In case you didn't know it, there is a real estate boom in this country. Home prices are sky high, and now that the Lewinsky business is over, everyone is talking about what they sold their houses for. You would think this event would bring happiness and joy to homeowners.

Instead it produces envy and greed.

Dr. Joseph Mangano came to me a few months ago and announced his $40,000 home had just been sold for $500,000.

"That's a good profit," he told me, "but I should have gotten $600,000."

I agreed that would have been a more equitable price.

Last week Mangano came back with a long look on his face. "Do you know the house I sold for $500,000? It just went for $800,000. Do you realize what that means? I lost $300,000."

"I can see that," I said, "but don't you count the money you made when you sold it?"

"That was coming to me. The $300,000 was a bonus that I could have used. I should have waited until the market peaked. I can't afford to lose money like that."

"Most people can't. But even you told me when you sold it that $500,000 was a good price and certainly in the ball park."

"Donald Trump wouldn't have sold for $500,000."

"Why should he when he owns Atlantic City?"

Dr. Mangano said, "This has taught me a lesson. I will never again sell a $40,000 home for $500,000. I'll tell them to stick it in their eye."

"That's what I like about you, Mangano. You've made real estate a contact sport."

He replied, "Being in real estate can be a tough business. You have to buy at the bottom and sell at the top. Gary Sagemiller sold his $50,000 house on Nantucket for $1.5 million."

"He must have been very happy."

"He was until the house next to his went for $2 million."

"It sounds like Sagemiller is cursed with bad luck."

Mangano said, "If I had to do it all over again, I would never have sold my $800,000 for $500,000. I'm sick and tired of being a nice guy."

(C) 1999, Los Angeles Times Syndicate