The Unofficial Guide to Real Estate Investing: Book Review
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Several weeks ago I wrote a post titled “How to Make a Million Dollars in Real Estate” and followed it up with another called “What is Hybrid Real Estate Investing.” These posts were designed to explain the investing theories I have followed over the past several years in my real estate investing career. However – I’m not a genius. (Big shock – right!?) I didn’t invent these strategies, but crafted them after reading a lot of books (and a lot of trial and error in my investing career.) One of the books that was most instrumental in forming my investing theories was “The Unofficial Guide to Real Estate Investing” by Martin Stone and Spencer Strauss. Today I want to share my thoughts on this book, giving you some of the highlights as well as things to watch for.
What I Loved about The Unofficial Guide to Real Estate Investing
No False Promises
The opening line of the book sums up on one sentence what I loved most about this book:
“Creating wealth through real estate is a long term proposition and, it is not realistic to think you can make a fortune in this game overnight.” Pg. xxv
Very few real estate books would dare begin with such a bold statement.
- You mean I can’t retire in just 19 weeks?
- I’m not going to have a yacht by next month?
- I’m not going to make 7 figure profits on my first flip?!
No. You aren’t, and this book is not afraid to say that from the start. It instantly gives you an idea of what this book is going to teach you: long term strategies for building wealth in real estate. However, the authors make no secret either that large amounts of wealth can be built through real estate.
Explanation of Beginner Concepts
Many wannabe real estate investors try to take the plunge into real estate investing without first understanding the basics. The authors of The Unofficial Guide to Real Estate Investing do a great job of explaining these concepts early in the book. I believe that having a firm grasp on these topics is key in acheiving success in real estate investing, and I believe Stone and Strauss (the authors) do an excellent job of explaining them. Concepts discussed include:
- Investing vs. speculating
- How lending works
- The power of compound interest and leverage
- Cashflow vs. appreciation.
- How to determine value
- Plus a lot more
I appreciate also the authors’ conservative approach to investing (non-risky), while giving a well rounded introduction to many different types of investing and many different investing types.
A Step By Step Plan
If you have been reading my articles over the past year on BiggerPockets – this probably sounds very familiar. I’m all about plans. I’m all about creating a road map that will get me from where I am now to where I want to be in ten years. It was this book, early in my investing career, that gave me this desire to map out my plan.
The authors of “The Unofficial Guide to Real Estate Investing” do an excellent job of laying out that plan. While I find value in every chapter of this book – Chapter 9, titled “Building an Investment Plan” is, in my opinion, the strongest chapter in this book.
This chapter outlines an example plan (just like I did in my “How to Make A Million Dollars” post) that details how a person could theoretically go from just beginning to having serious wealth in less than 40 years of savings. The idea I talk about often called “Trading Up” (which is essentially the Monopoly strategy of trading houses for hotels) is the same strategy they use in their example.
Another aspect about Chapter 9 that I really enjoyed was their discussion on how a different plan/strategy is needed for people in different stages of life. For example, a person in their twenties with very little income and lots of ambition is going to have a much different strategy than someone ten years from retirement with no extra time to devote to investing. Often times in the real estate investing industry – we see “this is exactly how you should do this” but in reality – everyone’s situation is different. Again – this chapter is what set this book apart for me as one of my all time favorites.
What I Didn’t Love About The Unofficial Guide to Real Estate Investing
Perhaps I should have started this book review series with a book that I didn’t love as much as this one. It’s difficult to find things that I hate about this book. There are a few issues, however, that I’ve noticed in the book that would make this even better.
A Little Short on the Details
Because this book is a “big picture” book that covers the entire gambit of the real estate investing world in one book, there are obvious details left out. While I understand this is the nature of an all-encompassing book, I would have loved more detail on topics like finding a great deal and marketing.
In reality- no book could contain all the information needed to fully succeed. This is why it is so important to stay close to sources like the BiggerPockets Forums, where you can ask questions about the details that are too small to be included in most real estate books.
A Little Outdated
The Unofficial Guide to Real Estate Investing was originally released in 1999 and an update was released in 2003, so there are obviously some differences in the market. Some of the financing rules have changed quite a bit, as well. However – unlike many books written during the mid 2000s when the market was crazy, this book is still based on sound principles. One of my favorite lines in the book, found in the introduction, states,
“Because real estate is a cyclical commodity, it’s possible to get caught investing with your pants down – just as a host of others did in the late 1980s. However, our unshaken belief is that if you approach real estate as a business and use sound business principles in running and investing in it, the probability of failure is minimal.” -page xxvi.
I find this quote especially interesting in today’s market – since we have once again experienced this downturn and I think this quote makes even more sense to us today. Those who stuck to the sound principles of cashflow and buying intelligently made it out mostly unscathed but those who followed the trends and ignored sound business principles found themselves, as the book states, “with their pants down.”
As I’m sure you can from this review, The Unofficial Guide to Real Estate Investing is one of my favorite real estate books of all time. The concepts are timeless, smart, and thorough. Whether you are an experienced investor or just starting out – I believe this book should be required reading for those looking to build serious wealth in real estate over long term. It’s not a difficult read (though it is fairly long) so be sure to pick up a copy and let me know below, in the comments, what you thought of it. Click here to see the book on Amazon.
Photo: JD Hancock