7 Absolute Must-Read Real Estate Books for Beginning Investors


Thirteen years ago I was a brand new real estate investor. I had just graduated from college with a biology degree, and I decided to jump into the world of real estate entrepreneurship full-time.

Looking back, it was sort of a crazy move. But I wanted a challenge and freedom more than I wanted the security and comfort of a steady job. I’m very glad now that I made that decision.

Unfortunately, when I began I had zero experience in business or finance. I had cleaned and painted a few rentals for a family member during middle school, but that was the extent of my real estate experience. I had never even owned my own home before attempting to buy my first investment property. So, if you think you know nothing about real estate as a beginner, try that!

Self-education was obviously a big priority during my early investing career. Some of the early education I received was great, but just as much of it was a distraction or a waste of time that slowed down my progress.

So, the purpose of this article is to give advice to my beginner self. What follows are the 7 books I would recommend to myself if I could go back in time after my 13 years in the trenches of full-time buying, financing, selling, and renting residential real estate. Enjoy!

How to Purchase Real Estate With No (or Low) Money!

One of the biggest struggles that many new investors have is in coming up with the money to purchase their first real estate properties. Well, BiggerPockets can help with that too. The Book on Investing in Real Estate with No (and Low) Money Down can give you the tools you need to get started in real estate, even if you don’t have tons of cash lying around.

Click Here to Download

7 Topics Beginners (and All Investors) Need to Study

Ok, rookie. You have a long road ahead of you. In addition to a whole lot of hustle, knowledge will be your key competitive advantage.

While you should stay humble and realize there will always be more to learn, don’t underestimate the power of intense, focused study for a short period of time. If you will commit to daily, real-world learning plus deliberate study of the topics I share below, you can educate yourself better than 90 percent of real estate investors in just the next 12 months.

Here are the 7 real estate topics I recommend you focus on during your early education:

  • General principles and strategies
  • Financing
  • Deal analysis
  • Rehab and construction estimating
  • Finding and negotiating deals
  • Property management
  • Legal and contracts

These are your educational building blocks. Look at these as the “101 courses” in your self-education as a real estate investor. The books you read, the experienced investors you meet, and the mistakes you make will all be your teachers.

So take good notes!

Why Books?

Everything is free on the internet these days, right? So why read books?

Well, you should spend a lot of time on sites like BiggerPockets.com, beginning with their free Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Real Estate Investing. You should interact in the Forums to ask questions. You should get as much information for free on the internet as you can.

But I like books because they are a way to focus your education without distraction. Reading a book is a much different educational experience than the constant beeping, pop-ups, and eye-candy you’ll be distracted with while on your mobile device or computer.

Related: 5 Powerful Books That Changed the Direction of My Life

I still love physically holding a book, circling and underlining big ideas with my pen, and then making notes in the margins (although I’ve also started doing this with e-books on my tablet).

I also love the “conversation” you have with an author of a book. It’s like they’re your personal teacher. I even find that just walking by and noticing a physical book on my shelf brings back ideas and reminds me of the tips that author gave me in the past.

So, if you’re on board with using books as a key part of your education, here are my 7 top book recommendations for a beginner real estate investor.


1. Building Wealth One House at a Time by John Schaub

Topics Covered:

  • General principles and strategies
  • Financing
  • Deal analysis (the basics)
  • Finding and negotiating deals
  • Property management (the basics)
  • Legal and contracts (the basics for leases, options, and purchase contracts)

What I Like About This Book

John Schaub was one of the original teachers I learned from, both with his book and with other sources, like his newsletter and in-person classes. I consider John the Warren Buffett of real estate investing. His advice is down to earth, solid, and it’s worked for over four decades in his business as a landlord, house flipper, and lender.

I often hear people complain that some investing books can be too basic. I find those same people often ignore fundamentals while searching for glitzy, more complicated concepts that supposedly are better.

This book is all about the fundamentals. He covers an overall strategy for achieving financial independence with residential real estate, and he also gets into finding, financing, renting, and selling properties.

