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Maryann Haggerty and Elizabeth Razzi
Washington Post Real Estate editor and columnist
Friday, May 1, 2009; 1:00 PM

Post Real Estate editor Maryann Haggerty and author Elizabeth Razzi discussed the local housing market -- from condos and investment properties to contracts and mortgages.

The transcript follows.

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Maryann Haggerty: Hi, thanks for joining us today.

In her Local Address blog this week, Elizabeth swooned over Trulia's new iPhone application, which combines real-estate-data-love with gadget-love.

Are there real estate Web sites you particularly like? Applications? Why? And what do you wish someone would create?

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Elizabeth Razzi: Hello, everyone! Glad to have you back. Let's dig in....

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San Francisco, Calif.: Good Morning. There is a chance that I would be making a job move from San Francisco, California to rural Virginia or West Virginia. It would be a 12-24 month assignment, most likely 18-24 months. I know that now is a good time to buy (and could get a lot for my money in those parts), but I'm worried about being able to re-sell it in two year's time. I assume prices will go up, and if I sell it, it would be for another job move so I'm not worried about capital gains tax. I know I would also get the first time home buyer tax credit. Do you see any concerns with my thinking?

Maryann Haggerty: Two years is too short a time to count on real estate as an investment--it is wise to wait until you think you'll be in place 5 years or longer before you buy.

Elizabeth Razzi: Renting sounds like the absolute right choice. And there's no reason you should assume prices will go up. Um, you're in for a big adjustment moving from San Francisco to rural SW Virginia or WV. Both have their charms, but it's a big lifestyle change. I wouldn't make any big commitments like investing in real estate until you're sure it's a good fit.

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Washington, D.C.: Ladies, what do you think about borrowing from a retirement account to be able to convert my ARM to a 30 year fixed? The ARM is adjusting every year now and the condo is depreciating. Not crazy about the place but, and it can't sell. I almost owe as much as it's worth, so the only other option is to continue on with my ARM that adjusts every year.

Maryann Haggerty: That's really not a good idea. It penalizes you in the long run for what might or might not be a shorter-term problem. For the time being, an ARM adjustment is not likely to be all that terrible, since rates remain so low. (Yes, of course they're really low for fixed-rate loans, too.)

In coming weeks it should become easier to find lenders who are making loans under the administration's foreclosure-prevention program, which is specifically designed to move borrowers with little or no equity into fixed-rate loans. See this page prepared by our colleague Renae Merle to find out more:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/business/foreclosureprevention/

Elizabeth Razzi: I agree. Especially considering the softness in real estate values, you need your other retirement investments to grow as much as possible. And that's true even if retirement is a long way off.

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Washington, D.C.: Someone explain this to me -- two weeks ago, I placed a bid on a property near Howard University Hospital. The seller's agent said it was between my bid and another, and the seller would make the decision on Tuesday. Tuesday comes, I am feeling anxious and I call my real estate agent. The property that I placed a bid on sold at auction for $100K less than my bid, on Tuesday morning.

How can this happen? Isn't foreclosure expensive for banks? The seller lost $100K worth of equity from my bid. What is really irritating is that the bank that now owns the property has no interest in my offer because they have investors flush with cash.

Maryann Haggerty: Banks are bureaucracies. They don't look at these things on a case-by-case basis.

If the seller was waiting until the day of the auction to choose between two bids, I'm not sure what she was thinking, either.

Elizabeth Razzi: There was a lot of foreclosure machinery already in motion by the time you made your purchase offer. My guess is the seller was hoping the foreclosure auction wouldn't really happen, but it was the bank's decision, not that of the owner who was being foreclosed upon.

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www.washingtonpost.com: Local Address

Maryann Haggerty: Here's the link to Elizabeth's Local Address blog, by the way.

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Arlington, Va.: I'm stumped. Do you think it is better to buy my first home now, in a neighborhood that is not where my kids and I currently rent and not in the school districts they are in and want to stay in, or would it be better to continue to rent in same north Arlington neighborhood until they are all out of school in five years? It seems like there is more competition now for the lower priced foreclosures coming on the market in south Arlington (and a few in N. Arlington), which would probably displace any offers from me because the most I can probably afford is very low 300's. So I don't know how realistic it is for me to be looking to buy anyway.

Maryann Haggerty: You have to know your own kids. Would moving be an adventure or trauma for them?

(Also, in Arlington, there are a lot of options for high schoolers besides neighborhood schools. If your kid is going to choose one of those, that changes your calculus, too.)

