Q: In your opinion, is ownership of real estate still the best bet against inflation?

A: Although some of the bloom has rubbed off real estate as an inflation hedge, it still appears to be about as good as any other, and probably better than most.

But a word of caution: An increasing segment of informed opinion is taking the position that the prices of single-family houses, at least, have about peaked. This opinion cites a number of reasons. But the main ones are that interest rates have gone too high and the "mania" to own a home has driven prices to the point where many would-be purchasers can no longer afford to buy a house.

Lenders and the government are attempting to come up with "innovative" and "creative" financing that counteracts high interest rate and high prices. But there are limits to innovation and creativeness. At some point, they become foolhardy wistfulness.

Q: I'm getting started in the construction end of real estate after serveral years in residential brokerage. I'm running into terms like "floor loan" and "ceiling loan." Can you tell me what these mean?

A: A "floor loan" is usually the part of a permanent loan that the lender will release when the building and other improvements are completed, simply on the basis of their completion and before they're producing income.

A "ceiling loan" (it may have another name, depending on the lender) is generally meant to be the mount the lender will release when rent roll requirements are imposed as well. Sometimes it's meant to be the total permanent loan that would be released. Check the exact meaning of these terms with the leader with whom you're negotiating or doing business.

Q: The rental housiing shortage, from what I read and observe, is becoming more critical all the time. What effect is this likely to have on real estate generally?

A: There will be several effects, I think. First, more rehabiliation of existing housing. Second, an increasing pressure for rent controls in some areas. Third, without rent controls, increasing rent costs for most renters, and this will be relatively rapid. Fourth, many of us will have to reduce our standards of living as they relate to housing (fewer amenities, smaller houses, less land).

Single-family housing will continue to be popular. Alternatives such as condomiums are not completely accepted yet or, as in the case of apartment rental units, sometimes prohibitively expensive.

But things are not entirely bad. All the foregoing may lead to a closer coordination between central cities and suburban communities. They will work together in an effort to control growth on a basis acceptable to both consumer-environmentalists and builder-developers.

Perhaps the answer lies in small, regional coordinating groups that include both city and suburban leaders. They will be pledged to work out regional strategies of acceptable growth and environmental controls, and to provide housing in sufficient quantity to satisfy needs and sufficient quality to satisfy desires.

Earl A. Snyder, a realtor, appraiser and attorney who specializes in investment real estate appraising and counseling, answers questions only in this column. His address: 14909 Kalmia Dr., Laurel, Md. 20810.