The main idea of the book is that you can build a fortune and do everything you want in life by investing in little real estate deals like single family houses and small multi-units. I have taken this advice to heart, and I agree wholeheartedly with it.

Big Ideas From the Book

  • Buying one house at a time can make you wealthy
  • Houses are your best investment
  • The right houses attract long-term tenants
  • Buy houses without borrowing from banks
  • Sell houses using lease options for maximum profit
  • A plan to get properties free and clear of debt


John spends some time talking about appreciation of real estate and how it can make you rich. I would be careful depending upon appreciation as part of your real estate evaluation. Appreciation is uncertain and difficult to predict or depend upon.

A more conservative plan is to make enough money using other methods John talks about, like cash flow and amortization of loans. Appreciation may come, but your deal should work without it.

2. The Book on Investing in Real Estate With No (and Low) Money Down by Brandon Turner

Topics Covered:

  • Financing
  • Deal analysis
  • Legal and contracts (just the basics of notes, mortgages, and leases)

What I Like About This Book

I like that Brandon is very thorough and detailed in his coverage of the non-traditional tools you can use to finance your real estate purchases. I also like that he practices what he preaches, as in he has used most of these tools himself to create a great portfolio of real estate.

The title includes “no money down,” which might understandably be a turn-off. But realize that the book is not about getting rich quickly with tricks or getting something for nothing. The book simply gives you a full toolbox of financing techniques that you can use to buy real estate.

Related: The Practical, 3-Step Way to Get Started in Real Estate With No Money

You can always use more conventional strategies like going to the bank, putting 30 percent down, and getting a conventional loan if you want to (or if you can). But do yourself a favor and learn how to make money without traditional money, and the rest of this real estate game will be a lot easier.

Big Ideas From the Book

  • Begin investing with owner-occupied properties
  • Creative strategies = tools in a toolbox
  • The “elevator pitch” for private lenders
  • A laundry list of creative financing techniques and strategies with explanations


Brandon admits as much, but this book is only the beginning of your study of financing techniques. To actually execute them will require local help with the legal and contract part of the techniques. But the knowledge of how and why are the important foundations you’ll get in this book.


3. What Every Real Estate Investor Needs to Know About Cash Flow by Frank Gallinelli

Topics Covered

  • General principles and strategies
  • Financing
  • Deal analysis (the basics)

What I Like About This Book

This book is all about the numbers, which is perfect for a real estate nerd like me. Success in real estate always comes back to the numbers. But amazingly, so many so-called investors don’t know how to do them correctly.

This book is a guide to both the big picture concepts of deal analysis and the nitty gritty formulas. It covers in great detail, along with examples, just about every analysis tool I can think of. Beginners can use it to learn, and any investor of any experience level should keep it on their bookshelf as a reference and refresher.  

I also like that he includes free Excel spreadsheets that let you get “under the hood” and see how the formulas in the book actually work.

Big Ideas From the Book

  • The four ways to make money in real estate
  • Become a financial detective before you buy (uncover the REAL data)
  • Use math, not emotion, to make financial decisions
  • 37 calculations every real estate investor needs to know
  • Multiple methods to calculate return on a real estate investment


The strength of this book is the thoroughness of the content. That is also its weakness. I think the challenge will be, especially for beginners, not to get overwhelmed or intimidated by so many formulas and ways to analyze a deal.

Getting started successfully as an entrepreneur (real estate is a business, after all) is about math, but it’s also about psychology, momentum, and consistency. Fear of failure or analysis paralysis can kill your dream as a beginner investor.

So, my recommendation is to pick the gold nuggets from this book and learn the essential, basic formulas. Go get in motion, make offers on deals, and continue coming back to this excellent resource over time as you grow.

4. The Book on Flipping Houses by J Scott

Topics Covered:

  • General principles and strategies
  • Financing
  • Deal analysis (for flips)
  • Finding and negotiating deals
  • Systems and processes for flip business (EXCELLENT!)

What I Like About This Book

I like the way the author J Scott’s mind works. He is systematic, he is thorough, and he gets both the big picture AND the details. That’s rare!

