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Mortgage Bankers Association Sells Its Headquarters Short, Loses MILLIONS

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Call it real estate irony.

The Washington Post reports that the Mortgage Bankers Association, the trade group that represents about 2,400 real estate finance companies, has sold its Washington, D.C. headquarters for $41 million -- just over half what it paid for the building three years ago.

When the MBA purchased the new ten-story building in 2007 for $79 million, the organization said it would finance the property in part by leasing the space it didn't use to other companies. "We have come to the inescapable conclusion that owning our own building [is] the smartest long-term investment for the association," the group's CEO at the time, Jonathan Kempner, said.

But in the downturn, the MBA was unable to attract tenants -- the Wall Street Journal reports that only about 10 percent of space is currently rented, leaving half the building empty -- and last fall the group announced its decision to sell the property.

CoStar Group, the commercial real estate information firm that purchased the building, will move its headquarters from Bethesda to Washington, where it expects to occupy 80 percent of the office space. "It's a quality building at a rock-bottom price," the company's CEO, Andrew Florance, said. "We think we'll save tens of millions of dollars over the next decade." The MBA, meanwhile, is reportedly shopping for rental space.

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