Jay Thompson is a former brokerage owner who spent over six years working for Zillow Group. He retired in August 2018 but can’t seem to leave the real estate industry behind. His weekly Inman column publishes every Wednesday.
Compiling any “best of” list is hard, and a list of best books is particularly difficult. There is no shortage of books related to real estate and sales. Some are brilliant, some not-so-swift. How does one even define “best” when it comes to books?
If you’re looking for entertainment, you’re probably not going to find it in a real estate- or sales-related book. (Not that there’s anything wrong with making a real estate book entertaining, it’s just that most authors don’t.) If you think you’re going to read a book and double your transactions a week after you finish, you are setting yourself up for disappointment. It just doesn’t work that way.
For me, a great real estate or sales book makes me think. It makes me look deeper into my business practices and helps me analyze what I need to do to be more successful, not just in business but also in life.
A great book needs to be well-written. The grammar nerd in me just can’t wade through lousy sentence structure and ditto with editing. It never ceases to amaze me how some books, typically self-published books, which many real estate books are, are littered with typos. I’m the king of typos, but they still drive me insane.
There’s nothing wrong with self-publishing, but please, pay someone to copy edit your work before sending it off to the internet.
What follows is what I consider the best real estate and sales books of all time. Full disclosure, I have read most, but not all, of these books. I included the ones I haven’t read based on recommendations from (several) industry professionals, folks I know and trust.
It’s not an all-inclusive list, and no “best of” list will come close to appeasing everyone.
As a real estate professional, an entrepreneur, a small business owner, you should be continuously learning and honing your craft.
You are not in this alone. There are a plethora of authors out there willing to help in your ongoing quest for knowledge. Reading is one of the best ways to learn.
If you think you don’t have time to read, I suggest a couple of things:
- Work on life balance: Spending 24-hours a day grinding through a real estate career isn’t healthy.
- Listen to audiobooks: I’m not the biggest fan of audio — I find it too easy to get distracted, and I would rather focus on my reading. But audiobooks are a great way to consume content if you’re in a time crunch.
The greatest real estate and sales books of all time, in my humble opinion
Without further ado, here’s my list of the 10+ greatest real estate and sales books:
How to Win Friends and Influence People
By Dale Carnegie
It might seem strange to recommend a book first published in 1936, but there’s a reason this book has sold 15 million copies. It’s more than just a “sales book.” It’s a life book.
When I was asking for opinions for this column, Chris Sauerzopf, CEO of SafeWire, summed up How to Win Friends perfectly. “I read that in college, and it completely shifted the direction of my thinking, and more importantly, my life. It completely shifted how I understood people and their motivation.”
The Millionaire Real Estate Agent
By Gary Keller
Perennial chart-topper for any real estate-related book, Keller crafted what many consider the instruction manual for real estate agents. Listen, I might not be the biggest fan of Gary Keller, but there is zero question that “MREA” has guided and changed many careers, mine included.
Ninja Selling: Subtle Skills. Big Results
By Larry Kendall
Truly brilliant. Larry Kendall lays out a path for change almost every agent needs — shifting your approach from chasing clients to attracting clients.
The 4-Hour Work Week: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich
By Timothy Ferriss
I know, I know. No one in real estate is going to live anywhere working four hours a week. But for the sake of your sanity and your health, you need some balance in your life.
You can be successful and spend less time in the grind by understanding and focusing on income-producing activities and offloading busy work.
Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion
By Robert Cialdini
Real estate is all about influence and persuasion. Cialdini nails it and backs it up with evidence-based, peer-reviewed scientific research. Science for the win.
#GetSocialSmart: How to Hone Your Social Media Strategy
By Katie Lance
Love it or hate it, social media isn’t going away. Many agents flail about in the social space, spending excessive time and effort chasing the elusive lead. Katie Lance shows you how.
Bonus tip: Tune in for her monthly column right here on Inman.
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*CK: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life
By Mark Manson
Winner — best title ever (IMHO). Although not technically a sales book, Manson writes (quite well, and yes, with some profanity) about how to improve your life. Tons of lessons and perspectives here.
The Conversion Code: Capture Internet Leads, Create Quality Appointments, Close More Sales
By Chris Smith
Drop into any real estate Facebook group, and you’ll see countless inquiries and discussions about how to generate prospects.
You know what no one ever talks about? How to convert those prospects to clients. Most agents don’t fail at lead generation. They fail at conversion. Read this book.
Disruptors, Discounters, and Doubters: A Guide for the Client-Oriented Future of the Real Estate Industry and How to be a Great Real Estate Agent: The Principles of Client-Oriented Real Estate (CORE)
By Joe Rand
A Joe Rand book needed to be on this list. I couldn’t decide which one, so you get a two-for-one. Rand is a great writer (and human) who clearly understands real estate life.
Bonus tip: Listen to the “Randing and Raving” episodes on the Real Estate Sessions podcast. Rand and Bill Risser kill it with quick quips of pertinent, funny banter.
Bonus tip 2: Listen to all episodes of this podcast.
Fanatical Prospecting: The Ultimate Guide to Opening Sales Conversations and Filling the Pipeline by Leveraging Social Selling, Telephone, Email, Text, and Cold Calling
By Jeb Blount
This book is the only one listed that I haven’t personally read (honestly, probably because of the “cold calling” part of the title, something I’m not personally a fan of). But it was recommended by too many people whom I greatly respect to exclude.
From the Amazon description:
“The brutal fact is the number one reason for failure in sales is an empty pipe and the root cause of an empty pipeline is the failure to consistently prospect. By ignoring the muscle of prospecting, many otherwise competent salespeople and sales organizations consistently underperform.”
Blount is not wrong. Real estate sales is fundamentally a prospecting business. You wake up every day effectively unemployed. An empty pipeline equals an empty checking account.
There are 10-plus books and a few bonus tips for you. Want more? You should read the book-related articles Inman contributor Brandon Doyle pens pretty much annually:
- 7 must-read real estate and sales books from 2020
- A book for every type of agent: 15 (newish) releases worth checking out in 2020
- Top 10 real estate books of the last year
- 17+ must-reads for brand new real estate agents
This column is my last for a month. During August, I’ll be sailing from Honolulu to the Palmyra coral atoll (and back). One thousand two hundred miles south of Honolulu, Palmyra is literally in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. No cell phone, no internet, just sea, sun and fun. Look for my column again in September!
Jay Thompson is a real estate veteran and retiree living in the Texas Coastal Bend, as well as the one spinning the wheels at Now Pondering. Follow him on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. He holds an active Arizona broker’s license with eXp Realty. “Retired but not dead,” Jay speaks around the world on many things real estate.