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Maryann Haggerty and Elizabeth Razzi
Washington Post Real Estate editor and columnist
Friday, May 15, 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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Elizabeth Razzi: Hi, everyone! Welcome back to the chat. Perhaps you can help us out reporting a couple of stories. We're looking for people who have had to accept a loss on their home sale. If you've been in that situation, either as the seller or the agent, Dina ElBoghdady would love to talk with you. Email her at elboghdadyd@washpost.com. Also, I'm searching for people who are making big career/lifestyle changes in reaction to the recession, either voluntarily or out of necessity. If you'd like to talk about it, please drop me an email at razzie@washpost.com. And now, on with the chat....

Elizabeth Razzi: Dina actually has a simplified email address as well. You can reach her at Dina@washpost.com

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Maryann Haggerty: ...And we have one more request for your assistance. Reporter Renae Merle would love to speak with people who are applying for the Obama administration foreclosure prevention program; those who have lost their home to foreclosure and later received a bill from their second lien holder; and also those who want to sell in a short sale, but are being asked to make up the difference between the sale price and debt.

Whew! Anyway, fire away with questions, comments, etc.!

Maryann Haggerty: Ooops. Sorry. If you can talk with renae, e-mail her at merler@washpost.com, or drop me a note at haggertym@washpost.com and I'll pass it on to her.

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Washington, D.C.: Is this a good time to be a real estate agent in D.C.? Should I specialize in REO's?

Elizabeth Razzi: It's a tougher business than it has been in recent years. Not something for dabblers. And you need to have some cash reserves to cover up-front outlays for getting and marketing listings, not to mention to cover your living expenses. That's not to say you can't make a go at it. What do you real estate pros out there think?

Maryann Haggerty: These are lean times for real estate agents.

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Sprucing up exterior: Is replacing aluminum siding (25 year old house) with vinyl siding recommended prior to selling a home in the next 24 months?

Elizabeth Razzi: Unless it's full of dings or falling off, I'd say no. You can have the stuff pressure-washed and painted, if you need a fresher look.

Maryann Haggerty: Cleaning will do wonders.

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Arlington: Obviously lenders have been hesitant to write down loan principle balances as part of a modification. However, in the event that they do reduce the loan balance, how would that new value be apparent to an appraiser when valuing a nearby home? I guess a title search would just show the new loan balance when looking at comps? But, at least on Fidelity Title's website, the "Comparable Sales Data" only shows recent sales. So, I wonder how often principle reductions are being ignored in valuation estimates? I guess since there are likely few principle reductions it's not such an issue?

Maryann Haggerty: I don't know the answer to that one. Any appraisers out there?

Elizabeth Razzi: I don't think they show up....but anybody else have an idea on that?

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Washington, D.C.: As a potential new buyer who has been sniffing around, nothing turns me off more than real estate professionals reverting back to the policies of fear that got us into this mess. "Buy now or be priced out forever!" "Rates have never been lower, act fast!" "You must act now! Take advantage of the $8,000 tax credit!" "This won't last!" Truth is, fear won't motivate the market. The perfect price where supply meets demand will. I'd like to turn this whole fear thing around in favor of the buyer. "Sellers: sell now or be priced in forever! You MUST lower your prices drastically to compete with foreclosures and short sales! If you DO NOT lower your price drastically (not $5k or $10k here or there, but rather 20% or more), you will just be kicking yourself as you chase the market down." "That bid you pass up today will be but a pipedream a year from now!" "Sell now or lose more 'equity' over the next year!" See how obnoxious that is? We buyers don't like it either.

Elizabeth Razzi: I agree, that can be awfully annoying. Maybe you need to switch to a more low-key agent. Or at least have a frank, but polite, talk with the one that is annoying you. Is anybody else out there getting the hard sell?

Maryann Haggerty: That is SO annoying. You can almost smell the desperation when people start saying that.