Elizabeth Razzi: Where would you like to live five years from now? That should color your decision, too. You don't sound like you have a burning desire to go through all this upheaval. You could become a first-time buyer later, if that's what you really want.

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Washington, D.C..: What is it with two and four unit investment properties in the District? It seems anything worth owning after the required 25-30 percent down payment, you're lucky to just break even, if that. Why hasn't the market value for these properties been affected along with primary resident home values?

Maryann Haggerty: Because the owners are sitting on their lower purchase basis and counting their cash flow?

Prices in the District itself haven't gone down as steeply as in other parts of the region or nation.

Elizabeth Razzi: Another reason is you have a lot of competition from other small investors who would like to take on a little bit of rental property. Besides, lots of investors barely break even -- or take a small loss--in the early years. Over the long term, you start to profit as rents gradually rise and your property gains value.

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Fairfax, Va.: Hello. We are retired, have lived in our home for 30 plus years and it is paid for. We are considering building a new home and are a little, a lot really, uncertain about how to choose a good lot. What are some general guidelines in purchasing land, factors we should considered, questions we should be sure to ask? A very general question I know, but we are hoping you can get us started with at least some understanding of what we may be getting into. Thanks.

Elizabeth Razzi: It's really smart of you to be giving a lot of thought to the land choice. It would help a little to know what kind of land you're talking about--raw, undeveloped land or a lot in a subdivision? Mountains? Near the coast? There are different issues to consider. In general, though, start with the big things. Assuming it's not already a developed lot with sewer and water already put in, you need to make certain that you could build the type of house you want there. If you'll need septic, how does the land perk? Will you get water from a well? How accessible is that water? Are you certain you'll have good access to roads? How is the drainage? Is there a risk of landslides? If it's near a shore, will the authorities permit construction? You have lots to study.

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Arlington, Va.: Hello. We are supposed to close on Monday. The lender has told us repeatedly that "the loan is fully approved," but so far her closing department has failed to get any paperwork to the title company. Should we be worried? What can we do to ensure we close as scheduled (with adequate time to review/challenge the HUD-1)?

Maryann Haggerty: You should have the HUD-1 24 hours prior to closing and that's pretty much now. (Though let's face it, these things sometimes do drag out to the last second.)

All you can do is nag, really. I know that's unfortunate, but...

Elizabeth Razzi: Yes, you're entitled to it the day before closing--if it's available. Lenders are pretty swamped right now with refinancings. Nag gently. And if you don't get your HUD-1 early, just take your time going over it at closing. If there is a serious problem, you can probably reschedule closing unless you're close to any deadlines noted in your sales contract or your interest-rate lock. Good luck.

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Kensington, Md.: What are some easy things we can do to make our house show better? Would better landscaping in the front yard and a prettier walkway leading to the front door pay off? Would our front yard vegetable garden be a negative for most buyers?

Elizabeth Razzi: Yep. I'd put flowers in that garden instead of tomatoes this year. A lot of people just find front-yard vegetable gardens odd or off-putting, and you can't afford that. Tidy landscaping is a must. If the lawn is weeds, make them vibrant green, well mowed and edged weeds. Most homes need to trim their hedges and shrubs a bit to better show off the house. Pots of flowers are wonderful. Mulch is a cheap way to tidy things up. Paint the front door. Clean any lamps, and upgrade them if shabby. Consider new address numbers or mailbox, if they're shabby. And buy a new doormat.

Elizabeth Razzi: Oh -- but don't put a lot of money into concrete/stone/brick walkways unless there's a tripping hazard.

Maryann Haggerty: Annuals will give you a lot more for your money, by the way. And you can start planting them this weekend--the danger of frost has now passed for our region. (I know, I know--but technically, last weekend could have been 30 degrees instead of 90...)

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Washington, D.C.: What's your opinion of expected growth in the Stadium/Armory area right around the metro stop there. Right now, it's pretty desolate. Any plans for doing anything with the Armory, stadium, parking lots and vacant hospital? The area could really use some development such as markets, restaurants, pharmacy, bank, post office or whatever to help make it a livable, walkable neighborhood. There is just so much unused space.

Maryann Haggerty: Much of that area is what is designated as "Reservation 13" and "Hill East Waterfront." The District government has asked development teams for expressions of interest. Supposedly, that process will move forward this spring.

The proposals for that area are likely to be very ambitious--it's a great piece of dirt. They are also likely to be highly controversial. After all, it's in D.C.

