Authors Katie and Gene Hamilton are professionals at fixing up properties. Their many books on remodeling are too numerous to list. But in “Fix it and Flip it” they reveal their insider secrets of the most profitable home improvements. They even include their 60-day fix-up plan in this well-written, fast-paced new book.

The authors, retired school teachers who are now professional writers, explain how they bought and fixed up 14 houses. They kept some for investments and “flipped” others for resale profits.

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This is definitely not one of those “quick buck,” get-rich-overnight, buy-and-sell books, where the investor takes title to a house and flips it the next day for a huge profit. Instead, this is a get-rich-slowly book by taking time to fix-up a house, often living in it to maximize the tax savings when selling after 24 months of ownership and occupancy.

The book is filled with checklists for virtually every possible situation, such as inspecting the basement, evaluating overall rehabilitation costs, and basic home inspections. Sometimes the checklists are a bit too detailed, but that’s better than being superficial.

Although the authors are extremely well-qualified to write this book, it could have been much more useful to readers if there were more real-life fix-up examples rather than generalities about factors to consider. Due to lack of specific situations the authors encountered and resolved, the book often seems superficial and lacking in details.

One of their few specific examples involved an early purchase the authors made near Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. They report it was adjacent to a railroad track so, when the wind was right, there would be a 747 taking off overhead and a 100-car freight train rumbling by at the same time. But the Hamiltons report they sold it profitably and today that house is still “cute as a button.” Of course, the authors don’t recommend buying a house like that with severe location problems.

Especially useful are the book’s last few chapters, which include fix-up timelines for buying and flipping (under 60 days) and complete makeover (six months). The timelines include a list of priority upgrades, usually nothing major, but mostly improvements to improve livability.

When I read a real estate book, I usually know within a few minutes if it’s going to be a good book or not. This book is different. It has lots of vague generalities. But it has enough specific suggestions, based on the more than 30 years of the author’s fix-up experiences, which add credibility.

Chapter topics include “Buy, Improve, and Sell, or Rent to Profit”; “Personality Traits for a Successful Real Estate Investor”; “Our Personal Fix-It and Flip-It (or Hold) Story”; “Living in a Fixer-Upper: Is It Worth It? What’s It Like?” “Tailoring a Fix-Up Strategy to Fit Your Lifestyle”; “Finding the Money”; “Finding and Evaluating Property”; “Home Improvement from an Investor’s Perspective”; “Doing the Math”; “Buying the Property”; and “Quick Fixes, Cleanups, and Repairs That Make You Money.”

If you are an experienced real estate investor in fix-up properties, you will consider this a “baby book” about fixer-uppers. However, if you are a novice at investing in fix-ups, you will think this is a great book because of the ultra-complete checklists and simple explanations. On my scale of one to 10, this very complete book rates a 10.

“Fix it and Flip it,” by Katie and Gene Hamilton (McGraw Hill, New York), 2004, $18.95, 214 pages; Available in stock or by special order at local bookstores, public libraries and www.amazon.com.

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

***

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