As TPM says, doing without a realtor does not imply that the deal was on the up and up. He went to Ed Buckham, who basically was the USFN, and asked him if he was willing to sell his place to Ryun. Buckham, nice guy that he was, agreed, and even agreed to ignore the booming D.C. real estate market and to take a loss on the deal. This isn't my inference, it's Ryun's own account (yes, there was a lawyer acting as intermediary, so what? Did Ryun not have a lawyer involved also?).
Roll Call did in fact report that Buckham's group was abandoning the D Street house on April 13, 2000. What happened to the building between then and "late July," when Ryun approached Buckham, isn't clear. Ryun's defenders claim the USFN took a loss to avoid paying property taxes while the house was empty. If so, why leave the building empty for 4 months without putting it on the market?
I've never bought a house, so maybe it is natural to see every story about a PAC being kicked out of a house because of zoning violations as an opportunity to buy, but that strikes me as iffy. That was April, and he didn't approach Buckham until July, and didn't start talking about looking for a house until "late spring/early summer 2000," and didn't start looking until later in the summer. I suppose it's possible that Roll Call's June 29 story about the USFN hiring a former Miss Idaho jogged Ryun's memory. I think a man would have to be deeply interested in the affairs of Buckham and his businesses to discuss that particular story with his wife.
The list of renovations Ryun undertook, at great expense, strongly suggests that he's been in DC for a little too long. I can understand taking out the pink marble from the bathroom, and I guess I don't know why there was a fireplace in there to start with, but I think I'd have left it in place. If I felt like I just broke the bank on a new house, I probably wouldn't be replacing the whole kitchen and retiling the bathrooms right away, either. It isn't dispositive one way or another, but dropping $55,000 on paint, tiles, and closet enhancements doesn't strike me as evidence that the USFN drove a hard bargain.
The other question that remains unanswered relates to his rent before and his mortgage after. He says he was worried about the cost of renting, which makes sense given DC's booming real estate market (the same boom which miraculously skipped his new house). What did he pay before, and what does he pay on his new mortgage? And given Adam Taff's unfortunate experience with a mortgage, who holds the mortgage? Have they chosen to rent out the basement? At what point did that possibility enter the mix? Inquiring minds…