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Princeton, N.J.: My husband and I are beginning our house hunt this weekend. We have a meeting tomorrow with a RE whose listings we like online. Should we have our own RE agent? Our concern is the the agent won't be as willing to negotiate on our behalf if she's also the listing agent. Also, what are some important questions to ask and things to look for when we actually see the houses? Thanks so much for these chats -- I've learned a lot!

Maryann Haggerty: Yes, you should consider having your own agent. The agent for the seller CAN NOT represent your best interests. She has a fiduciary responsibility to her client, the seller.

Elizabeth Razzi: Definitely sign up your own agent, who can really negotiate on your behalf during the back-and-forth of contracts. Talk to at least three agents--or more, if you don't find one with whom you click. Make sure you're in sync on how frequently you want to be alerted to new listings, whether you'll communicate by email, Blackberry, phone or whatever.

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New York, N.Y.: My soon-to-be ex-husband and I own a 2br-2ba condo together in Silver Spring. It was not purchased as an investment property. But when he was transfered to N.Y., we moved 6 months after buying in late 2006. Now we are facing this divorce, our tenant is moving out, we know we can't rent it for the same (it will probably be $200-300 less per month) which didn't even cover the condo fee, and it is worth about $70,000 less than we paid for it. We at least were smart and took a 30 yr fixed rate mortgage, but are now paying two rents in N.Y. and the excess expenses of the condo.

Should we rent it out for one more year hoping the market will go back up a bit, or sell it at a huge loss because it will take too many years for the market to change?

Maryann Haggerty: Have you considered the possibility of one of you moving back to the condo?

You really just have to work out the numbers and how you will split assets and debts in the divorce. It's important in these negotiations that you do your best to remain civil to best protect your joint interests. Unfortunately, it's also important that each of you consult with your own lawyer to protect your individual interests.

(If you know you would be selling at a loss, at least the deadline for capital gains exclusion is not in your calculations.)

Elizabeth Razzi: Ouch, rough one. It seems to me you have to figure out what you can afford to do, so you know which options really are practical. Can the two of you come up with $70,000 to unload it? Can you carry the monthly expenses associated with renting? Moving back to Silver Spring is looking kind of attractive....Good luck with this one, you're in a tough spot.

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Alexandria, Va.: My wife and I have been putting offers on homes in Del Ray/Rosemont, Old Town Alexandria and Capitol Hill, with a ceiling of about $500,000 for three months. So far, even offering competitive or at-asking price offers, we have been outbid nine times. Are these neighborhoods different than the others? Should we be going in expecting to offer over asking price?

Second, in every situation, after the offer is in (normally we are the first or second offer), we hear absolutely nothing from the seller's agent. Is it normal for seller's agents to not provide any updates or information between the offer and the decision?

Thanks!

Maryann Haggerty: First: Those are all very nice, desirable neighborhoods where, indeed, competitive bidding continues in some price categories. Yours is one of those categories. A lot of people want to live there for about $500K.

Second: When you put in your bid, ask the seller's agent when you can expect to hear something. Don't expect her to just make update calls for the heck of it--there's not much she can tell you anyway.

Elizabeth Razzi: Yes, you are looking in some rather nice neighborhoods. If you can find something for $500,000 in Rosemont, give me a call. I want in! Evidently those asking prices were fishing expeditions designed to lure in multiple offers. Also, understand that you can put an expiration date on a purchase offer.

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Buyer's Remorse: Three years ago I bought a condo. Now not only has it gone down in value, but I've learned that because so many of the units in my building are renter occupied potential buyers may find it difficult/impossible to get financing. The long and short of it is that I may never be able to sell it. I'm seriously considering defaulting on my mortgage. I realize it will hurt my current excellent credit, but the alternative is that I'll never be able to retire. What I want to know is if my wages could be garnished to make the payments should I default.

Maryann Haggerty: Never is a long time.