As a result, what you get in this book is a comprehensive guide to the flipping business. You won’t have to search around in other places to get the all the parts he left out (except his other book on estimating rehabs, which is the next book I recommend).

In addition to content you’d expect on a book about flipping, I like that J gets into the nuances of analyzing and choosing a target market. This is such a fundamental step that many novices miss. J gives you some really good insight that you can use to analyze the potential in your own market for flips or to analyze future markets you may venture into. I used J’s methods in my own market and was amazed what I found out (after 10 years already investing there!).

Big Ideas From the Book

  • Get your financing in order first
  • Find and analyze a farm area (or areas) for your flip business
  • Distressed properties: what, why, and how
  • List of sources of good deals
  • The 100 house rule
  • Project scope of work and schedule (I use J’s tools on this weekly)
  • Staging houses to sell: what, why, and how


This is a great book. There’s not a lot I could find wrong, other than to point out that different markets have different styles of flipping based upon the housing stock. A lot of the backdrop for this book was J’s investment business in suburban Atlanta, with its 1980s, mini-mansion style houses. A lot of the examples were based upon that model. The same principles can obviously be applied to in-town rehab of older homes and even to in-fill-lot new construction. Check out J’s free ebook on BiggerPockets.com to see how he’s applied the principles in this book to the new construction niche.


5. The Book on Estimating Rehab Costs by J Scott

Topics Covered

  • Rehab and construction estimating

What I Like About This Book

Just like his companion book on flipping houses, this book is systematic and thorough. It flows well, it all fits together, and you can take the concepts and apply them successfully right away.

I had a pretty good system of deal analysis before I read his book, but I liked the way J Scott sectioned the rehab of the house into 25 components. I bought the full package which gave me a checklist/spreadsheet with all of those components, and it makes the estimating of the total cost much more accurate. I use it just about every week.

Related: The Simple Step-by-Step Guide For Rehabbing Your First Rental

Missing just one or two repairs can make a big difference in your flipping or rental profits over time, so using a system like J’s is critical. Why reinvent the wheel? J wrote the book. Just copy him!

Big Ideas From the Book

  • The 25 renovation components
  • A list of factors that impact rehab costs
  • How to pay contractors for a job


Like my comment in J’s other book, just keep in mind his examples are from single family houses in a suburban setting. The principles still work in other settings, like multifamilies in urban areas, but you may need to make some tweaks here and there.

6. Every Landlord’s Legal Guide, Marcia Stewart, Ralph Warner, & Janet Portman

Topics Covered

  • Property management
  • Legal and contracts

What I Like About This Book

This book is a detailed reference manual specifically for all the legal issues landlords face. It is the most recent addition to my library out of the 7 recommendations, but I wish I had it from the beginning.

I like that the book is extremely comprehensive. It covers all of the normal sticky landlord legal issues like rejecting applicants, handling security deposits, and evicting tenants, but it also addresses other issues like potential liability for your property manager’s acts and how to handle subletting requests.

I also like that the book has a downloadable library of forms. I don’t necessarily use all of them, but I take ideas from each as I’m having my own checklists, leases, and other contracts created.

Big Ideas From the Book

  • Lease terminations and evictions: what, why, and how
  • How to hire a lawyer and do legal research
  • How to solve disputes without a lawyer
  • Returning security deposits and other move-out issues
  • Potential landlord liability: the potential sources (like tenant injuries, health hazards, criminal activity, etc) and how to address them
  • Delegating (legally) responsibilities to tenants
  • State-by-state landlord-tenant law charts (to highlight similarities and differences)


I basically look at this book as my cheat-sheet or place to start for any legal questions about rental contracts, evictions, changing a lease, or other issues that may come up. It does not replace a good attorney on your team. But a resource like this is very helpful even when you hire an attorney because I’ve found that you must have some basic knowledge before you can even ask the right questions to an attorney or another expert. So this book helps with that.

