WARNING – Real Estate Investors: Do NOT Buy this Book!

by | BiggerPockets.com

In my previous article I talked about a book that I felt was well worth the investment of money (to buy) and time (to read). I must say, it was a great decision on my part to purchase that book. It was definitely the most efficient use of my money and time. Tired of me patting myself on the back? I’m tired of it too. Time for some humble pie…

It’s easy to talk about our great decisions, but I believe the most can be learned from bad decisions. This bad decision revolves around the book, Access 2007 – The Missing Manual.

If you are a real estate investor, DO NOT BUY THIS BOOK!

I mean no offense to the author, Matthew MacDonald by saying this. In all actuality, the portion I did read was well put together and helpful; however, the main problem is I should have NEVER been reading this book in the first place!

You’re Getting Into Real Estate Investing – Right?

When I was first getting started, my goal was to become a successful real estate investor, NOT a successful database management professional. What in the world was I thinking by purchasing and then beginning to read this book? As obvious as it may seem, my thought process at the time was (and still is) a very very easy and cleverly hidden trap: if I learn how to do this, my business will be much more efficient and I will save money. – WRONG!!!

To rub some additional salt into my own wound (serve up some more humble pie for myself), I should add that I am a former engineer, so I am pretty well versed in Excel spreadsheets. I bring up this point to show that even though the obvious “time efficient path” should have been clear to me, I still fell into the trap.

Time is Not Unlimited

Check out how thick the book is! Again, what was I thinking?!?! Not only is this book over 700 pages, it was pretty darn complicated given the fact I knew nothing about Access 2007. I still remember sitting at my computer, going page… by page… by page… and barely making any progress. After a while I though, “this is terrible, what a waste of time!”, but then I would justify continuing with the simple thought of “well, I spend company capital on the book, so I better get my monies worth”… ugggg! I hate when I trick myself with those irrational thoughts!

Finally, I convinced myself that this endeavor was a complete waste, especially given the fact that I knew my way around a spreadsheet. I threw the book up on my shelf and haven’t picked it up until today to take the pictures of it.

Lesson to Be Learned

I’m assuming if you are reading this, it is because you came to BiggerPockets looking to learn more about real estate investing, and not database management. With that being said, spend your time learning about things that pertain to your goals. Yes, I know that seems so obvious, but learn from my mistake, it can happen!

If you want to become a landlord, spend your time learning about how to screen tenants, solid lease agreements, the laws in your state, etc. If your goal is to be a wholesaler, spend your time learning marketing methods and ways to track your marketing. If your goal is to be a flipper, spend your time finding those solid contractors and sub contractors.

Don’t go and waste your time with things that aren’t going to significantly benefit your goal. I use the word “significantly” because there does need to be some distinction. By learning Access 2007could I have benefited from it? Absolutely. I could do it all myself and not have to worry about ever paying someone to create a certain type of database. However… is that benefit really “that” good considering the amount of time I would have had to spend in order to accomplish it? No way!!! Not even close!!! If I ever need to create a complicated Access database, I will GLADLY pay an expert to do it. It would be well worth it.

Do You Have an Access 2007 In Your Life?

Stop and think about what you are currently spending your time on. No matter if you’re a rookie, somewhat experienced, or a hardcore veteran. Is there anything that you are spending your time doing that really won’t have “that” much benefit to you once you accomplish it? Odds are, you do in one way or another. Heck, I probably have a couple right now that I’m not totally aware of (yet).

Remember, being an efficient/successful business person and investor is all about making sure your “time spent” is proportional to your “benefit gained”.

I would love to throw my book up on Amazon or eBay to sell it. Or better yet, use it as kindling for a bonfire, but I keep it around. I place it in a spot where I can always see it while sitting at my desk to remind me of this: use your time wisely!

About Author

Clay Huber

Clay (G+) is a licensed real estate agent and the owner of Huber Property Group, LLC, a real estate investment company located in Grand Rapids, MI. His company purchases distressed properties with the main exit strategy of fixing them up and reselling with owner financing, particularly, land contracts.


