Editor’s note: Robert Bruss passed away on Sept. 26, 2007. This was one of the last real estate columns he wrote. Inman News is publishing Bob’s last work as a final salute to the nation’s most well-known real estate writer.

Even if you are not ready to take advantage of the current “buyer’s market” for homes, the most complete home-buying book you will find is “Nolo’s Essential Guide to Buying Your First Home” by Ilona Bray, Alayna Schroeder and Marcia Stewart. Whether you read just the chapters that interest you or the entire book from cover to cover, you will find a light-hearted approach to home buying that doesn’t leave out any of the essentials.

The book begins with the basics, such as getting started by deciding if you really want to buy a house or condo, and understanding the “players” such as the buyer’s agent, mortgage broker or banker, property inspectors and other “team members.” Considerable emphasis is placed on mortgage finance alternatives, including seller financing and the best lender of all — “The Bank of Mom and Dad.”

Purchase Bob Bruss reports online.

Finally, in chapter eight the book gets to actually looking for and buying “the right house.” For some reason, the book concentrates on buying houses and barely mentions condominiums and cooperative apartments. Tenancy-in-common units, which are popular on the West Coast, aren’t even mentioned.

But the pros and cons of special situations such as fixer-uppers, for-sale-by-owners, foreclosures and probate sales are discussed. Even auctions are briefly mentioned.

Throughout the book are perhaps 100 or more real-life stories to illustrate the topics under discussion. These short examples bring life to the occasionally boring text explanations. Somehow, the authors maintain a light style even with tough topics such as the intricate details of purchase offers, counteroffers, backup offers and offer contingencies.

The one annoying part of the book is many subjects have checklists that can only be found on the enclosed CD-ROM. Unless you read the book sitting by your computer, you will have to remember to later go to the CD-ROM to view the forms, listen to the MP3 interviews and read other important information not included in the book itself.

Speaking of forms, it would have been very helpful if the book included sample forms such as inspection checklists, purchase contracts and financial worksheets, rather than putting them only on the CD-ROM. Then the book would have been bigger and even better.

Especially valuable are the additional information sources cited such as books and Web sites where readers can go for further details. To illustrate, the authors recommend CircleLending.com where individual lenders — such as home sellers carrying back mortgage financing and relatives making down-payment loans — can have a third party handle the payment collections.

An interesting feature is many of the chapters have “guest experts” who act as consultants on their specialties. For example, well-known Chicago Realtor Mark Nash provides insights based on his many years of sales experience; escrow specialist Sandy Gadow adds insight to closing settlements; and property inspector Paul Rude shares his viewpoint on what to expect from an inspection report.

Chapter topics include “What’s So Great About Buying a House?” “What Do You Want?” “Figuring Out What You Can Afford”; “What’s on the Market and at What Price”; “Getting a Mortgage”; “Loan Alternatives”; “Looking for the Right House”; “Plan B: Fixer-Uppers, FSBOs, Foreclosures and More”; “From Offer to Purchase Agreement”; “Tasks Before Closing”; “Professional Property Inspectors”; “Homeowner’s Insurance and Home Warranties”; “Finalizing Your Homebuying Dreams”; and “Settling into Your New Home.”

If you are looking for authoritative information about virtually every important home-purchase topic, you won’t find a better easy-to-read resource than this up-to-date book. The authors managed to keep the reading light, using lots of examples and sidebars, to avoid reader boredom. On my scale of one to 10, this superb new book rates an off-the-chart 12.

“Nolo’s Essential Guide to Buying Your First Home,” by Ilona Bray, Alayna Schroeder and Marcia Stewart (Nolo Press, Berkeley, Calif.), 2007, $24.99, 351 pages plus a CD-ROM; 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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