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Last week, I finished reading House Lust, by Dan McGinn, a Newsweek reporter, who writes an online real estate column every other week. The book, published in 2007, captures the frenetic pace of the mid-decade housing boom, and Americans’ obsession with home values, upgrades, and real estate investment. There are plenty of interesting anecdotes and characters in the book—-which I actually read—-but for this blog post, I’m going to shamefully quote from the publicist’s insert because it serves my purpose.

“Dan McGinn and his wife have an obnoxious habit. After every visit to a friend’s house, they go home and go online, click on the tax assessor’s website, and plug in the address of the home they just visited. Out pops a picture of the house, the floor plan, the square footage, the how much the owner paid. The McGinn’s will proceed to debate the home’s good and bad points, describe how they might renovate it, and take a best guess at what it would sell for today.”

Yes, that is obnoxious. But, I understand the instinct, and I’m sure plenty of others do too. In my eight months writing Buyer’s Market—-which reports price reductions in area properties—-I’ve started to get a feel for home values in various neighborhoods. However, my expertise has not been tested properly. I was recently talking to my parents about our old home in Mt. Pleasant (and when I say old, I mean the family moved to Bethesda in 1987).

Nonetheless, living in the District now, I see the house from time to time. It’s on Adams Mill Road, across from the zoo and close to the intersection of Klingle Road. It looks exactly like every other row house on that block, except that it has an ugly greenhouse-like glass structure enclosing a room above the porch. My mother bought it in the early 1980s for roughly 180,000, she remembers. When she sold it in 1987, the value had increased by approximately $35,000.

My father guessed that it would go for $550,000 today. My mother said $498,000. I conjectured $670,000 (my reasoning: Mt. Pleasant’s not near a Metro, but it’s pretty and quiet, has the “nice community feel,” and if you’ve got young kids, what could be better than having elephants across the street? As a former Mt. Pleasant two-year-old, I can safely say not much.)

Anyway, Zillow, a website that estimates home values—-unreliably, according to many agents—-says $719,000. In the last year, 3 bedroom/two bathroom homes sold in Mt. Pleasant have ranged between $439,000 and $850,000, with the average price coming in around $657,544. But, of course there can be no definitive answer until the market has its way. So, I’m going to provide a property that has been sold in the last year, and you can wager a guess as to what it cost. I’ll post the answer on Friday…(and yeah, we might be playing this game again…maybe couple times a week.)

3137 19TH ST NW

General Information: This three bedroom, two bathroom property went under contract in late December 2007. It was built in 1912. The square footage is listed as 1,800.

Agent remarks:Restored to perfection! Spacious rooms (20.5 ft wide) – DR seats 16. Gracious LR for entertaining w/ multiple seating arrangements. Well planned kit adjoins sun drenched morning rm which flows to lovely English garden. Master bedrm w/ walkin closet + 2 well proportioned bedrms. Well lit LL FR/gathering rm has custom shelving. Attention to detail throughout. This one is a winner!