But the current economic situation means there are several years to sketch and debate these things. You won't see new large-scale development coming out of the ground for a few years, anywhere.

Elizabeth Razzi: The recession, and in particular the lack of credit, has really caused development of all sorts to screech to a halt. We can't really expect anything new until the economy recovers.

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Pentagon City, D.C.: Ladies, I'm a first time homebuyer. Can you recommend any books that will help prepare me? Thanks.

Maryann Haggerty: I swear, I don't plant these questions.

"The Fearless Home Buyer," by Elizabeth Razzi.

She can now recommend others.

(When you get to the library or bookstore, you'll see what seems like a scary number of choices. You can eliminate most of them. For instance, I just gave away a mountain of books, most of which seemed to be some variant of "Making Millions by Buying Foreclosures Cheap in Your Spare Time.")

Elizabeth Razzi: Nor do I plant them!! "Mortgage Confidential" or "Mortgages 101" by David Reed are both good. "Home buying for Dummies" has solid, basic information. And Kiplinger (my old employer) has a good book on Buying and Selling a Home.

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Wheaton, Md.: This isn't really a buy/sell real estate question, but I'm hoping you'll answer anyway. My nephew and a friend have started a business of cleaning out houses from foreclosures. So far, they've gotten some business from a friend's father. To market the business, should they be contacting small or large lenders, or real estate agents?

Maryann Haggerty: Real estate agents who are marketing the homes on behalf of the lenders. That's what the lenders are paying them to arrange.

Elizabeth Razzi: Why choose? They should market their services to the real-estate owned (REO) department of all area lenders, and to the real estate agents who handle foreclosures on their behalf. It will help if they present themselves in a businesslike manner, and not just as a couple of handy young folk.

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Baltimore, Md.: Hello -- I'm preparing to paint my townhome to list the home for sale in the fall. My sister, who is a realtor in North Carolina, has suggested a Duron color "Plantation Beige." While it's a lovely color I feel like it's a very Charleston look for a more southern home. I was thinking of a simple cream color -- could you please assist with a more regional outlook what color you might suggest painting to sell a home? (For what it's worth the home gets quite a bit of natural light). Thank you.

Maryann Haggerty: Pale yellow. I like pale yellow houses.

(I also like the pepto-pink one up the street from me. And I like deep Hollywood-Regency blue...)

But no. For once, a definitive answer: Pale yellow.

Elizabeth Razzi: Oh, please, Maryann. You can't be serious about the Pepto color. And if she is serious, please don't listen to her. I also like pale yellow. Without seeing Plantation Beige I can't begin to speculate, but any type of beige doesn't strike me as all that region-specific. Will you have painted shutters? (Black on that beige sounds nice.) Shutters are big 'round here. Of course, you can always drive around Baltimore neighborhoods you admire, and copy one of the color schemes that you find common & attractive.

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North Carolina: I've been an avid reader of Real Estate Live for years and enjoy it. But this recent remake of the the Washington Post website has me lost. I'm all over the map trying to find the discussion and recent transcripts. What happened? (This isn't a question for your discussion, but rather something you might want to pass onto the web designers.)

Elizabeth Razzi: Thank you so much for that feedback. We'll check into it.

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www.washingtonpost.com: Find Real Estate Live transcripts here

Maryann Haggerty: ...and for those of you who are looking for a bit of light weekend reading...

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Silver Spring, Md.: I know you don't have a crystal ball, but how long would you guess we would need to wait before values start creeping up again in the inner suburbs of D.C.? We want to move into the city to be closer to work, but we'd have to go back to renting, and I imagine we'd get soaked right now because we bought at the peak of the market. Values in our neighborhood have fallen, but houses are selling steadily and we are at least located within walking distance of metro.

Maryann Haggerty: I have heard various smart economists hazard predictions all over the place.

For instance, last weekend I was on a panel with Chip Case (the economist who helped originate the Case-Shiller index.) He made some predictions, but none as pinpointed as you want. (generally, he said, look to end of this year/beginning of next.) However, he did offer one big sign to look for: Prices will firm up only when the foreclosure overhang is cleared out.

Elizabeth Razzi: I get the feeling that prices are bumping along the bottom. But I don't know how big the bumps are or how long they'll continue. And a gut feeling is hardly something you can bank on. Will there be another rush of foreclosures to come? Maybe. Renting out your old home while moving into another rental sounds reasonable. The two-year window for preserving the tax-free status of capital gains doesn't seem to be a concern--at least if you don't have capital gains to protect.

