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Thomas Scoville is a talented writer and provocateur, and his decision to relocate to our city offers another confirmation that Washington is no longer a sleepy government town. Yet Scoville’s colorful tale of abandoning the home-buying quest in favor of renting (“A New Lease on Life,” 8/15) does a disservice to the facts. To be sure, the real-estate market in Washington is fast-paced, and every home sale tends to be at a new
But there is no “irrational exuberance” at work here: The Washington region has the nation’s strongest economy, and one of the logical if vexing effects of this economic dynamism is a housing shortage. In January, the Center for Regional Analysis at George Mason University released a study projecting that the Washington region will add 1.5 million new jobs by 2025, creating a housing shortage as 786,900 new households scramble to find homes.
In his desire to skewer the local real-estate market, Scoville further skews the facts, by citing as cautionary examples the Northeast and Silicon Valley, where he intimates that real-estate appreciation has gone sluggish. Again, the facts tell a different story. Economic figures released Aug. 13 by the National Association of Realtors show that median sales prices in the Northeast have increased 13.6 percent in the past year, and that they’re up 3.6 percent in the San Francisco Bay area. With due respect to Scoville and Yale’s Robert Shiller, such healthy rates of appreciation hardly illustrate the onset of a real-estate bust.
Scoville’s hyperbole has the unfortunate effect of drowning out one compelling argument that he offers in favor of renting: mobility and low maintenance. Given the many other arguments in favor of home ownership, I’ll leave it to the Washington City Paper’s readers to judge whether Scoville’s decision not to buy a home represents the “shrewdest of financial speculations”or if it sells himself, and those who would follow his counsel, short.