Homeownership deconstructed

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As far as provocative titles go, "Buying a Home: The Missing Manual" may not ooze "avant garde" at first glance. But if you, like me, keep tabs on the ever-increasing booklist of real estate titles, you might, like me, feel that to describe any book on homebuying as "the missing" one is to create some pretty big expectations.

If the title initially sparked my skepticism, it was only stoked by the cover's short description of the author as a "real estate pro," juxtaposed against its long description of her background as a real estate investor who is "qualified" for a New York real estate license, and has written other books on Google and living "green." All of these things sounded a warning bleep for me, even before I could open the cover.

However, I was aware that "The Missing Manual" series was the brainchild of David Pogue, a New York Times columnist who I follow, and whom I particularly adm...