7. Landlording on Autopilot by Mike Butler

Topics Covered

  • General principles and strategies
  • Property management
  • Legal and contracts

What I Like About This Book

The author Mike Butler is a funny guy, and he also provides a lot of great property and business management ideas and systems in this book. There are a lot of different approaches to property management, and Mike has one particular style. His strategy is geared more towards single family houses and hands-off self-management.

You may not choose to adopt every single method he suggests, but I think it’s one of the best books for its mix of practical, nitty-gritty details of management systems, funny and eye-popping stories, and also general big-picture strategy for investing success.

Big Ideas From the Book

  • Virtual offices and management systems (like online payment, answering services, websites, etc.)
  • The “rent talk”: a thorough, step-by-step meeting to train tenant before signing lease
  • Treat tenants like “employees” (because they have a job to do)
  • All-star program incentives to encourage tenants to stay longer
  • New tenant welcome package and goody bag
  • Tenant move-out checklist and package
  • Key and lock system
  • List of fees for items broken or not done when tenant moves out
  • Landlord toolbox: a list of everything you need to run landlording business


I was a bit skeptical after reading chapter one because Mike began with the idea of using “conservative” 5 percent appreciation rates in his town to build a large net worth. Perhaps Mike did experience 5 percent appreciation every year on his properties, but on a national scale, house appreciation tends to be the same as inflation (about 3 percent over the long run).

But be very careful counting on any specific appreciation rates as part of your wealth building plan. Doing this can be dangerous because it takes your focus away from the investment fundamentals you can control, like cash flow and loan amortization. Appreciation for me is a bonus that I’ll happily profit from when it comes, but I don’t calculate it up front. To Mike’s credit, he did follow in the rest of the book talking mostly about cash flow, tax benefits, and great management systems.


Related: Newbies: These 3 Simple Steps Will Prepare You For Your First Deal

What Are You Reading?

“In my whole life, I have known no wise people (over a broad subject matter area) who didn’t read all the time — none, zero. You’d be amazed at how much Warren [Buffet] reads — and at how much I read. My children laugh at me. They think I’m a book with a couple of legs sticking out.”

Charles T. Munger, Poor Charlie’s Almanack: The Wit and Wisdom of Charles T. Munger

What you choose to read and put into your mind is an important choice. I hope this list has helped you to focus on a small group of real estate books that have been very helpful to me.

What do you think about these choices? Are there others that you would include? What are you reading now in the real estate and business world that has been helpful?

I’d love to hear from you in the comment section below.

About Author

Chad Carson

Chad Carson invests in Clemson, South Carolina. He also writes at coachcarson.com about using real estate investing to retire early & do what matters. For practical advice each week — join his free newsletter at coachcarson.com/newsletter.


  1. Brandon Turner

    Hey Chad, thanks so much for including me in this amazing list! Seriously, I really appreciate it! And every other book on this list is incredible, I’ve read them all, some multiple times. It’s an honor to be among them! And I couldn’t agree more on your views about reading. SO much of what I have today is because of the books i’ve read.

    • Chad Carson

      No problem. Brandon. You earned it. Well researched and well written.

      Everyone I know who has succeeded in this business or others reads all the time. It is a very strong correlation. It reminds me of the quote:

      “A person who won’t read has no advantage over one who can’t read.”

      Here’s to more reading (and then more doing something with what we read)!

    • Chad Carson

      Awesome, Luke! Welcome to BP! I’m glad you found the list helpful. Let me know how you like them and which are most helpful for you. BP is a great place to me for new and experienced investors. Hang around, read up, and ask questions. Getting involved is the best way to learn.

    • Chad Carson

      Thanks, Michael. Yes, my intention with this article was to help you focus. One of the biggest challenges as new investor is distraction and overwhelm. You have to be selective about the source and the type of information you take in. I hope this helps!

  2. Willie Grega

    Chad….”Every Landlord’s Legal Guide” really is like the best cheat sheet ever. I’ve never heard it mentioned on an BP podcasts. The documents that they provide are excellent and the infomation in the book is fantastic. It is a foundational core of my success as a Landlord.

