Romanoff: Sold!
Romanoff: Sold!

Andrew Romanoff, real estate mogul

There are a couple of ways to read the news that U.S. Senate hopeful Andrew Romanoff sold his Denver home to help fuel his grassroots, take-no-PAC-money campaign.

At first glance, unloading his house in one of the worst real-estate markets in history, for almost twice what he paid for it fourteen years ago, suggests he's a can-do financial wizard -- and gutsy, too.

But selling his modest 1928 ranch, one block from Washington Park, for "only" $360,000? And to a developer who says he didn't know Romanoff was the seller until late in the process? Sounds like the guy's got the money smarts of Dan "Mileage Is My Business" Maes.

I've been doing some house-hunting myself in these grim times, and it's definitely a buyer's market. But you can't get a termite-infested, ripe-for-scrapeoff bungalow with a bad boiler east of Washington Park for less than half a million -- unless, of course, you're a savvy developer, negotiating with a motivated maverick Democrat.

Romanoff's two-bed, two-bath place is relatively small -- 946 square feet on the main floor, almost as much finished space in the basement. He paid close to $190,000 for it in 1996, with most of that coming from an 80 percent first mortgage. According to public records, the mortgage was still substantial in 2008, just under $140,000 (Democrats are almost as bad as Republicans when it comes to debt reduction). A staffer confirms that Romanoff's net from the sale will be around $225,000.

Could the candidate have done better if he'd held out a while? No doubt. But if the point was to raise some quick cash in these critical final weeks leading up to the primary, then the bargain-basement sale makes some sense. And these days, a seller also faces the genuine possibility that prices could decline to even more dismal depths next year.

It all depends, really, on who gets elected. Someone who took it in the shorts on their own housing deal might be in a good position to feel the property-owning populace's pain.

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