The most difficult real estate article I write every year is this one because it takes a year to prepare. Each week I read at least one new real estate book and then write a book review. But at the end of the year, I must choose the 10 best.

The year 2004 had an oversupply of superb new realty books (and a few duds) on topics such as home-buying and selling, how to be a successful realty agent, and how to make huge profits investing in real estate. The theme of most of these books is “how to.”

Purchase Bob Bruss reports online.

All of the following books are available in stock or by special order at local bookstores, public libraries, and Based on my 52 book reviews from the past year, in no particular order, here are the 10 best real estate books of 2004:

1. “How to Be a Quick Turn Real Estate Millionaire,” by Ron LeGrand (Dearborn-Kaplan Publishing Co., Chicago), $21.95, 204 pages. Written by a very successful former auto mechanic turned real estate investor who has bought more than 1,500 houses for investment, and who has taught more than 300,000 real estate students, this Florida author shares his realty investment strategies.

What makes this book so fascinating are the dozens of photos of the author’s students who used his explained techniques, along with their profit reports. The best example is Marco Kozlowski of Orlando, Fla., who turned a $100 option investment to buy a luxury house into a $2.45 million profit in just 43 days. LeGrand admits even he can’t match that.

2. “The New Complete Book of Home Buying,” by Michael Sumichrast and Ronald G. Shafer, with Martin A. Sumichrast (McGraw-Hill, New York), $19.95, 234 pages. By far, this is the best “how to buy a home” book of 2004. Primarily written by the now-retired chief economist of the National Association of Home Builders, it is authoritative and occasionally even critical of home builders.

But it is a very enjoyable and profitable read for home buyers. The book has facts, charts, graphs and checklists to help home buyers make smart decisions, delivered in an easy-read, sometimes humorous style.

3. “Quick Cash in Foreclosures,” by Chantal Howell Carey and Bill Carey (John Wiley and Sons, Hoboken, N.J.), $19.95, 221 pages. This amazing investment book explains unique methods to profit from acquiring foreclosure properties.

But this book isn’t the old “buy and hold” approach. The authors explain the foreclosure opportunities and when each should be used, always considering the situation of the defaulting property owner.

4. “Trump: Think Like a Billionaire,” by Donald J. Trump (Random House, New York), $21.95, 229 pages. Trump’s latest book is light on specifics and heavy on generalities. But it is required reading for serious realty investors who want advice from a super-successful investor.

The most important 50 percent of this book is about real estate; the other half is Trump’s fun “fluff,” which is made possible by his profitable real estate investments.

5. “How to Increase the Value of Your Home,” by Vicki Lankarge and Daniel J. Nahorney (McGraw-Hill, New York), $14.95, 181 pages. This enlightening book explains which home improvements are most profitable and which might be enjoyable but won’t add as much market value as they cost. The book is filled with facts, not just opinions, about profitable home improvements and those which are unprofitable.

6. “Retirement Places Rated, Sixth Edition,” by David Savageau (Wiley Publishing Inc., Hoboken, N.J.), $23.99, 314 pages. Study very carefully before you decide to move to a retirement location is the theme of this fact-filled book, which can save retirees from making costly mistakes.

It includes a 50-question test of retirement preferences, as well as fascinating sidebars, to help retirees avoid making hasty-decision errors. Retirees and their adult children should carefully study this great book.

7. “How to Sell Your Home Without a Broker, Fourth Edition, by Bill Carey, Chantal Howell Carey and Suzanne Kiffmann (John Wiley and Sons, Hoboken, N.J.), $19.95, 172 pages. Realty agents have nothing to fear from this “how to sell your home alone” book, which explains what is really involved with selling your home, getting top price, and avoiding lawsuits after the sale closes.

This book provides fascinating reading for the “do it yourself” home seller crowd who think they can sell their own home without professional advice, the powerful Multiple Listing Service (MLS), and the Internet.

8. “The Millionaire Real Estate Agent,” by Gary Keller (McGraw-Hill, New York) $19.95, 347 pages. There should be a law requiring every real estate agent licensee to study this book before being allowed to sell a property.

The author is a co-founder of the nationwide Keller-Williams Realty chain. He uses lots of examples of his super-successful agents to emphasize the profit potential, as well as the pitfalls, of becoming a realty sales agent.

9. “Investing in Real Estate With Other People’s Money,” by Jack Cummings (McGraw-Hill, New York), $18.95, 360 pages. This book for very serious real estate investors has a title that is misleading.

The book is not about investing money for other people, but rather about using borrowed money to invest in real estate with little or none of your own cash. That’s called leverage. Cummings explains 43 no-down-payment methods to control property and the profits.

10. “The Mortgage Encyclopedia,” by Jack Guttentag (McGraw-Hill, New York), $19.95, 250 pages. If you are a home buyer, homeowner, realty agent or mortgage lender who wants to know the “insider secrets” of the mortgage lending business, this is a “must read” to learn what mortgage lenders don’t want borrowers to know. The author is clearly on the side of borrowers, as he warns about the dirty tricks some lenders play on their customers.


11. “101 Cost-Effective Ways to Increase the Value of Your Home,” by Steve Berges (Dearborn-Kaplan Publishing Co., Chicago), $18.95, 247 pages. In this book, a 25-year home builder and realty investor author shares the facts about which home improvements usually add market value to your residence. He also explains which renovations will add little or no market value.

“Visibility adds value” is the theme. If it isn’t visible, such as foundation repairs, the author says the home improvement probably won’t add any market value.

12. “What Every Landlord Needs to Know,” by Richard H. Jorgensen (McGraw-Hill, New York), $18.95, 209 pages. This small-town realty investor (Marshall, Minn.) shares his sage insights for profiting from modest rental properties and managing “tenants and toilets.” Although not as well organized as the author’s previous books, the valuable insights make the disorganization come together at the conclusion.

13. “Cities Ranked and Rated,” by Bert Sperling and Peter Sander (John Wiley and Sons, Hoboken, N.J.), $24.99, 817 pages. This monumental book rates major cities for living desirability. However, if you are looking for the ideal, perfect place to work or retire, this book won’t reveal it.

The book is filled with facts, but short on the opinions of the expert authors. They consider nine statistical attributes, and one subjective quality of life viewpoint, to rank U.S. and Canadian cities for livability.

14. “Home Seller’s Checklist,” by Robert Irwin (McGraw-Hill, New York), $12.95, 167 pages. If you are getting ready to sell your home, this handy checklist emphasizes important considerations in a unique format. Key topics include selecting a real estate agent (or selling alone without professional help), selling a home under pressure (such as a pending foreclosure), preparing seller defect disclosure statements, and handling professional home inspections.

15. “Maverick Real Estate Investing,” by Steve Bergsman (John Wiley and Sons, Hoboken, N.J.), $24.95, 269 pages. This well-researched book explains how the “big boy” real estate investors go about acquiring large investment properties. Investors profiled include Sam Zell, Samuel and Richard LeFrak, Gerald and Jeffrey Hines, Walter and Douglas Shorenstein, Donald Trump, and many others.

16. “Mortgages 101,” by David Reed (AMACOM Publishing Co., New York), $16.95, 238 pages. This mortgage broker-written book is filled with insider information for home buyers, mortgage lenders, realty agents and refinancing homeowners who need to know what really goes on in the home-lending industry.

Parts of the book are a bit boring, so the book should be read only a chapter or two at a time, but it is filled with essential powerful information.

(For more information on Bob Bruss publications, visit his
Real Estate Center


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