If you default, yes, the bank can go after you for the shortfall. A judge can issue a deficiency judgement, which includes a garnishment. Banks don't usually do this--after all, most people who are foreclosed on or default don't have much money, anyway. But if they have to think you have the money, who knows?

The Treasury yesterday announced new programs to make short sales easier. You may want to at least wait until those are up and running.

Elizabeth Razzi: It's always hard to believe that current conditions are not going to last forever. That was the problem during the boom--people expected it to last. If you can, you might try to hold on longer. You may be able to sell without a loss after a few years. Or maybe that condo will eventually supply a profitable rent that will add to your monthly budget in retirement. Before you do anything rash, you might at least have a one-time consultation with a financial planner.

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McLean, Va.: What are the pros and cons of selling a home "as is"?

Elizabeth Razzi: Con: You get a really low price--if you even get an offer.

Pro: You expend no effort, time or expense preparing for sale. I wouldn't try it, unless the home is really a tear-down or handyman special and you're willing to take a minimal price.

Maryann Haggerty: Or an estate sale. That's the classic as-is situation, when heirs simply don't have the cash or knowledge to get the house in shape.

Depending on the state you're in, disclaiming any knowledge about the condition of the house (ie, as-is, but phrased differently) can also provide a little bit of legal protection. That's the case in Virginia. Again, it's common with estate sales, when the heirs truly don't know anything about condition.

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Arlington, Va.: I'm always seeing comments here and other places by people about how their homes are worth $x less than it used to be. How do they know this? Are they all getting appraisals or are they basing it on the tax assessments? I just can't imagine everyone getting an appraisal, but that's what it sounds like.

Maryann Haggerty: Many I guess are nearby sales and extrapolating. That's pretty reliable.

I say, once more, tax assessments don't tell you much.

Few, I suspect, are getting appraisals.

Some people are using Web sites such as Zillow or HomeGain. Folks, these are for amusement only. Do not base life decisions on those numbers, which at their best claim to be within 10 percent in either direction.

What I REALLY hope people aren't doing is looking at national(or even regional) stats about value changes and applying those percentages to their own homes. But I assuem some are.

Elizabeth Razzi: I agree COMPLETELY. In fact, just the other day I just spoke with the man at Zillow who is in charge of their value estimates. They have developed a computer system that tries to deduce the relationship between the tax assessment and recent sales prices. It factors in other nearby sales. I just do NOT see the accuracy there. And I know the value for my own little abode swings wildly. The best indicator I know of now, aside from a professional appraisal, is the price of very recent sales of similar homes in the same neighborhood COMBINED WITH the asking price of competing homes on the market right now.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Hi there, love the chats! Quick question -- we found a place we love and quickly put an offer on the property. The only problem is the sellers had already ratified a contract with another buyer (for approx. 10k less than our offer). Since it is a short sale, it is in the bank's hands now. I guess we are officially a back-up offer, but since our offer is higher, do we have any chance of acquiring the property? Will the bank even consider our offer?

Elizabeth Razzi: Really, it depends on the terms of that first contract. If all parties have really ratified the deal, it looks like your chances are slim. I'd pull back my offer and start looking elsewhere.

Maryann Haggerty: Sometimes contracts fall apart after ratification, but don't get your hopes up. The would-be seller/bank can't just say, "Oops, someone offered us more. We're going to break our deal." There are legal consequences to that. That's what contracts are all about.

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Washington, D.C.: Elizabeth, I just bought your book "The Fearless Homebuyer" and just loved it. Your voice really came through and made it more like a conversation. I almost wish I had read the drier books first because now I'm disappointed that they aren't all like yours!

I'm planning on buying one of the co-op townhouses in Old Greenbelt this summer and so I liked that you had a good amount of information on co-ops. It will be my first home purchase so I am excited and nervous and hoping I'll be okay with leaving the city!

Maryann Haggerty: Elizabeth is too classy to post this one herself, so I will. Thanks.