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Ashburn, Va.: Report from the field: for the past month, we have been trying to get a Making Home Affordable (MHA) Refinance. We've read about it extensively, meet all the criteria, and have all our docs in order. We've called our servicer several times and have been told that we would receive a letter in the mail notifying us if we were eligible (Maybe they were confusing us with an MHA modification?)and also that we should just submit a regular online application and wait. So that's what we did. Maybe if we're patient, the deal will just get better and better.

Elizabeth Razzi: Thanks for the report. Lenders, most of whom cut back staffing dramatically, are getting slammed with refinances of all types right now. What else are you folks seeing?

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Silver Spring, Md.: Hello ladies, quick question. My boyfriend of two years is about to buy a house. I plan to rent out my condo to move in with him and lend him some money for the down payment. Any suggestions on the type of paper work needed for this kind of arrangement? Will a simple notarized IOU do the trick? Thanks.

Elizabeth Razzi: Ohhh, I know two years is a long time, but this scenario worries me. You're taking a big risk money-wise (and that always seems to translate to relationship-wise). Why not be a co-purchaser? It doesn't have to be a fifty-fifty deal. But you would have a security interest in the home. And if you're not comfortable commingling your money and commitment to that extent, then why lend him down payment cash? And, hate to bring it up, but what would happen in the event of a breakup?

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Cleaning Out Foreclosed Houses: Good marketing idea: The kids might also want to promise to dispose of the detritus properly, unlike the clod who cleaned up the formerly expensive foreclosure next door to me, leaving large piles in the yard that the trash trucks wouldn't take and generating phone calls and fines for the bank from frustrated neighbors.

Maryann Haggerty: Geez, how frustrating!!!

But I bet the fines made the bank take notice.

Elizabeth Razzi: There's one business lesson those kids learned the hard way. At least I hope so.

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Southern Maryland: I had an especially hellish time when I bought my current house. The seller was out of town so we (my realtor and I)had to work through their realtor. It was time consuming just getting things done. The contract was put to them in early February; settlement was June 30. I discovered after I moved in that the seller had lied on the disclosure sheet and he built half the house himself without a building permit. The inspection service was crooked and I could have done just as good a job myself. All through this ordeal the realtors were working "for" the seller. The buyer has no legal recourse other than to cancel the contract and lose money in the process. Just like a lamb to the slaughter. Is there any help for bona fide buyers who are putting their hard-earned money down on the biggest investment they'll ever make?

Maryann Haggerty: You had the choice of hiring an agent who represented you rather than the seller.

You chose the inspector.

You can choose the lawyer who will sue the seller for you (a tough suit to make stick, granted.)

Any other ideas, folks?

Elizabeth Razzi: Don't be a lamb. Seriously, if you can't protect yourself (or hire folks who will) in this kind of buyer's market, you're in trouble.

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Fairfax County, Va.: We just refinanced out home, taking a full percentage point off our already pretty low interest rate. It was one of the easiest, hastle-free processes I've been through. It was actually easier than buying a car. I was worried with the economic crisis and home value declines, but it seems that we had just enough equity to get the job done.

Maryann Haggerty: Thanks for the observation.

I haven't been hearing many refi nightmare stories.

Elizabeth Razzi: Good for you! What do you plan to do with the savings, I wonder?

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Washington, D.C.: We have a standard D.C. brick colonial in Tenleytown (five minutes from the Metro) that we bought in 1982 for $129k. When we refinanced in 2005 it was appraised at $805K. We are now retired and living in New England in a rental and thinking of buying here. We are wondering whether to sell the D.C. house or rent it. Have prices in Northwest D.C. come down from 2005 levels, or would we be likely to get that amount? Are homes moving quickly or staying on the market for a long time? If we sell we can, of course, get a much nicer home here in New England with the extra cash we will have available.

Maryann Haggerty: Prices have indeed come down from the 2005 peak, even in Tenleytown.

In March, 28 homes sold in Zip code 20016, which includes much of Tenleytown, according to the multiple listing service. Of those, 16 were condos. The median price was $605,000, down 13.8% from March 2008. Homes were on the market for an average of 62 days.

But you know what? Your house may not be median. You probably should talk to a real estate agent and get some estimates, especially if you aren't living in the area.

Elizabeth Razzi: You should talk to an accountant. You have some capital gains to protect. In order to protect up to $500,000 of capital gains from the home sale, tax free, that home has to have been your primary residence for at least two of the five years preceding the sale date.

