The Top Reads On Real Estate

By Robert J. Bruss
Inman News Service
Saturday, December 16, 2006

Each week, in addition to writing my Real Estate Mailbag advice column, I read and review at least one new real estate book. At the end of each year, I select the best of those 52.

This year, that has been especially difficult because there were so many high-quality offerings. Here are the 10 best of 2006, plus a few honorable mentions:

· "Trump-Style Negotiation," by George Ross (Wiley, $24.95). This book offers insights into Donald Trump's big-thinking negotiation style, which leaves the contract details to his trusted adviser, George Ross. Only serious real estate buyers, sellers, real estate agents and investors will study this extremely well-written book, which reveals negotiation tactics not found elsewhere, illustrated with many examples from Trump acquisitions.

· "The Automatic Millionaire Homeowner," by David Bach (Broadway, $19.95). If you could read only one real estate book, whether you are a renter considering a home purchase, a current homeowner, a seasoned realty investor or a real estate agent, this is the book for you because it shows how homeownership can lead to wealth. The book's two themes are that renters can become millionaires by investing in their first house or condo, and that residence can become the foundation for a better home or more investment property in future years.

· "Buy Even Lower," by Scott Frank and Andy Heller (Kaplan Business, $18.95). Aimed at real estate investors and real estate sales agents, this book, by two full-time corporate executives and part-time realty investors, shows how they buy single-family houses at targeted below-market prices and then either buy and hold, buy and flip, or (their favorite) buy and lease-purchase. The authors favor "ugly and awful" three-bedroom, two-bath houses in middle-income neighborhoods.

· "Real Estate Debt Can Make You Rich," by Steve Dexter (McGraw-Hill, $21.95). The two audiences for this book, which explains why real estate debt is good, are home buyers and real estate agents who want to understand the inner workings of the mortgage industry, and investors who need to know how "good debt" can be created to maximize profits. The mortgage-broker author reveals how avoiding "inexperienced and inept loan hacks" can help you obtain the best mortgages to buy a home or investment property. The book includes the best compilation of real estate Web sites available.

· "Bubbles, Booms, and Bust: Make Money in Any Real Estate Market," by Blanche Evans (McGraw-Hill, $16.95). This extremely well-researched and up-to-date book explains the signals of rising, falling or neutral local home sales markets, and how to profit in any situation if you take a long-term perspective on home sales. "Except for local economic shocks, like the collapse or exit of a major employer, home prices nationwide have not gone down since the Great Depression," the author writes.

· "Success as a Real Estate Agent for Dummies," by Dirk Zeller (Wiley, $21.99). Whether you are a new real estate agent, a longtime pro or an individual thinking about becoming an agent, this basic book by a real estate coach explains what is involved in selling real estate for commissions, how to use sales time management profitably and how to get started fast by contacting expired listings and "for sale by owners." The book includes a valuable list of Web sites for realty agents plus the author's advice on how to gain competitive advantage.

· "Everything You Need to Know Before Buying a Co-Op, Condo, or Townhouse," by Ken Roth (AMACOM, $18.95). The author, a real estate lawyer, shares his many legal and personal experiences so readers don't make costly mistakes. Heavy emphasis is placed on the pros and cons of homeowner associations, including "condo commando" members who seek to take charge of the "mini-democracy" members.

· "Who Says You Can't Buy a Home!" by David Reed (AMACOM, $17.95). This author, a mortgage broker, is on the side of home buyers and real estate agents as he explains how mortgage lenders look at borrowers. "Anyone with steady income, no matter how bad their credit rating, or even with no credit, can find a mortgage to buy a home," he writes.

· "Confessions of a Real Estate Entrepreneur," by James A. Randel (McGraw-Hill, $21.95). This book's theme is how to "add value" to real estate, whether you invest in raw land, houses, run-down factory buildings with rezoning potential or fixer-upper apartments and offices. The self-deprecating author shares his mistakes and his successes, along with his advice to invest with as little of your own cash as possible so profits can be maximized. Negotiation strategies are heavily emphasized throughout.

· "The Reverse Mortgage Advantage," by Warren Boroson (McGraw-Hill, $21.95). Virtually all the key aspects of senior-citizen reverse mortgages are thoroughly explained in this detailed but easy-to-read book that emphasizes the potential pitfalls as well as the major benefits. The author shatters reverse-mortgage myths, such as "the bank owns the house," the supposed high costs, and even the scary stories of the early days of reverse mortgages, when loans differed greatly from now.

Honorable mentions:

· "Find It, Fix It, Flip It!" by Michael Corbett (Plume, $15). This author, host of the TV Extra program "Mansions and Millionaires," created a technique for changing a fix-up home's lifestyle from dull routine to upscale, but without high renovation costs. The before-and-after photos are amazing. The "profit calculator chart" shows readers how to spot the potential profit by purchasing problem houses and correcting drawbacks to add value. This book is different because the author shows how to add market value by improving the lifestyle of the buyer.

· "Landlording on Autopilot," by Mike Butler (Wiley, $19.95). Both longtime and beginner residential landlords will gain from this unusual book about how to profitably manage tenants in your properties. "Your tenants are your employees" is the philosophy of the retired, no-nonsense cop author who shares his basic belief that most tenants would own their own homes if they had adequate income and good credit.

· "2 Years to a Million in Real Estate," by Matthew A. Martinez (McGraw-Hill, $21.95). This is the success story of an ex-dot-com employee who got tired of working long hours for 10 years and watching his fellow workers lose their jobs. He accidentally discovered real estate's market-value appreciation, leverage, tax savings, cash flow, reliability and freedom from a 9-to-5 workday. In the process, he became a multimillionaire, and he shows readers how they can do the same.

· "Home Buying for Dummies, Third Edition," by Eric Tyson and Ray Brown (Wiley, $21.99). Because of its ultra-complete coverage of almost every home-buying topic, this 600,000-copy best-seller in previous editions is still the best how-to-buy-a-home book. The new edition adds extensive coverage of resources on the Internet, where more than 75 percent of today's buyers begin their quest. This ultra-honest book even takes a few swipes at inept real estate agents who make the home-buying process more difficult than it needs to be.

Robert J. Bruss writes the Real Estate Mailbag column that appears in this section.

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