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Columbia, Md.: I am currently renting and sold my home last year, so I'm not eligible for the $8,000 tax credit. The tax credit expires in December. After that credit expires I'll start looking because I believe the market will cool off again. For me to buy now, the government needs to extend the tax credit to all buyers, not just first time home buyers. Buyers of homes over $500,000 and not buying now. Do you think Congress will wake up and set up incentive programs this year for move up buyers like me?

Maryann Haggerty: The real estate industry certainly hopes so--they are pushing, pushing for more subsidies.

However, other forces are making the argument that the government now needs to give the massive stimulus packages time to actually work, to see if the economy mends.

Elizabeth Razzi: I spy a Realtor who just attended the NAR meetings in DC this week.

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Washington, D.C.: My wife and I are under contract for a new condo in a brand new building. Is it worth the money to hire our own home inspector?

Maryann Haggerty: Yes. Yes. Yes.

Buildings are built by humans. Humans make mistakes. Humans who are working in tight credit situations are particularly prone to make mistakes.

Elizabeth Razzi: Absolutely! And get someone (an accountant, or a savvy father-in-law who knows how to read a balance sheet) to help you review the condo association documents, if you aren't comfortable doing it yourself. And...congratulations! This is just due-diligence stuff, we're talking about. No cause for alarm. Just do it--even in a good market.

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Pittsburgh, Pa.: Do you have any thoughts on the recent news that the $8000 tax credit might be permitted (via bridge loans) to be used as down payments in the near future? Does this seem like a wise idea, given that down payment grants/loans have been implicated to some extent in the mortgage crisis? We are buying this summer via the FHA-insured program because we don't have enough for a traditional down payment, and are debating whether applying the tax credit (if all goes through in time) would be worth it, or if we should just use what we have now and stuff the credit in a savings account for the future.

Maryann Haggerty: Ahhh, this one doesn't bother me. If the $8K lets someone increase the size of their downpayment, I don't see why that should be a problem.

Elizabeth Razzi: I'm not concerned. If you qualify for it, that $8,000 is your money. Unless you have to pay a prohibitive interest rate on it (and that would be a huge news story if it happened) you're just taking cash out of your right pocket instead of your left.

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Columbia, Md.: Regarding writedowns and appraisals...

Appraisals are only based on very recent sales (within the last six months). So the house who's loan has been written down would not play a role as a comparable property. There's no reasonable way such a property would have been bought within the past year.

Maryann Haggerty: Thanks.

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Washington, D.C.: I was looking to buy something in September, but decided to start looking now. I found a home in Columbia Heights that I like and I am trying to decide what to do. My gut says to throw out a low ball offer out and if it wasn't meant to be, it won't happen. Cons are that even with a low ball offer, I will be paying a few months of mortgage + my current lease. But, at the same time, I don't want to kick myself for not trying to get this place. Any advice?

Maryann Haggerty: Go with your gut on this one. Put a closing date a couple months in the future into the contract and see if that works.

Some overlap between a lease and a mortgage may not be the worst thing in the world. Also, check your lease, but in most cases, if you move out, you are only liable for the rent until the landlord finds a new tenant.

Elizabeth Razzi: People often forget that they can negotiate a delayed closing date on their purchase. And re-read your lease just for the heck of it. Could you sublet?

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Outbid: I've been house shopping too the past couple months (Columbia Heights, Bloomingdale, Ledroit, Capitol Hill) and have definitely noticed that sellers are listing at low prices in order to get multiple bids. After many disappointments, I've had to adjust my search strategy and look for places with lower asking prices with the assumption that I'm going to have to bid over to even be considered.

Maryann Haggerty: This is a pricing strategy that was very popular during the boom--ie, set a price that brings in multiple bids, then let the buyers frantically bid each other up in an emotional blur.

Some people considered it unethical; others, just good marketing.

It does seem to take a bit more guts to do this in the current market.

