WE RECENTly formed a journal- istic search party and sent our reporters out on the streets to find a vanishing piece of Americana: the affordably priced single-family house. As we stood at the office window, watching them go, we felt a lot like Noah after he’d pitched that messenger dove out of the ark to look for land. Oh, some of the younger reporters came back empty-handed. Others never came back at all. Finally, bits of freshly picked olive leaf began to flutter over the assignments desk. We saw some hope adrift on the real estate sea of doom and despair. True, it takes big money to buy even a little house. But if you’re eager to buy and able to place a stout down payment in front of the threshold, you may be able to slip through the front door before it slams. If you’re really ready, get going. If you’re at all perplexed, read on.