- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 24, 2004

The local real estate market is in an otherworldly tizzy, especially in the fashionable neighborhoods of the city.

Looking to buy a place? Get in line and take a deep breath. Be ready to swallow hard. A jug of Maalox could be useful.

Never mind the list price. That is merely a starting point.

You want a home inspection? Please. Get out of here. An appraisal? You have insulted the homeowner.

You have come to the front lines of “city living, dc style!” — the vision of Mayor Anthony A. Williams intended to reverse the city’s population decline of the last 50 years.

You have come with Mohammed A. Hasanian, a Realtor with Long & Foster, who wakes up each day with a smile glued to his face. Of course, if you were he, you would be smiling, too.

The demand for housing is overwhelming supply, Mr. Hasanian said, aided in part by historically low interest rates.

Here is the plan: You have elected to drive around the city until you come upon a newly planted for-sale sign in front of a place that is falling down. Falling down qualifies as a fixer-upper these days, a bargain that cannot be passed up. No place stays on the market beyond a couple of minutes, so you are prepared to act swiftly.

You sprint to the for-sale sign, with a saw in hand, and remove it to stave off the competition.

Competition is a problem if you are a potential home buyer. People start acting crazy. People start behaving as if they are at a blackjack table in Las Vegas, playing with Monopoly money. They start upping the ante. Here is an extra $50,000 to make this contract seem more worthy than all the rest.

True story from Mr. Hasanian: A 585-square-foot condo in Northeast Washington, priced at $219,000 in as-in condition, ends up selling for $281,000 after fetching 11 contracts.

“It is very, very crazy,” Mr. Hasanian said.

It is a good crazy if you are a homeowner.

Is there anything you, the potential home buyer, can do for the homeowner? How about a one-week, all-expenses-paid trip to a European city of the person’s choosing? How about a donation in the name of the person’s favorite charity? Dinner at the Palm? No problem. What can we do to make this thing work?

Forget the mildew issue. Mildew lends character to a home, gives it that lived-in quality.

The bars on the windows are a nice touch as well.

My, my, you have a foreign substance growing in your outdated refrigerator.

Does the fungus convey with the property, and if so, how much will it increase the sale price?

You have lead in your water? Great. Lead in the water is an overrated drawback.

Buying closet space never has been so perilous, so fraught with hidden elements that can sink a potential deal. This is not home buying in the traditional sense, not in this bug-eyed, foaming-at-the-mouth market.

This is a fight to the end.

You don’t just need a Realtor who never sleeps. You need a good trainer and cut man. You need the best equipment: a mouthpiece and head gear. You need to be in peak physical condition.

Remember not to blink during the negotiating process.

He who blinks first is one step closer to taking up residence with the Palm Man, who plies his craft beneath the Ninth Street overpass on New York Avenue NE. Your motto: Will wave a branch at passing motorists for a chance to bid on a condemned property.

An open house is the worst. This is the event that features 500 potential home buyers descending on a property in a three-hour span, many in the company of bodyguards, lawyers and Mace, daring anyone to intrude on their pursuit of the American Dream.

The ever-smiling Mr. Hasanian asks that you not pinch him. This is his dream, too. He has hit the Realtor version of the lottery, the best real estate market ever.

“It’s unbelievable,” he said.

You own a tar-paper shack? Perfect. Put it up for sale and let the offers accumulate.

You say the shack is drafty in the winter?

In this market, a drafty tar-paper shack is considered charming.

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