(Corrects spelling of Tim Geithner in headline.)
A government perch may offer power and influence—not to mention free parking—but affords no protection from the housing crunch. The one-quarter of U.S. households now underwater on their mortgages may take consolation from the soggy real estate investments of some government leaders. Using data from Zillow, a Web site that provides home valuations based on comparable sales, and other sources, we compiled a list of who's up and who's down.
TIMOTHY GEITHNER, LARCHMONT, N.Y.
The man charged with helping struggling American families hang on to their homes has not been able to get rid of his. Geithner paid $1.60 million for a 5-bedroom Tudor in the upscale suburb of Larchmont in August 2004. The home was listed for $1.63 million in February 2009, shortly after he became Treasury Secretary. It's now being rented out. Lucky for Geithner the Bethesda (Md.) ranch house he bought in August 2009 for $947,000 is holding its value, says a local broker, thanks to some interior renovations.
BEN BERNANKE, WASHINGTON
When it comes to real estate, the Federal Reserve chairman's timing hasn't been the best. Bernanke bought his four-bedroom Capitol Hill townhouse for $839,000 in May 2004. Prices in the area peaked 18-24 months later, boosting its value to around $925,000. The home is now worth at least $30,000 less, according to a local agent.
PETER ORSZAG, WASHINGTON
The Office of Management & Budget director purchased his 3,000+ sq. ft. home in 2001 for $710,000. At the peak in 2006, the northwest D.C. bungalow would have fetched $1.27 million, according to Zillow. Local brokers reckon it's worth at least that today since the neighborhood remains a sought-after address, thanks in part to good schools.
NANCY PELOSI, SAN FRANCISCO, CALIF.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has fared better than her peers, likely because her husband is an experienced real estate investor. The couple paid $2.25 million for their 3,300 sq. ft. Pacific Heights home in late 2007, well after the market had peaked. Zillow lists the value of the 1938 house at $5.78 million, a figure that checks out with area brokers.
ROBERT SHILLER, NEW HAVEN, CONN.
Few have tracked the real estate market more closely than Shiller, one of the architects of the widely cited S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index. The Yale professor paid $62,000 for his five-bedroom New Haven home in 1989. It was worth about 10 times that at the peak, but has since shed $177,000, for an estimated value of $561,500, says Zillow.
Data: Zillow, Local brokers