Elizabeth Razzi: I dont'know that I'd say it takes more guts. If the agent succeeds at listing below market value, after the sale he can crow about the quick deal and multiple offers.

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Washington, D.C.: If you can stomach one more reporter query, could you ask if anyone used a rehab loan in the last six months when buying a house, and would like to talk about it?

Maryann Haggerty: Oh, right. I know who this is from. So, folks: If you have used a 203k or other rehab loan recenlty--or you have considered it--please drop me an e-mail directly. It's Haggertym@washpost.com

(Heck, I'm also accepting recommendations for hotels in Barcelona, it you have 'em!)

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NOVA: I'm looking to move closer to Metro. Luckily, I have a fair amount of equity in my place. What is an apprpriate portion of salary (either net or gross) to spend on housing? Also -- notes from the field, I've had three friends with homes on the market that sold in the first weekend. Things appear to be pickig up.

Elizabeth Razzi: Thanks for the field report, NOVA. About how much you should spend on housing, let's break that into two parts. The official lenders' guidelines are no more than 28 percent of gross income for principal, interest, tax and insurance, and no more than 36 percent of gross income for all debt payments, including housing, cars, student loans or whatever. More important is that you should sit down with your bank statements going back a year or two, and look at actual spending. How much will you really be comfortable devoting to a housing payment each month? It might be considerably less than those 28/36 percent guidelines.

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Durham, N.C.: Hi Ladies, I'm moving to the D.C. area this summer and am stumped by the historical price data in north Arlington. This area appears to have had the same run up in price per square foot as other areas that have retreated substantially. I see three possibilities for this price series:

1) The run up in N. Arlington was not driven by speculation, but by an overdue adjustment.

2) The run up was driven by speculation, but the area is permanently insulated from retreat, so retreat will not occur

3) The run up was driven by speculation, and the area will retreat...but it will take time

If (1) then what was it that made the market inefficient prior to 2001 and where are the other markets like this?

If (2) then why don't speculators continue to push prices up because the insulating factor will keep them up at even higher levels?

If (3), why is the retreat taking so long?

Thanks.

Elizabeth Razzi: Ahhh, here's an example of my problem with statistics. They don't account for the squishy stuff. North Arlington is one of those areas that had strong reasons behind the price run-up. One is that many of the homes have had fabulous remodeling done over the past 10 years. You can't see it from North Carolina, but driving around the neighborhoods, you can. The commute, by Metro car or bicycle, to DC is among the best around and has only gotten more attractive with the runup in gasoline prices. There's been massive, high-quality retail and restaurant development that made the area much more attractive. And the schools are very good. There has been some retreat on prices, but it hasn't been across the board in North Arlington.

Maryann Haggerty: The continuing deterioration of commuting conditions around this region is making close-in areas such as this more attractive, not less.

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Washington, D.C.: If a realtor is urging a home seller to spend a fairly considerable amount of money to "spruce up" a property, on the grounds that said "sprucing up" will increase the price of the home, it is unreasonable for the seller to ask the realtor to help pay for the "sprucing up" given that the realtor (via her commission) will share in the increase in value while the homeowner has to pay for 100% of the "sprucing up"?

Maryann Haggerty: You can always ask. Prepare to be laughed at, though.

Elizabeth Razzi: So, you're going to try to convince that agent to become your business partner? A good agent--one that can find more profitable people to work with--will probably drop you.

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Springfield, Va.: I have seen several houses for sale at a lower price without the appliances or toilets. It seems like the lower price would more than offset getting the repairs or purchases made. Am I missing something? Are there some difficulties with getting a mortgage for these?

Elizabeth Razzi: You're not going to get a regular FHA loan for such a house. There are some purchase/rehab loans, though, which you could explore. If you're going to even consider buying homes in such bad shape, you need to have the competence (either on your own or through a paid accomplice) to develop accurate estimates of how much the rehab is going to cost. If you don't have that skill, I'd pass on those homes.

