Our real estate group therapy class meets on Thursdays at Rebecca Milikowsky's house. We discuss how terrible the market is and share with each other the pain of living in a world where a house is no longer a ticket to instant wealth.
Janet Blankenship was the first to speak. "I spent all Saturday night baking brownies, and on Sunday I put them out on the dining room table with hot apple cider. Everybody who showed up ate the brownies, but not one person bit on the house."
Ray Slattery said, "People don't buy homes in exchange for brownies the way they did a couple of years ago. It's a buyer's market. Even chocolate eclairs don't do it anymore."
Jodie Torkelson joined in: "We took out an advertisement in The Washington Post, and the only response we got was from the Washington Times saying that they would run it in bold type for half the price."
"The funniest thing happened to us," said Herman Methfessel. "A woman came to the house and hammered a sign into the lawn that read 'For Sale.' When I yelled that the house was not for sale, she shouted back, 'You never know until the fat lady sings.' I asked, 'What the hell does that mean?' And she said, 'Beats me -- they taught us to say that in real estate school.' "
The conversation got a little dicey when Lila Crimson informed us that she and her husband, Matt, had split, and there were very bitter feelings involved. "If he had let me sell the house six months earlier we could have gotten $500,000 for the place. What a Dummkopf! The reason I left him was he never knew when to buy or when to sell or when to put out the garbage."
"Perhaps he didn't know that real estate prices would plummet."
Lila blurted out, "His girlfriend should have told him."
I tried to be helpful. "People who break up shouldn't get angry with each other because the price of their house isn't what it used to be."
Lila asked, "Why is it that your home is worth a fortune when you're living together, and it's not worth a Russian ruble when you're splitting up?"
"That's a good question," I said.
David Jaffe said to me, "You lied last year when you told everyone that your home was worth $4 million."
I responded, "I didn't lie. Every toolshed in the neighborhood was worth $4 million."
Rebecca Milikowsky spoke up: "When it comes to real estate prices, people should exaggerate as much as they can because it helps the entire community."
"I heard that Robbie and Tommy Gresinger couldn't sell their place, so they turned it into a bed-and-breakfast business."
"They sound desperate."
"They told me that the bed-and-breakfast arrangement will guarantee them one meal a day, which is the minimum that doctors say you need during a housing slump."
Herman Methfessel said, "I think that the lesson from this meeting is, don't sell your house for what it's worth -- sell it for whatever someone is prepared to pay."
"But," protested Ray Slattery, "then you take all the greed out of real estate, and greed is what the business is all about."