The worst things about “Real Estate Investing for the Utterly Confused” by Lisa Moren are (1) the ugly book cover and (2) the bad title. But, while looking for another new real estate book at my local bookstore, I couldn’t ignore the red and yellow cover. I started browsing and was hooked. It is a downright good book for beginner real estate investors.

Author and experienced real estate investor Lisa Moren until recently lived in Colorado and has since moved to California. Throughout this well-organized book, she shares her many realty investing experiences, as well as those of her friends. The examples, illustrating the topics, make the book especially valuable and understandable.

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But the book gets off to a shaky start. I wasn’t sure if the writer was an amateur or a real estate pro.

On page 6, Moren’s questionable statement, “Houses, however, do not appreciate in value as much as multiple units … ” raised my credulity since my experience has been the opposite. During the last 10 years, in most cities, single-family house-appreciation rates far exceeded increased valuations of apartment buildings.

Also, I question her explanation of “property flipping” where she says: “You must lock in the price with the seller, but not take title to the property. The costs of that transaction will eat up your profits if your aim is to do a quick turnaround for resale.” That is contrary to my successful flipping fix-up experiences.

However, this short book gets better. Much better. By the conclusion, I was begging for more of Moren’s expert knowledge about how to profit from investing in real estate. Contrary to her advice on page 6, most of the book is about how to profit from single-family rental houses. I hope this is the first of a series of her books about how to profit from realty investments.

This is one of the easiest real estate books to read. Yet it is filled with lots of practical content, presented in an easy-to-understand format with plenty of real-life examples to illustrate the topics under discussion.

My only complaint, after getting past the author’s first few missteps, is the lack of detail and suggestions about where to find more resources. For example, Moren admits she has never used the Section 8 low-income rental program. Then she proceeds to explain the basics of that government-assisted plan. Having used Section 8 with both good and bad tenants, as a landlord I would like to know where I could obtain reliable information to help me decide if the latest law changes are advantageous for landlords.

Surprisingly, the book’s best section is about property management and selecting good tenants. I found especially valuable Moren’s key questions to ask of an applicant’s previous landlords. They are: “Would you rent to these tenants again?” “What was the condition of the property when they vacated?” “How long did they live there?” and “Were they ever late with their rent?” I’ve always used the first question, but the others are equally superb.

Moren has been investing in real estate for about 25 years. She obviously knows what she writes about. Her personal experiences are especially valuable, such as when she invested in property tax liens, having both good and bad experiences. Again, the details are lacking and further resource information would have been valuable.

If the book has a weak section, it is the chapters about writing out a business plan. Having been a realty investor for many years, and associating with many other investors, I know none who have written investment plans. My mortgage lenders have never requested such a plan, although it is definitely a good idea to have one.

Chapter topics include “Why Real Estate?” “The Right Type of Property at the Right Time”; “Flipping Properties”; “Different Purchasing Choices Explained”; “How to Find the Right Property”; “How to Negotiate the Best Deals”; “Finding Money for Your Deals”; “How to Manage Your Properties”; “Capturing Profit from Your Investments”; and “Writing a Business Plan for Real Estate Investors.”

This new book, which starts out with a few weak chapters, builds in its content and credibility. It is a superb book to recommend to a prospective new realty investor who wants to learn the basic fundamentals without getting bogged down in details. Despite its flaws and warts, on my rating scale of one to 10, this new book rates a 10.

“Real Estate Investing for the Utterly Confused,” by Lisa Moren (McGraw-Hill, New York), 2006, $21.95, 129 pages; Available in stock 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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