Real estate is as much about people as it is about property, and, after location, success in real estate depends upon understanding the motives of those who play the game, because many critical decisions revolve around what real estate people think, how they act and why. The Real Estate Game
, by William J. Poorvu and Jeffrey L. Cruikshank, is a clear, comprehensive overview illustrated with real-life experiences about individual investors, small developers, and moguls. Poorvu has developed and managed real estate and taught real estate investing at the Harvard Business School for over 35 years. This book is drawn from his course, and is designed to help investors make the right decisions derived from the right assumptions and to provide an insider's perspective on how to spot risks and develop strategies that provide protection and adequate investment returns.
The book uses the analogy of a game to illustrate some of the intricate and unpredictable interactions in real estate deals, and it lays out the rules of the game, including identification of the key players and periods of play: concept, commitment, development, operation, reward, and reinvestment. Readers are taught to be "value investors," ready to buy at the right price at the right time, because the best opportunities come from buying at a discount-to-replacement cost. The value investor must be prepared to sell at the right juncture, and must not be compelled to be in the game when conditions make the game not worth playing.
The case studies that run through the book show how to evaluate, develop, and operate all kinds of real estate investments from the points of view of all involved in the process. There's an extensive appendix covering the different property types, and the authors' "back-of-the-envelope" method for analyzing the financial implications of a potential deal is probably worth the book's weight in gold. --Scott Harrison
Poorvu is a Boston real-estate developer who teaches an elective course in real estate at the Harvard Business School. Like his earlier collection of case studies, The Real Estate Challenge
(1996), this new book comprises course material. To emphasize the competitive aspects of real estate, Poorvu compares the business to a game. With an informal style, he outlines the components that determine the rules of this game: capital markets, the players, properties, and the external environment. After explaining the basic financial analyses necessary to make decisions, Poorvu contrasts four ways to invest in real estate: buying property directly, investing in private syndications, multiproperty funds, and public real-estate securities. He also compares the more challenging development phase of real estate with the nuts-and-bolts aspects of the operations phase. Finally, he recommends how and when to "harvest" or recoup value that has been added to a deal. Grounded in theory and practice, Poorvu's advice stands out in a category filled with superficial, get-rich-quick guides. David Rouse