If you enjoy reading books about successful real estate investors, you will love “Trump: Think Like a Billionaire,” by Donald J. Trump. Although I favorably reviewed Trump’s four previous real estate books, this is his best “triumph” yet.
His latest book is light on specifics and heavy on generalities, but it makes fascinating reading for anyone involved with real estate. The reason is it shows how a super-successful realty investor thinks and acts. Plus, it’s a very enjoyable, as well as educational, read.
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The subtitle says, “Everything you need to know about success, real estate, and life.” That’s a bit of an exaggeration, but it’s not far off. At least 50 percent of the book is about real estate, which is the basis of Trump’s wealth.
The balance of the book is about “fun stuff,” such as Trump’s experiences with his hit show “The Apprentice,” his Saturday Night Live hosting, and the traditional “A Week in the Life” conclusion section that was so popular in his previous books.
Strange for a book reviewer to say, but the book’s best chapter is the Introduction. In it Trump reveals how he learned to think like a billionaire (mostly from his father, Fred, who is held in great esteem throughout the book). “I learned to think like a billionaire by watching my father, Fred Trump. He was the greatest man I’ll ever know, and the biggest influence on my life,” Trump discloses.
Trump’s humor shows throughout the book, starting in the Introduction. After praising a book by Gwenda Blair “The Trumps: Three Generations That Built an Empire,” Trump notes one of his ancestors changed the family name to Trump at the end of the 1600s. “A good move, I think, since Drumpf Tower doesn’t sound nearly as catchy,” Trump humorously comments.
Setting the tone for his book, Trump reveals “I wish I could tell you that the billionaire’s club meets regularly at Mar-a-Lago (Trump’s plush Florida resort), where we gather to analyze our portfolios, make blockbuster deals, eat caviar, and drink vintage wine, but the truth is: I don’t drink, I’d rather eat a steak than caviar, and I’ve only met about 20 of the club members over the years, often on the golf course, where we tend to talk more about our game than our net worth.”
Then Trump reveals his 10 top ways of thinking like a billionaire. Most of them are very surprising, such as “Don’t take vacations. What’s the point? If you’re not enjoying your work, you’re in the wrong job. Even when I’m playing golf, I’m doing business. I never stop, and I’m usually having fun.”
Shocking was the detail Trump sleeps only about four hours per night. No wonder he often looks so tired and grumpy, as shown in the book’s many color photos.
The book’s first and most important section is about real estate, the basis of Trump’s fortune. It begins with the words: “When people hear the name Trump, they think of two things: wealth and real estate. The basics, for me, are all about property. Real estate is at the core of almost every business, and it’s certainly at the core of most people’s wealth. In order to build your wealth and improve your business smarts, you need to know about real estate.”
Then the book deviates to many too-short advice chapters, such as how to pick a location, how to rent an apartment, how to read a classified ad or listing (for real estate), how to buy a house, how to get an appraisal and a building inspection, how to sell a house, how to find a good office, how to deal with a broker, how to hire an attorney, how to get the best mortgage, how to pick a mortgage broker, how and when to renovate, and how to landscape.
Most important is the short chapter, “How to deal with Contractors.” This chapter sets the scene for Trump’s love-hate relationship with construction contractors.
“If you think real estate brokers and interior decorators make you nervous, you should spend a day with me when I’m working with contractors. They are like racehorses; they can be as lazy as all get out, and then they can race to the finish line and surprise you.”
To avoid being overcharged by contractors (or anyone), Trump makes it a policy to personally sign all checks. I’m sure that doesn’t include routine payrolls, but he tries to keep an eye on all his many real estate projects. “I always sign my checks so I know where my money’s going. In the same spirit, I also always try to read my bills to make sure I’m not being overcharged.”
This is one of the very few real estate books where I was disappointed when it was over. Yes, the extra details about the first and second seasons of “The Apprentice” were enjoyable, but Trump’s real estate insights were revealing and very thoughtful.
My only complaint is the book is too superficial and lacking in detail about how to really think like a billionaire. The color photos of Trump’s lifestyle add realism, but more specifics will apparently have to wait for his sequel. On my scale of one to 10, this latest Trump book rates a solid 10.
“Trump: Think Like a Billionaire,” by Donald J. Trump (Random House, New York), 2004, $21.95, 229 pages; Available in stock or by special order at local bookstores, public libraries, and www.amazon.com.
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