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Manassas, Va.: Tried to buy a bank-owned townhouse in Manassas last week but by the time I got to seeing it, it already had seven contracts. Yet there seems to be little to no activity on the regular resale properties. So if the only thing that is selling is short sales or foreclosures, can we really say that the housing market is coming back?

Maryann Haggerty: In Manassas, indeed, foreclosures are just about all that is selling. It is one of the hardest-hit places in the nation.

Those have to clear out before the regular market has a chance.

Elizabeth Razzi: I've been hearing that a lot, recently. If and when the distressed sales are gone, then the rest of the market can come back. Investors and first-timers have decided it's time to pick up a bargain.

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Washington, D.C.: Good afternoon. Do you have any advise on obtaining information concerning a short sale from the bank that owns the house? It's as if the contract disappeared into a black hole.

Maryann Haggerty: That's a tough one, because the contract DID disappear into the institutional equivalent of a black hole.

Has anyone heard of anything that works?

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Washington, D.C.: Ladies, I'm the one who asked about taking a loan from my retirement plan to secure a 30 year fixed. Well, the situation is a little messier. For one thing, I don't have a Fannie or Freddie backed mortgage. And secondly, I actually have two trusts, the other being a 15 year balloon at 7.6 percent. Does that change your response any?

Elizabeth Razzi: That is messier. Still, tapping retirement money is last recourse. You have to ask yourself how close that balloon date is, what you plan to do if/when you have to deal with that balloon payment, seeing that a refinance is probably not going to happen. And, bottom line, can you afford the payments?

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Arlington, Va.: I have a question about debt-asset ratio. My husband and I graduated from law school last year. I have $160K in debt and he's still looking for a job. Should we aspire to pay the debt off in 10 years or extend my loans and try to save more money for a down payment? It looks like we can save about 10-20K year on my salary while paying the loans in 10 years (we'll definitely save a lot more once my husband finds a job). I'd love to be able to buy a nice home in three or four years.

Maryann Haggerty: Pay off the debt. If you stretch it out, what's already a huge obligation looming over you becomes even larger.

Elizabeth Razzi: In this economy, I would put all the cash I could into emergency savings, at least until he finds a job. Once you're both employed and you have real income numbers to work with, then you can address the student down payment question.

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Falls Church, Va.: I know of two homebuilders in Fairfax County which created for themselves a couple of shell companies and then declared themselves a subsidiary of one of the shell companies. The purpose was to deflect any potential lawsuits in the future. This is exactly what happened and in each case the HOA was left holding the bag. How can builders continue to get away with this?

Maryann Haggerty: I think the guys who built the Tower of Babel incorporated themselves as a separate entity for that individual construction project. It reduced the legal liabilities, including any possibilities of smoking, etc.

Elizabeth Razzi: You don't say what kind of bag, exactly, the HOA was left holding. Could it be a criminal offense? Fraud? Don't know. But if it's laws that are the problem, then it's lawmakers who are the solution. Get in touch with yours and give 'em an earful.

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Virginia: Hello, I bought an investment foreclosed duplex in Fairfax County, let's say $200k. The real estate tax of my property was based on the price that was $400k although the property is appraised as $$250k. After closing, I appealed to the Fairfax county, and the result was that my property tax went up in line with the other properties in the area. I was told that the properties that the appraiser used as comparables were not considered by the tax revenue because they were all foreclosures. In addition, all other properties have a driveway, which is significantly more convenient because parking is a problem there. Building a driveway costs as least $25,000 because I have to get the power company to move its power support line, which crosses my front yard. Should I find a lawyer and appeal again to the commission? What's your recommendation? Thank you very much for your advice.

Maryann Haggerty: Price out a lawyer and see how that balances vis a vis any expected cut in the final tax bill. (Not the assessment itself.)

Also, under Virginia's multi-step appeals process, you can represent yourself on that second appeal, too, if a lawyer is too pricy. (You may want to pay for a third-party appraisal.)

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Fairfax County, Va.: I have a 30 year fixed loan at 5.75 percent and 8.5 years left to payoff 147K balance. Will it make sense to refinance the balance with a five year ARM that would help me payoff the loan in five years? What would be the target rate to achieve this without significantly raising monthly payment? I have enough equity in the house.

Maryann Haggerty: Without doing all the math, it strikes me that you don't have to increase your payments much each month to pay off a loan in 5 years instead of 8.5. Why take the chance that the ARM rate might shoot up?

