The best thing about “How to Invest in Real Estate with Little or No Money Down” by famous real estate author Robert Irwin is the title. Unfortunately, the book’s content doesn’t deliver the promise of the title.

Much of the book’s material is from the author’s previous books on other realty topics. But very little is new content about how to acquire investment property with little or no cash. Some personal examples would have added realism.

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Prolific realty author Robert Irwin has written more than 30 real estate books. Most are excellent. I can only recall one “bad book” and it was written with a co-author. But this new book is very disappointing for such a superb author who is extremely knowledgeable about virtually every real estate topic.

The big problem is the book wanders off the topic of acquiring investment real estate with little or no cash. Of course, buying an owner-occupied house or condo with virtually none of the buyer’s cash is routine today. But it is more difficult, although not impossible, for investors.

For example, do you think real estate tycoon Donald Trump buys his investment properties with cash from his pocket? Of course not. One way or another, he finances virtually 100 percent of his acquisitions. “Mom and pop” investors can do the same. As a small-time investor, I’ve done it many times.

But Irwin’s latest book loses focus from the title topic. Yes, it’s nice to know about how to be a successful landlord (mostly based on Irwin’s previous books). Yes, it’s nice to know about how to include clever clauses in the purchase agreement. Yes, it’s nice to know about the tax laws affecting realty investors.

However, based on this new book’s title, I wanted to learn methods to acquire investment real estate without paying cash from my pocket. I was sadly disappointed.

This is the fourth real estate book by Robert Irwin I’ve read and reviewed in 2004. The previous three all earned highest ratings.

But this one is a very sad disappointment because of its lack of valuable content on the title topic. To illustrate, what does the chapter on “The Keys to Being a Successful Landlord” have to do with buying a property with little or none of the owner’s cash?

Lest I sound too negative, the author’s chapter about “The Big Surprise: Transaction Costs” is very good. He explains the closing costs which many buyers of investment properties often overlook as they seek to buy with little or no cash.

However, even in this chapter, Irwin loses direction. He diverts to topics such as getting a real estate sales license and buying without a real estate agent rather than showing how to handle or at least minimize closing costs.

This seems to be a “formula book” which the author cranked out in a short period of time to meet a contract quota. Although the book’s cost is minimal, it offers little or no new ideas to help investors acquire property with little or no cash.

But the book is not without its redeeming qualities. It does emphasize the importance for income property buyers to anticipate possible negative cash flow (property expenses exceed rental income) and the importance of being able to handle serious problems like that.

Chapter topics include “Acquiring Real Estate Wealth”; “Creating Your Own Road Map to Financial Freedom”; “Little to No Cash Down Payment Financing”; “Get Others to Lend You the Money to Buy”; “The Big Trap: Negative Cash Flow”; “Finding Good Rentals”; “Flip Quickly or Hold Long Term?” “Acquiring Rentals”; “The Keys to Being a Successful Landlord”; “Tricks of the Purchase Agreement”; “Working the Tax Laws to Your Advantage”; “Solving Credit Problems”; “Selling Short”; and “Little or No Cash Down Federal Loan Programs.”

As shown by the chapter titles, only a small portion of the book is devoted to acquiring investment property with little or no cash. Much of that information involves owner-occupied houses, a topic much different than acquiring investment property.

Throughout the book, Irwin seems to think the only way to acquire investment property is with a new mortgage loan. Having bought numerous properties for nothing down, I know there are many creative methods to avoid dealing with mortgage lenders. I’m certain the author knows these methods, but he neglects to explain them or to use personal examples of his nothing-down investment purchases.

This is the most disappointing of author Robert Irwin’s many real estate books. Although he usually earns a superb rating, on my scale of one to 10, his latest book rates only a five.

“How to Invest in Real Estate with Little or No Money Down,” by Robert Irwin (McGraw-Hill, New York), 2004, $16.95, 203 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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