Don’t be misled, as I was, by the title “Property Ladder Buying for Profit” by Kirsten Kemp. This new book is really about making profitable improvements to your home, whether you already own it or are purchasing a “fixer upper” house to upgrade for fast profits or long-term holding.

Although I have never seen or heard about the TV show “Property Ladder” on The Learning Channel, the first chapter contains four case studies from episodes of that TV show.

Purchase Bob Bruss reports online.

These real-life examples explain how profitable improvements added market value to homes. The before-and-after color photos are amazing and inspiring. Profits on the four houses range from $74,000 to $104,000, as shown by home values before and after fix-up. Fix-up costs ranged from $30,000 to $62,000; the number of construction weeks averaged about nine.

Author Kirsten Kemp explains in considerable detail just about every possible improvement a home might need and how to accomplish it. Unfortunately, after the book’s first few pages there are no more color photos, just drawings, to illustrate the topics under discussion. But the superb graphics and two-color printing make for easy reading and understanding.

“Make renovations that pay off” is the book’s theme. Judging from the color photos, the goal is to transform an ugly house into a near-model home even though all the houses pictured were at least 30 years old.

Emphasis is on kitchens and bathrooms, but bedrooms are not overlooked, although the upgrades are less extensive, such as installing crown molding and upgrading the flooring.

Especially valuable are the details on improvement alternatives, where to get the best prices, and how to save. For example, when discussing granite kitchen countertops, Kemp explains, “Bypass kitchen shops and big-box retailers and go straight to the granite yard to select slabs.” She also says, “Don’t be shy about bargaining with the granite-yard salesperson. Find the granite you like best, inspect the slabs for cracks or fissures, and ask, ‘What’s the best deal you can give me?’ “

Throughout the book there are more details than you might want to know, but it pays to read those details to compare upgrade choices. To illustrate, in the section about flooring, the author compares hardwood, tile, laminate floors, and carpets, including nylon, olefin, polyester, acrylic, wool and blends. She also explains the importance of installing new carpet padding and the type to install.

The practical information and advice is amazing. This is the kind of book to first read lightly without getting bogged down on the details. Then, after knowing what valuable information the book contains, it pays to go back to re-read the details about the topics which especially interest you.

The section on paint is especially valuable. Having improved many houses and dealt with paints and stains of all types, I thought I knew about paint. Wrong! Since paint is the most profitable home improvement by far, I was pleasantly surprised by all the new paint facts I learned. Especially valuable is the information when you can and shouldn’t paint over oil paint with latex, and vice versa.

Although there are only four major chapters — “Case Studies”; “All Around the House”; “Makeover Magic”; and “Project Price Guide” — don’t be misled. Within each chapter are key topics, explained room by room, as well as by projects, such as landscaping, lighting, cabinet doors, sinks and faucets, crown molding, and strategies.

The price guide is especially valuable because it compares several quality grades. To illustrate, it shows the difference in quality between a $500 and a $3,300 refrigerator. This valuable guidebook is easy to understand as it emphasizes the most profitable home upgrades to consider. On my scale of one to 10, it rates a solid 10.

“Property Ladder Buying for Profit,” by Kirsten Kemp (Meredith Corporation, Des Moines, IA), 2006, $19.95, 249 pages; available in stock or by special order at local bookstores, public libraries and

(For more information on Bob Bruss publications, visit his
Real Estate Center

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