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Alexandria, Va.: My sister-in-law is driving me crazy right now and I would love some advice on how to talk to her. She currently has about $15K in student loan debt, $10K in credit card debt, and a car loan which she says she will have paid off in July. She has about $2K in savings and a small amount in a retirement fund. She is currently living with her parents which means that she has to spend a bit more on gas but she is not paying rent and paying very little for food. She wants to buy a house because rent is almost the same as a mortgage payment where she lives. I think this is a good idea, but only after she has lived at home until at least October and has cleared out the credit card debt and the car loan. She also needs to have more of a cushion for new house stuff in my opinion. I also believe she needs to be putting aside that mortgage payment every month (whatever she thinks it is going to be) into savings to build up that cushion and to prove to herself that she can live a normal life while paying a mortgage rather than being house po'. I feel like she isn't hearing me. Are there any articles I can point her to or anything else that can help make this case? I think she can and should buy, just not until her finances are settled a bit more.

Maryann Haggerty: There's so much out there, I can't think of just one resource.

You may want to start with anything by Michelle Singletary--common sense readable advice that concentrates on Getting Rid of Debt. Many of the books Michelle has chosen over the years for her book club also present that message in a way that comes across to people who are just starting out.

Elizabeth Razzi: I have never liked the direct progression from living with parents to buying a home. Never. Get on your feet first; prove you can be a big girl. Manage your budget. Learn how to be a responsible, rent-paying tenant. Establish good credit. Be independent. Then think about buying a home.

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Washington, D.C.: Should I be concerned that the seller is taking me for a ride? Although the listing price seems reasonable for what is available in the neighborhood, the tax assessment is substantially lower (50K lower). Would making an offer that was more in line to the assessment be sure to not get a reply from the seller?

Maryann Haggerty: Assessments are a bad guide to value. They're mass appraisals, not individual ones. As an owner, a low assessment is the goal. You appeal high assessments, not low ones.

Elizabeth Razzi: Agreed. Don't go by the assessment. Presumably you have good reason (i.e.. recent sales prices of comparable homes) to believe that price is reasonable. Trust that -- not the tax assessment.

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Pennsylvania: My fiance and I made an offer on a house and had it accepted. We are closing at the end of May. We were pre-qualified and our mortgage rep said we would have no problem with final approval as long as we both keep our jobs (which we will). But I am still on pins and needles waiting.

Elizabeth Razzi: Of course you are! This is a huge financial transaction with lots of details and deadlines. Pins and needles are part of the deal. Take a deep breath, stay on top of communication with your lender. And good luck.

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Washington, D.C.: I was wondering if anyone else has come across any road blocks with trying to purchase a condo using an FHA loan? I've saved up enough for a small down payment and closing costs so I was excited that FHA loans were available. However, trying to find a place in the district that FHA will finance has been a nightmare. I don't want a "fixer-upper" SFH that requires extensive renovations and already renovated SFH are out of my price range, so figured a condo would be my best bet. But the restrictions on condos are ridiculous. I had an offer accepted on one unit of a row house converted to two condos. But FHA won't finance condos of less than four units. There are some buildings that have FHA approval, but so far have been either out of my price range, or in areas I'm not interested in living (I don't have a car so don't want to live in areas where there is nothing around) I'm about to give up and use my money to move into a nicer rental apartment.

Maryann Haggerty: Condo financing now is very difficult--we ran a front page article last weekend about some of those difficulties. We're looking for the link now.

FHA financing can be a godsend, but yes, there are problems. You can get individual unit approval for a purchase if the whole complex isn't approved, but it's an additional hassle.

(By the way, a less-than-four-unit condo can be a nightmare, unless you get along very very very well with your co-owners. You may want to thank the FHA for that one.)

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www.washingtonpost.com: New Condo Loan Rules Put More Scrutiny on Neighbors

Elizabeth Razzi: Here's the link.

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Maryann Haggerty: Time is running low here.

In Saturday's Real Estate section, we look at an uptick in investors in the outer suburbs. We also feature a piece about ways to create community in a neighborhood. You may get some very concrete ideas there.

And don't forget, Monday through Friday, check out Elizabeth's blog, Local Address, at www.washingtonpost.com/realestate.

Have a great weekend!

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Elizabeth Razzi: Thanks everyone. We'll see you again in two weeks, and there's lots of room to comment on the Local Address blog whenever the spirit moves you. Have a great weekend.

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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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