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on January 22, 2007
For clarity of style and reasonableness of approach to its subject, David Crook's THE WALL STREET JOURNAL COMPLETE REAL-ESTATE INVESTING GUIDEBOOK may not have a peer in the realm of investing advice.

Crook shines an antiseptic light on the shadowy "get rich quick" hucksterism that has plagued the world of real estate investing as a byproduct of a long runup in prices, a phenomenon that has also accompanied strong bull markets in US stocks intermittently for two centuries. And he does much more: he introduces, in a genial and accessible style, the complex details of buying real property for profit, as opposed to simply watching your own home's price rise and thinking of that as "investing."

His discussion of taxes, a particularly convoluted and arcane - yet crucial - area, is logical and well organized.

The author makes no secret of the fact that real estate investing, like all other kinds, is not sorcery and requires careful research, hard work, thorough preparation, and, most important of all, close attention to detail. Given a realistic understanding of the challenge, one can partner with this book as an inexpensive but wise adviser. It won't get you rich quick on no money down, but it will help you to make cautious and fact based decisions that are crucial to successful investing in any realm.

As a hedge fund manager, I am exposed to written financial advice of one sort or another virtually every minute of the day. I haven't seen writing that is more scrupulously researched and thoughtful (yet also personable) than that in THE WALL STREET JOURNAL COMPLETE REAL-ESTATE INVESTING GUIDEBOOK. I heartily recommend it.
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on January 17, 2007
There are no cutely named house-flipping schemes here. There are no touchy-feely chapters to help you find the "courage to be rich." But for smart advice and an inspiring overview of the business of real-estate investing, this book is a must-read. Crook, editor of The Wall Street Journal Sunday, leads aspiring investors through locating, vetting and securing seed money for properties small and large. He also gives tips for managing your investment once you've made it. Surprisingly this potentially dry topic is anything but, thanks to lively writing, stories from real-life investors and witty one-liners. (On borrowing down-payment money from family members: "An 'Uncle Al' interest rate inevitably comes with Uncle Al's interest in your business.") If nothing else, read it to find out why your home does NOT count as an investment property.
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VINE VOICEon October 1, 2009
It's no secret, to those close to me, that I am a huge fan of real estate investing. The book of the week was The Wall Street Journal Complete Real-Estate Investing Guidebook by David Crook. I liked this book because it was very informative on a very "real" level. It didn't boast unreal expectations like many real estate books. The methods outlined within this book can take someone with somewhat little knowledge in the field and help them really start making money with investment properties.

There was one particularly helpful chart within this book that I would like to tell you about. The chart outlined how to prepare for your starter property. It is broken into 4 categories: 1-3 months, 4-6 months, 7-9 months and 10-12 months. Each time period has tasks to be completed within it... let me show you.

1-3 months- Educate yourself (read up on real estate investing), Network, Clean up personal finances (pay off your debts and correct credit reports)

4-6 months- Get the business going (interview banks, work on getting a corporate entity established), Walk the streets (know the areas where you will be doing your search), Check out properties (get a feel for the market and crunch numbers)

7-9 months- Get liquid (make funds available for when you need them), Go shopping (make some lowball offers and get a feeling for negotiating), Get preapproved from your bank or financial source

10-12 months- Go for it, do your due diligence, get your money

I think laying out a plan is especially helpful for anyone just getting off the ground. I love to make plans. I actually have plans for myself that range from month to month and even 10 years in the future. It really helps a person get things in perspective... "what do I have to do here to get there?"

Crook also does a great job of directing a portion of his book to novice investors. In his 6th chapter, There's No Place Like Home: Smaller Residential Investment Properties, he explains how to get your cashflow generated with smaller properties. I am a big fan of starting off with a nice duplex. It helps you get a feel for the management environment on a smaller level. I feel that if you are going to have expectations of a property management company, you should understand the field. Additionally, with a duplex you can get a cheap rent (a lot of people think you'll live for free if you have the other side rented, however, when you take in to account the taxes, maintenance, utilities, and insurance you will probably just end up with a much cheaper version of rent.) You will most likely start having a positive cashflow on the second property and then from there... the sky is the limit!

Real Estate is a great investment for several reasons, but I want to clear up a misconception that a lot of people have about real estate investing. A lot of people see their personal home as a investment... however it's not. Several of my authors have explained this concept and Crook does and especially great job of making the point clear with an illustration of a the same house on two pages, one being used as a home and one being rented out. The house being used as a home has expenses just like one being rented out, however, when you use the house as your home your expenses (taxes, utilities, interest paid on mortgage, maintenance, upgrades etc.) in the long run outweigh your financial benefits from the sale down the road. People don't include the expenses of running a home into the "investment" of their home. The myth of having a home as an investment has been passed along for years, but when you see the reality you have an opportunity to change that mind set. Put more of your savings into solid investments and riches will be awaiting you.

