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White House has lost one-quarter of its market value in three years

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Evan Vucci/AP/file

(Read caption) President Barack Obama walks out of the Oval Office to board Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House on Dec. 22 in Washington.

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The Obamas should be glad they don’t actually own the White House. If they had bought the house in January 2009, when they moved in, and paid fair market value, they would have paid $291.8 million, according to Now it’s worth only $251.6 million.

And if they had bought at the peak of the market, in December 2007, they would have seen the value of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue plummet by a quarter. Then, it was worth $331.5 million.

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Of course, this is all notional, as the White House is owned by Uncle Sam and isn’t about to go on the market. That is, unless President Obama decides to get really serious about debt reduction and suggest his residence be sold.

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Despite the White House’s decline in value, the average Washington-area homeowner can feel pretty comfortable with housing prices. The Washington real estate market was the strongest in the country, compared with a year ago, according to the Standard & Poor’s/Case Shiller 20-city Home Price Index. The average Washington home rose 3.7 percent in October, compared with the year before. Compared to the month before, prices nationally declined, but Washington showed the smallest decline, 0.2 percent.

Back to the White House: In case Obama does propose selling, a prospective buyer might like to know that it is 55,000 square feet, and has 16 bedrooms, 35 bathrooms, attached garage, central cooling, forced air heat, and a fireplace or several. It was built in 1792, burned down by the British in 1814, rebuilt, and then extensively renovated during Harry Truman’s presidency.