Newmans Own

Odd Lots

Nora and I did see a few houses last weekend, about which more later. In the meantime, here are a few odds and ends I have come across. I will try not to get too technical.

Thought experiment: You have been saving for more than a decade to buy a house. When you finally start looking, however, even though you’re in the midst of one of the greatest real estate busts ever, the housing market still seems ludicrous . In fact, in most cases it’s still cheaper to rent. Meanwhile, the stock market has crashed and is at historic lows. Do you take the money you have been saving for a house and put it in the market? Keep looking for that house? Both? Or just buy an annuity from AIG ? As usual, Felix Salmon’s perspective is worth reading.

Which leads to my second point: The price of a house is no reflection on its owner. It is simply a function of the market. I am surprised, as a first-time would-be homebuyer, at how emotional people get about the value of their house. (This is different from getting emotional about the house itself, which I completely understand, especially if you have lived in it for a long time.) It’s a piece of property. It may not be worth as much as you would like it to be. That’s OK. Most of your other possessions aren’t, either. I know, I’m a buyer, I would say that. But really, it shouldn’t be this hard for a real estate agent to tell his client that his “mid $300,000 range condo” is worth about $60,000 less than he thinks.

I know you were joking, Nora weren’t you? when you suggested we move a house from Washington to Pittsburgh, where it would be cheaper. But maybe you’re on to something: Deborah Sarnoff and Robert Gotkin just moved a house , designed by Robert Venturi, no less, from the Jersey Shore to Long Island. And they only paid $1 for it. (Moving, of course, was extra.)

If anyone has a house they’d like to sell us for $1, even from an unknown architect, leave a note in comments, and we’ll get back to you.