The other value of real estate

I've been stalking the DC real estate market for months, first hoping to cash in on the $8,000 federal tax credit, then waiting for the credit to expire so housing prices could drop. If I'm going to buy, I want to make a "good investment," right?

Not necessarily true, says Winifred Gallagher, whose column "Living Rooms" debuted in The New York Times this week. Real estate holds an often overlooked value for people that is far less tangible than a hefty down payment, she says.

She calls a home a "womb with a view," a secure place to which we can return to recharge our batteries or hide out from the storm.

Perhaps if more people changed their attitude about what it means to buy a piece of property, then more people would be getting excited about the prospect of a drop in home prices. (Real estate is going on sale!)

Yet since the government's exit from the housing market, amid reports of a drop in consumer confidence and predictions that housing prices will fall an additional 10-20%, mortgage applications have fallen to record lows and home sales have plummeted, also to record lows.

Properties may lose value through the end of the year, but eventually values will rebound, and as Gallagher says, all the while you could be building your life and putting a stamp on a property all your own, regardless of what's going on in the world outside its walls.

Whether you agree or not, the column is actually quite good.

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