Maryann Haggerty: You definitely want to take a close look at the physical condition of such houses. Places where the foremr residents--or the neighborhood looters--removed appliances and fixtures are also likely to have been vandalized in other ways.

A handyman's special requires a handyman.

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High-Pressure Sales: The National Association of Realtors has run a series of commercials that consistently preach that people will kick themselves if they don't buy - this isn't solely specific realtors.

Elizabeth Razzi: Actually, I find those ads kind of cute. Hey, you can't blame salespeople for selling. You don't feel pressured to buy a Sham-wow because of the ads, do you?

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Bowie: So, we bought our house at the wrong time (July 2005). The 5 year plan was to build equity and sell to get in the house of our dreams.The market slows and my home has negative equity. In order to sell it, I'd be looking at 30-35K out of pocket. On the other hand, our dream home is available at a considerably lower price and the builder is offering to cover the closing cost (a 20K incentive).So, my question is, am I absolutely crazy to pay to get out of my current home? What other options (other than repaying the bank straight up) should I consider?

Elizabeth Razzi: Go straight to the bottom line. You have x amount of cash to invest in this deal. Will that cover the home-sale expense and the home-purchase expense? Does your bottom-line investment seem to be appropriate for getting into the house htat you want? If so, go for it.

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Atlanta: Re: Too many rentals in your condo building.

Go to the board (or better yet, get on the board) and change the bylaws. Allow those who are renting out to rent out (cause you can't change that) but change the bylaws to say no more renting OR change them to say up to 20% of units can be rented, and if you want to rent and too many are rented, you're not allowed to rent your unit. That should be in there anyway - cause of just what you're saying, i..e, banks don't want to finance when too many are renting (tho, you should be able to find a loan officer who would be willing to finance, and then you could tell people that when they're selling). BUT don't just default. You won't feel good about yourself. Do something... tho.

Maryann Haggerty: Thanks for the advice.

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Suburban Maryland: Hope you can take this -- posting early as I'll be gone at 1. A few years ago, my parents bought a 5 year old house that was originally the development's model home. Since then, they have realized that the windows were the equivalent of a simple pane of glass (they don't keep out wind and they collect condensation indicating that they were never sealed) and the insulation seems to be, well, minimal. Dad swore that on one hot day he could see right through the siding and to the nail studs.

My question is twofold: when buying a house, how do you ensure that there are minimal standards as to building materials and construction, esp. since it did, of course, receive a CO? Second, since no other house in the development has any of these problems, could this be fraud? Thanks so much.

Maryann Haggerty: Well, it did receive a CO. But that doesn't address quality of construction.

When you're buying, you hire your own home inspector to see what standards are met. In the case of new construction, you hire that inspector to make his visits at several (predictable) steps in the construction process, so you know what's behind the walls.

If you suspect some sort of fraud-- or even if you just want to know what surprises are ahead of you (or your parents)-- hire an inspector now, to see what's really there. When you have that information, you can determine whether funny business went on, and decide whether you need to call a lawyer or a contractor.

Elizabeth Razzi: If anyone is wondering why new-home buyers ought to pay for a professional inspection, here's your example. Definitely pay for a home inspection now, and proceed from there. Did the builder offer a new-home warranty? See what might still be covered under those terms. First step, if you find deficiencies in construction, would probably be to have your lawyer write a letter requesting repairs. Then you get more serious from that point.

The certificate of occupancy is a very basic standard. It means it was built according to the plans that were filed when pulling a building permit. It should be structurally sound and have plumbing and electrical systems that won't kill you. Cheap, lousy windows? They're probably not covered--at least if they're big enough to meet their fire safety standards.

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Ginnie Mae?: What is it? That's who owns my mortgage. All I can seem to find out is that Ginnie Mae is used by investors as an investment opportunity. I have no idea what, if anything, it means to me that my is mortgage is owned by it. Is it good? Is it bad?

