Mortgage Industry Group Short Sales Own Headquarters

Last Updated Feb 8, 2010 3:29 PM EST

The Mortgage Bankers Association is the trade association for the lending industry: they put out weekly stats about mortgage application volume and refis, advocate fair lending, and lobby for their members, a group that includes law firms, tech companies like IBM, and, of course, mortgage bankers and brokers.

And, it's been revealed, they're going to be renters.

According to a story by James R. Hagerty in today's Wall Street Journal indicates that the association has sold its headquarters in Washington, D.C. for some $30 million less than it paid just a couple of years ago.

The Journal notes that the MBA would not comment on its financing, but that two sources noted that they believed the association would pay off part of the loan.

In other words, a short sale.

Oh, what a difference a bust makes. In January of 2007, the MBA noted in a press release touting its purchase that "it is only right that the national association for the commercial and residential real estate finance industry owns its property."

At the time, the then-under-construction 170,000-square-foot French limestone and glass building certainly seemed like a trophy. It was even touted by its developers as "only five blocks from the White House."

Yet the sale of the ten-story building Friday, to real estate data provider CoStar Group, was for just $41.3 million -- substantially below the building's purchase price of $79 million, and its loan package of $75 million, according to the Journal.

Bad PR move for an industry that is itself trying to encourage homeowners to stay in their underwater homes. The CEO of the MBA, John Courson, noted in a separate interview to the Journal last December that defaults lower property values.

Poor D.C., first hit by a blizzard, and now this.

To be fair to Courson, he's not the exec who was helming the MBA when the building was bought. That honor belongs to Jonathan Kempner, who noted in a press release in June 2008 that "we came to the inescapable conclusion last year that owning our own building was the smartest long term investment for the Association."

Of course, in real estate, "long-term" is generally defined as "longer than three years." At least, that's what the industry keeps trying to tell others.

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  • Alison Rogers

    Since graduating from Harvard summa cum laude, Alison Rogers has been a reporter, an editor, a real-estate agent, a Wall Street desk jockey, a columnist, a failed flipper, and a landlady. A member of the National Association of Realtors, she currently sells and rents luxury co-ops in Manhattan for the Chelsea-based firm DG Neary. (If you've got $27,500 a month, the firm has an apartment for you!) Her book, Diary of a Real Estate Rookie, was called "a valuable guide for rookie buyers" by AOL/Walletpop, "beach-read fun" by the New York Observer, and "witty" by Newsweek.