The theme of Jay P. DeCima’s latest real estate book, “Start Small, Profit Big in Real Estate,” is to begin investing in small, bargain-priced fix-up rentals, as he did, with the goal of creating enough cash flow to quit your day job. With over $100,000 per month gross rents coming in, DeCima says he has plenty left over to live very comfortably.
The book begins with the author explaining why he thought he would make a small fortune as a licensed real estate salesman. But then he shares how his real estate instructor emphasized to the class it is much more profitable to be a realty investor than a sales agent.
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DeCima then uses an example of how he earned 17 times more than the sales agent did on a typical property purchase.
To get started, as the author did after he left his boring, 20-year-long telephone company job, he suggests buying run-down properties that nobody else wants. Although most of the properties he buys are at least 40 to 50 years old, DeCima cautions to avoid slum areas especially where gangs are fighting.
Buying with low cash down payments and seller financing is the author’s specialty. He recommends staying away from banks and other institutional lenders because he doesn’t want some 30-year-old loan officer living off a salary telling him how to earn his profits.
The author’s formula recommends doing the small repairs yourself but hiring contractors and handypersons to handle the major fix-up so the work gets done fast and correctly. He shows how to finance both the acquisitions and the improvements.
DeCima emphasizes the goal is to make profitable upgrades so the rents can be increased, thus raising the cash flow and the value of the property.
Although DeCima admits to having “flipped” a few properties for fast-cash resale profits, he prefers long-term ownership. Throughout the book are many personal examples from his realty investing career of more than 40 years involving more than 200 properties, most of which he still owns.
One problem with the book, to which readers will quickly adjust, involves the comparatively low property prices and low rents used in the many examples. The reason is DeCima lives in the modest-sized Northern California town of Redding where prices are still reasonable. Although his formula also works in higher-priced cities, the low prices used in the book seem a bit out of the past.
DeCima spends considerable time emphasizing how to find the bargain-priced fix-up properties. He recommends reading the local newspaper classified ads every day, letting local realty agents know what you’re looking for, and just keeping your eyes open for trashy-looking properties in decent neighborhoods.
Along the way, the author explains some of the mistakes he and other first-timers made and how to avoid them. The importance of buying from a highly motivated seller is strongly emphasized. Many of DeCima’s examples show he is often the only prospective buyer for a run-down property because most buyers don’t know how to get sellers to finance the sale, as the author reveals in the book.
Chapter topics include “Achieving Financial Independence”; “Early Planning Pays”; “Building Success One Brick at a Time”; “Magic Ingredients for a Moneymaking Plan”; “12 Benefits to Being a Housing Entrepreneur”; “Common Mistakes First-Timers Make”; “Planning Your Profits at the Kitchen Table”; “Properties with All the Right Things Wrong”; “How to Earn $429,000 in Nine Years Moonlighting”; and “Selling Your Property.”
The final chapter wraps up this excellent book by explaining how to get top dollar when selling property and providing for future retirement income. DeCima recommends selling the same way he buys by using seller installment-sale financing. On my scale of one to 10, this outstanding book rates a solid 10.
“Start Small, Profit Big in Real Estate,” by Jay P. DeCima (McGraw-Hill, New York), 2005, $19.95; 216 pages; Available in stock or by special order at local bookstores, public libraries, and www.amazon.com.
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