Perpetual Savings Bank said yesterday it has signed a contract to sell its ornate, strategically located Washington Building to a U.S. pension fund group, but it refused to identify the buyer or reveal the sales price.

The deal sent the Washington real estate market scrambling for information on the sale of the 11-story Beaux Arts-style building one block east of the White House at 1440 New York Ave. NW.

Perpetual officials issued a statement yesterday but declined to disclose either the terms of the sale or the buyer. "We have a very strict contract, and it is not to be discussed," said Robert A. Barton Jr., senior vice president of the Alexandria lender. "I can talk about the history of the building or the parades that have gone past it, but that's all."

Barton also refused to discuss how many offers they had for the 60-year-old building, which has been on the market for several months.

Carla Giannini, senior vice president of Richard Ellis Inc., a New York real estate investment firm that is representing the buyer, also declined to comment.

But several real estate industry executives placed the price of the 215,000-square-foot building at between $78 million and $82 million. Perpetual had been seeking $90 million for the building, industry sources said.

The building is assessed by the city at $34 million, according to the D.C. tax office. Most office buildings sold in the city, however, sell for far more than their tax assessed value.

Perpetual said it will receive an after-tax profit of $27 million from the building's sale, which is expected to be completed in November.

The stylish office structure, renovated earlier this year, was acquired by Perpetual in 1983 when the lender purchased Interstate Federal Savings and Loan.

The building is about 90 percent occupied. The leases of its tenants, which include law firms, a public relations company and a stock brokerage, will not be affected by the ownership change, a Perpetual spokesman said.

Perpetual has a branch office and a corporate banking center that will remain in the tower.