  1. I don’t get it. Is this supposed to be satire? I thought you first meant this was a real estate book. But it slowly dawned on me this book was involved in MS Access, so what in the world does this have to do with real estate investing? Did someone tell you to read it to become a real estate investor? Whole article left me hanging.

        • Clay Huber

          “As obvious as it may seem, my thought process at the time was (and still is) a very very easy and cleverly hidden trap: if I learn how to do this, my business will be much more efficient and I will save money. – WRONG!!!”

          “My business” being defined as my real estate business. Very stupid on my part to try and learn database management in order to set up my own databases, but that “is” the point of the article. Don’t repeat my stupidity.

  2. Nice instructions – stick to your goals and do not wander off doing mundane things. This also goes along with the idea that as your investing business progresses, you hand off the tedious tasks to some one else to do. This frees up more time for you to concentrate on the important items of your business. Everyone could use a good course on Time Management. Great advice in your post!


  3. Disclaimer: I’m a mainframe programmer (but didn’t sleep in a Holiday Inn last night).

    Building a database, even in MS Access, from scratch is a DAUNTING task, even for a professional. I would generally recommend using a pre-built application — the time required to do this work yourself is not worth the effort. Use google to search for “Real Estate software”. The first one that came up for me was: realtyjuggler.com, maybe not for you? How about topproducer.com, or incomeanalysis.com, or maybe you want integration with Quickbooks like those at quickbase.intuit.com/web-based-software/real-estate-software ?

    Your very best resource is Google (and your brain…)


    • Clay Huber

      “Building a database, even in MS Access, from scratch is a DAUNTING task, even for a professional.”

      That was the impression I was getting while going through the book. I was thinking, “this doesn’t feel much like real estate investing.”

      After hearing how hard it is even for professionals, I guess I really really was wasting my time with pathetic time management. Whoops!

  4. I got ya Clay!

    I’ve been there myself. When I bought my first rental I went out and bought the $200 version of Quickbooks and a big manual to go with it. Sure, it might be a great program but it was way more than I needed. (though, I really should get it working now…)

    Thanks for the excellent article. I spend a lot of time working on my “titles” and you nailed this one. Well done and thanks for the reminder!

  5. Very witty title for a write-up, Clay!

    It is indeed an important topic to think about but very little do folks tend to place value or time into it. Time and time again, success has proven to be a measurement of being able to focus on our strengths and finding others to help with our weaknesses. Nicely done!

    • “success has proven to be a measurement of being able to focus on our strengths and finding others to help with our weaknesses.”

      Well said! Even if something is our strength, it still needs to “make sense” for the business for you to be spending your time doing it.

      An extreme example I’m sure, but a strength of mine would be running around hanging bandit signs; however, I don’t think that would be the best use of my time.

  6. Ha! I’m a former Access developer who went into real estate in ’04. I’d sit up until 3am writing VBA code, or restructuring my tables, or other such irrelevancy, simply because I could. “I have too many query buttons on my dashboard, so I’m going to combine some of those queries.”

    Yeah. Horribly unfocused.

    There were some useful things: “I should tweak my Excel import routine so that it automatically classifies these Sold properties by property type, so I can just use dropdowns to select which of those buyers to automatically address my Property Available postcards to.” (Think about it.) That and a few similar things have made me money, but too much of my tinkering didn’t.

    I made myself stop by realizing that I was screwing up by touching that .mdb unless there was compelling business logic which demanded it. By that point, there rarely was.

    Building Access databases is time-consuming, but it is not daunting to those who know what we are doing. I had worked 17 Access contracts over 5 years for large and small companies here in the Phoenix area, so I got pretty good. I left it because the I/T bubble-burst had drained a lot of the available jobs, and everybody was saying, “the stock market and other trends come and go, but real estate is stable!”

    Seriously, I remember those days. ANYWAY – the RE market here has been so bad for so long that I’d be happy to build that Access database for you. Or for anyone else. Matter of fact, I will try to email you… and if that fails I can be reached at [email protected].

    BTW, I’ve never used an Access book. But I definitely consult the Help files when I forget which order a function’s arguments have to appear in. That happens a lot. 🙂

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