Maryann Haggerty: It stands for Government National Mortgage Association. (www.ginniemae.gov.) It packages and resells government-backed mortgages.

It is not good, bad or indifferent that Ginnie owns your mortgage. It just means you have an FHA or VA loan (or one of those backed by one of the smaller gov't agencies.)

Elizabeth Razzi: You say "investors as an investment opportunity" as if that's a bad thing. They make mortgage money available.

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Reston: Do you think the Metro extension to Dulles will increase property values in Reston? Or has that already been factored in to the current prices?

Elizabeth Razzi: I think it's probably been factored into the price. And during the dirty/traffic clogged phase of construction, I suspect it might even hold back values a bit.

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Florida: We just tried to buy a short sale and the bank gave us all kinds of run arounds. House was LISTED at X, declined our offer and said - would be done deal if offered X + 20,000. We finally agreed, they came back and said Oh, did we say X + 20? We MEANT X + 50. No wonder we're all in a banking crisis

Elizabeth Razzi: Man. You're saying the bank said you could have it for $20k more--and then bumped it up another $30k? They deserve to keep that home. Understand, though, that the original listing price was almost certainly not set by the bank. The seller & seller's agent set that price. They might not even have discussed it with the bank at that point.

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Wheaton, Md.: I've been looking at appreciation/depreciation rates on Washingtonpost.com and have a question about how to interpret these. When it is reported that median house prices in a region have gone down 7% over the past year, this could either mean that the typical house in that area has lost 7% of value, or that the houses on the market/being sold are the cheaper ones (compared to last year). (I assume foreclosures are more common among the less expensive houses, for instance.) Is there a measure that's available for the region that looks at sales of 'comparable' houses over time?

Elizabeth Razzi: You raise a good point, Wheaton. A median price is a statistical midpoint. There is an equal number of sales below that price and above it. So, if there are a lot of foreclosures, which always sell at a discount, or a lot of regular transactions that were low-priced to start with, that will pull the median--or midpoint--down. The Federal Housing Finance Agency, FIFA, tracks values of same-home transactions, but they don't report by ZIP code.

Maryann Haggerty: Medians can swing widely, too, if there are very few transactions in an area or time period (which is the case with month-by-month Zip code stats).

(By the way, to fix a typo, that agency is FHFA. Their Web site, www.fhfa.gov, has a calculator that lets you see values by metro area over time.)

The Case-Shiller-Weiss folks use a similar same-house-sold-over-time methodology. FHFA's numbers don't reflect high-or-low-end transactions, because they use only Fannie & Freddie loans. Some think that CSW is skewed by too many subprime and jumbo transactions.

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Calvert County: What adds more value to a home. Replacing aluminum siding with vinyl siding or bricking our entire home. My husband is a mason so he would be doing the brick work. Basically, does brick add more value than vinyl siding?

Elizabeth Razzi: Well, of course, brick is more highly valued than viny or aluminum siding. And if your husband is a mason, you're in a great position to get that job done. BUT--take a look around the neighborhood. If you have the only brick home in an all-siding neighborhood, you probably won't recover the investment through resale value. People only pay what the neighborhood is worth. You will get a little break on your homeowners' insurance, though.

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Elizabeth Razzi: We had way more questions and comments than we could get to today. We'll tackle one of them in the Chat Plus on the Local Address blog Monday morning. And please go ahead and re-submit them for the next chat on May 29! Have a fantastic weekend.

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Maryann Haggerty: Time seems to have flown. Thanks for all the good questions.

In tomorrow's Real Estate section, we talk about sales of subsidized condos, and shopping for energy-efficient windows. (Also, featured in the Where We Live section: A neighborhood with some of the prettiest azaleas I have seen in a long time!)

Remember, if you want to talk to a reporter for a story about your experiences buying, selling, borrowing--drop us a note!

Have a great weekend!

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