    • Chad Carson

      Great, Willie! Glad to hear that book has been very helpful for you. It has been an excellent addition to my library, and I can see how it’s been the foundational core for you. The legal side of the business and talking with attorneys can be very confusing and intimidating, so I think a reference manual like this is critical to have near your fingertips.

    • Chad Carson

      Thanks for comment Russell. What do you feel are lacking from most REI books?

      I certainly find some books more worth my time than others. It’s true that I can get at least an idea or two from just about any book, but i whittled this list down based upon a couple of things:

      1. Density of information. I wanted helpful, insightful ideas throughout the book.
      2. Coherent, organized presentation – the ideas need to fit into a larger framework that makes sense. The best real estate strategy in the world doesn’t help me if it’s not placed into the context of a real business and how to use it.
      3. Credibility of the author – have they really done what they say they have, are the honest and capable.

  3. Curry Forrer

    Thanks Chad great list I have 3 on my list already and will include the others. One book I would really recommend is the prosperity bible it’s alot of books in one but a great read for someone who is ready to think outside of the box.

  4. Kaitlyn Barks

    I love your stance on reading books as well and I’m excited to see that Building Wealth One House at a Time by John Schaub made the list. I feel like that one gets overlooked quite a bit, but it has some solid fundamental lessons. Thanks, Chad!

    • Chad Carson

      Thanks, Kaitlyn. Yeah, I’m a little old school in my book reading:) I can’t read without a pen in hand!

      John Schaub’s book is one of my favorites. The classics are those that keep teaching you over and over as you reread them. As I said in the article, I think a lot of people pass books like that over because they think they’re beyond that. But the fundamentals make all the difference in this business or others.

      Best of luck to you!

    • Chad Carson

      Thanks for the comment. YES, The Real Estate Game by William Poorvu was very close on this list. I really like this book, so I’ll plan to add it to a future review.

      For those curious right now, Poorvu has a really cool process in the book for breaking down the entire real estate business into 4 sub-games – 1) Properties 2) Capital Markets 3) Players, i.e buyers, sellers, etc 4) External environment. The rest of the book basically explains how those 4 sub-games interact. It’s a really helpful read. Thanks for suggesting it.

  5. Lydia S.

    Excellent post, thank you!
    As one unfamiliar with business strategies, I found The E Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber (so far my first read on paper since committing to a future in real estate), to be very helpful in thinking about my end-vision and how to get from here to there. I find the concepts repeated in posts and podcasts here on BP and am glad I read it.
    I was given a free copy of Keller’s Millionaire Real Estate Investor by a Broker just the other day! I attended a ‘career’ presentation at a Real Estate office to investigate how a license may work to the advantage of an investor, and the Broker was gracious with that gift.
    I will be at the local library soon to put in requests on some of the others you suggested, which is how I got my hands on The E Myth.

    • Chad Carson

      Thanks Lydia!
      I love the Emyth too. I left it off this list only because I consider it more of a business book than real estate investing. But it’s on my must-read list as well.

      A lot of people have recommended Gary Keller’s Millionaire Real Estate Investor. I am going to read it and may add to a future revision of the list:)

      Happy investing!

  6. Wesley Wong

    I’m just starting off so this is a great list to have stumbled across. I’ve only read What Every Real Estate Investor Needs to Know About Cash Flow by Frank Gallinelli from this list. I’m just about to wrap up The MIllionaire Real Estate Investor by Gary Keller. I was going to move onto Multi-Family Millions by David Lindahl. Would anyone have any advice whether I should continue on this path before reading the other 6 books or should I leave Multi-Family Millions and read one of the other 6 books on this list first? I was thinking either The Book on Investing in Real Estate With No (and Low) Money Down by Brandon Turner or Every Landlord’s Legal Guide, Marcia Stewart, Ralph Warner, & Janet Portman.

    • Chad Carson

      Hey Wesley,
      Thanks for commenting.
      A lot depends upon your specific real estate goals. If your plan is to start with multifamily, maybe David’s book is worthwhile. If you’re flipping, J Scott’s book is probably the best place to start. If you’re buying single family or small multifamily rentals, I would recommend John Schaub’s and Mike Butlers.
      Happy reading and investing!

