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Old 10-27-2005, 09:40 PM
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Lightbulb The Big Real Estate Riddle -- Is Now a Good Time?

Sept. 27 (Bloomberg) -- To all would-be home sellers who aim to time the top in real estate prices, best of luck.

In even the most liquid and transparent investment market, catching just the right moment to jump this way or that is a dicey proposition. And real estate is a whole lot less liquid and transparent than most.

No matter how many stories you hear about fortunes made trading houses like bubble-gum cards, it's a market particularly ill-suited to the making of short-term timing moves.

Costs of selling are high, and complications can be many. I can testify to this first hand, being in the process of selling a home myself for personal and family reasons -- not because I have any special insight into whether it's ``a good time to sell'' or not.

To be sure, evidence abounds of a manic, overheated market in many places. A recent letter to the Wall Street Journal proudly proclaimed that ``1.2 million Americans are Realtors,'' which according to Labor Department data means they now outnumber doctors, police officers, bartenders and even lawyers.

An e-mail crossed my desk recently from a real estate investment outfit that says it has figured out how to keep profiting even after ``the real-estate bubble bursts.''

Newspapers and other media brim over with expanded coverage of real estate and all its trappings, including cable TV shows celebrating the game of flipping -- buying houses, fixing them up, and selling them again in short order for a handy profit.


``Such programs are yet another attempt to cash in on the widespread misconception that real estate is the road to easy riches,'' says John T. Reed in his Real Estate Investor's Monthly newsletter.

The frenzy in real estate is not without some solid underpinning. They don't call it ``real property'' for nothing -- it has great human utility as well as investment appeal. Houses can be much nicer to look at and cozier to occupy than a bond or a stock certificate.

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