elizabeth Razzi: Here's a source -- I can't vouch for it, myself.

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Clifton, Va.: I am sorry if you are prequalified do not even bring me an offer via your agent. I want a copy of your approval letter from your mortgage company with the max they will approve. Anything else is wasting my time and that goes for good times and bad times in the real estate market. Prequalified means nothing.

Elizabeth Razzi: Okay, another voice from the field.

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Washington, D.C.: Experts say U.S. citizens, young people in particular, are fired up about Obama and more interested than ever in working for the government or in politics. Do you think this enthusiasm and desire will directly affect the D.C. housing and/or rental market in the next 12 months (or longer)? (specifically - do you think it will be different than most change-in-administration years?)

Elizabeth Razzi: Unfortunately, it's not enought to make a big change in the market. Maryann wrote about this very thing last Saturday. Link to follow.

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washingtonpost.com: Change You Won't See (Post, November 8, 2008.)

Elizabeth Razzi: Here's Maryann's story.

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Elizabeth Razzi: Time flew! Thanks, everyone for an interesting batch of comments. This Sunday's colum will offer a few tips on how to avoid calamity when renting out your home for Inauguration Day.

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Maryann Haggerty: Wow. There are a bunch of questions we didn't get to. Sorry. HOWEVER: We also have a discussion next Friday (instead of waiting the usual two weeks to chat). So y'all come back then, y'hear?

Tomorrow's Real Estate section looks at the challenges of selling luxury in a down market, and also some approaches to selling vacant homes.

On Sunday in the Business section, Elizabeth provides some very wise advice for those of you who are thinking of renting out your place for Inauguration.

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Editor's Note: washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. washingtonpost.com is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.


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