  7. Mike Butler

    thanks Chad for putting my book “Landlording On AutoPilot” on your TOP 7 Must Read Books for Investors. Also, thanks to you Chad for all of your great articles on BiggerPockets.com along with Brandon Turner who is cranking out great information like a ninja juice machine on not steroids, but kryptonite. thanks again guys, and reach out anytime if I can help you with anything, Mike Butler

  8. Michael Garrett

    Thanks Chad so much. I am starting from the beginning and I’ve been looking for a post just like this! I’m a computer nerd so getting the terminology correct is more important than anything to me. Knowing the right words to say makes a HUGE difference in the kind of help you get later from people in the business. I’m really hoping “Building Wealth One House at a Time” can be that book for me.

    Also, estimating costs while flipping is a TOTAL mystery for me so I’m hoping The Book On Estimating Rehab Costs clears that up enough that I can ask intelligent questions of my BP colleagues.

    • Chad Carson

      Great, Michael! I’m glad the list will be helpful for you. Thanks for commenting.

      I think you’re exactly right that the vocabulary of a craft is critical. When coding computers, it’s the building blocks for everything else. Real estate investing is very similar.

      I’d add that real estate is also very much about people – so getting comfortable talking with, negotiating with, and managing people is a key skill. Sometimes that’s best learned with practice (and with failures).

  9. David Krulac

    Chad, I’ve read 6 of the 7, and still own them. I’ve read about 300 books on real estate, so far. I’d suggest you take a look at my book, which we talked about on Bigger Pockets Podcast #82, “How I Started With Nothing and Made $12 Million in Real Estate.” I also co-authored the Bigger Pockets book “Real Estate Rewind.”, a free download on BP.

    David Krulac

    • Chad Carson

      Wow! 300 books. That’s good. I haven’t counted the real estate books I’ve read yet, but I doubt it’s close to that!

      I bet you’d agree that knowledge learned from all of that reading compounds and becomes extremely valuable in the real world. I know it has for me.

      I’ll have to check out your podcast and your book. Thanks for recommending.

  10. PJ Muilenburg

    I’ve heard recommendations so many times on BP about the Cash Flow book but keep putting it off because it sounds so dry. But hey you’ve convinced me of its importance, the numbers that is, and I’ll make that my next read.
    I also must add that Brandon Turner’s two newest books on finding/analyzing deals and managing properties (with his lovely wife) were fantastic! I’m newer to real estate and never have I put a book down so many times to go actually change a part of my business before reading more. Very nuts and bolts content.

    • Chad Carson

      Ha, Ha … I hear you on the dry part. Yeah, it’s something you have to pick up, put down, and use as a resource. I’ve also found it helpful when I had actual deals to work on with it. Then the nuances of difference analysis techniques sink in better.

      Hope you find it helpful.

      I agree on Brandon’s books. I love the nuts-and-bolts, easy-to-apply content. He’s got a talent.

  11. Tom Underwood

    I just joined BP.com a week ago. I checked out a few books from the library, but they have some age to them.
    I did a search on R.E. books and came across the BP site. Wow! Talk about info. I am so pleased to have found this site and all the resources.
    I’m just getting started with my education, but have already purchased all the books listed in this article. I am currently reading ‘ Best RE Investing Advice EVER’ by Joe Fairless and The Hicks. I really like the way it is written and look forward to reading all the others.
    Luckily reading is one of my favorite things.
    Thanks for the great article.

    • Chad Carson

      Tom, welcome to BP! And thanks for the comment.

      Educating yourself is a great first step, and I’m glad these books will give you a focused head-start. I’ve talked with Joe Fairless before, and he’s also a really knowledgeable investor who you can learn from.

      Get involved here on BP, ask questions, and use what you learn to take action as soon as possible. Best of luck!

Leave A Reply

Pair a profile with your post!

Create a Free Account


Log In Here