When I first picked up “Confessions of a Real Estate Entrepreneur” by James A. Randel, I wasn’t enthused by its bland, noncreative cover, which makes the book look dull and boring. Wrong. Instead, it is one of the best real estate books of 2006 so far because it tells how a super-successful investor evaluates real estate opportunities.

What makes this new book so unusual is the self-deprecating author emphasizes his real estate mistakes as much as the highlights of his successes. The book’s title could have been “Real Estate Mistakes I Made But How I Succeeded Anyway.”

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James A. Randel started with an excellent educational background from Columbia University where he obtained his law degree. Then he wisely became a real estate broker so he could participate in real estate commissions as well as practice law. When briefly mentioning his New York City residency during college years, Randel admits he didn’t spot the opportunities to buy run-down buildings near Columbia for upgrade profits by adding value.

The book’s theme is “add value” whether you invest in raw land, houses, a fixer-upper factory building with potential for rezoning profits, or a run-down office building. What makes this book so special are the personal stories the author shares, emphasizing how he profited when he (and his investor partners) added value and how they lost money when their planning was faulty.

Every college real estate program should require this book as pre-enrollment reading to open the eyes of students to all the opportunities involving real estate. Randel recommends specializing in commercial real estate because of its higher earnings potential compared to residence sales. But he also suggests related realty fields such as mortgage brokerage and becoming a full-time investor.

Throughout the book, the author shares how he went into many investments with little or no cash of his own but he creatively raised the necessary financing and cash down payments. One of the best examples came when Randel bought one of the first factory outlet buildings by borrowing the down-payment money from the existing tenant who was willing to pay to get out of the lease. Randel then tells how he creatively borrowed the down-payment cash for one day from a bank until his ex-tenant paid him.

One of the book’s best chapters is about “persuasion.” Most of us would call it “negotiation.” But the author says real estate involves looking at transactions from the other party’s viewpoint and then persuading that person to do what is mutually acceptable.

Randal also explains what it takes to be successful in real estate. In a nutshell, it takes enthusiasm and thick skin to avoid being depressed by rejections. He shares lots of personal examples how, when one tactic didn’t work, he tried others until one worked.

Chapter topics include “Learning to Add Value”; “Possibilities”; “The Basics; Options”; “Contracts with Contingencies”; “Development”; “Revitalizing Existing Properties”; “A Complete Makeover”; “Other Mistakes I’ve Made”; “Buying Wholesale, Selling Retail”; “The Next New Great Idea”; “Brokerage”; “Leases and Other Property Interests”; “Other People’s Money”; “Finding Deals”; “When You’re a Seller”; “Attorneys”; “The Art of Persuasion”; and “Success Skills.”

If you are or want to be a serious and successful real estate investor, this is a “must read” book. Don’t be turned off by its bland cover, as I was. Hidden under that shell is one of the best real estate investment books I’ve ever read. On my scale of one to 10, this unique book rates an off-the-chart 12.

“Confessions of a Real Estate Entrepreneur,” by James A. Randel (McGraw-Hill, New York), 2006, $29.95, 256 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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