I think this book is a really great read for anyone thinking about getting into their first few real estate deals. The Wall Street Journal books are always very well written and they come with little side modules with helpful little tidbits, which I think is a nice way to break up the book and make it more interesting. I think this book is a great, easy read for anybody, but would be especially helpful for anyone that is or aspires to manage people. I particularly love talking about real estate, so don't hesitate to ask me questions if you have any! I would be more than happy to help anyone that wants it.

[...]
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on September 22, 2007
This book has a lot of very good points and ideas, but it won't be the last book you'll need. This book does offer a very handy list of websites and other suggested readings in the appendix. Overall, a solid book, but you will need to do more research for many real estate concepts.
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on February 27, 2016
One of the best books I have read on real estate investing. Well written, opens immediately with the fundamental benefits of real estate investing and proceeds to explain these key concepts. It does not advocate risky behavior or get rich quick schemes, and the author is not selling anything as is the case with so many other real estate books. There is no doubt that real estate investing is an area in which you can materially improve investment returns through sound management, something that the statistics suggest is almost impossible with stocks.This book is ideal for a new investor and will save much time trying to make sense of others if not being hoodwinked by the risky schemes some authors peddle.
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on December 29, 2014
Good introductory book. The author touches on all the benefits and many risks associated with real estate investing. There are many details involved with selecting, financing and managing a property that are covered. However, one of the most crucial aspects (it would seem to this reader), "how much can I expect to get for rent from my property" that is not really covered. I can look on zillow.com to find out what monthly rent that properties are being priced. However, this only provides one number, not what properties are actually renting for, and what the vacancy rates are. Perhaps some more resources in this area would have been more helpful.

Another (minor) issue was a bit of seemingly conflicting advice. Early in the book, the author presents a real estate investor who lives in Russia, but whose parents manage his properties in NY state. A bit later the author presents anecdotal evidence that staying away from the coasts (where property costs are high) can present some better opportunities for investment (namely, Memphis, IIRC).

Then later in the book, the author gives the advice that (forgive me for paraphrasing here) you shouldn't try to invest 2000 miles from where you live because you can't properly keep an eye on your property.

It would seem to me that if an investment property is far away, but a local-to-the-property management company can keep an eye on it for you (albeit eroding your margins a bit), this could be a solution that overcomes the distance problem.
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on June 16, 2016
Awesome overview about real estate investing from single family dwellings to apartments to REITs. Great overview I cannot stress enough. It's the only real estate book one should read before embarking on RE investing. It's not one of those books where they teach you to become a millionaire landlord in 15 months or how to to flip 1000 houses in 1000 days. It's practical. Filled with knowledge. One should seek additional information by taking coursework for a real estate license or consulting their real estate agent/property manager. Cheers to everyone that bought property before 1995.
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on August 9, 2009
This book is a good, solid guide to real estate investing. Focused in cash-flow and rental yields, this book will appeal to real estate beginners, but more experienced investors might not find a lot of insight.
Warning: if you are not a US market real estate investor, many parts of the book will not be applicable to your needs (local laws, taxes,...)
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on June 4, 2014
Currently most of my investments are in the stock market and I'm interested in diversifying, thus this book. The book was written in the mid-2000s, before the crash, but the housing market has recovered to the point where the advice given here should still hold up.

The book is well-organized, with such chapters as finding good properties, tax implications, small residential properties, commercial property, and REITs. It's easy to read and has a bit of humor thrown in. As you might expect from an editor at the Journal, the author can't resist throwing in a bit of politics, but otherwise it's a great read. I particularly enjoyed the section about how the tax code favors the real-estate investor.

Don't miss the glossary at the back, which has some fun definitions. My favorite was probably the one for operating expenses, which includes the line "[a]t tax time, a landlord is likely to have very high operating expenses, but they will shrink into near insignificance when the landlord puts the property up for sale."
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on September 2, 2007
Having read a dozen or so other real-estate investment books, over the course of a few years, I have to say this well-written, direct book is hands down the best and most helpful overall guide out there in terms of how to get in and what to expect, in property investing. The book is well deserving of the Wall Street Journal branding.

Newbies to real estate investing will find the book clear and accesible; easy to read and understand - with lots of insight on where to go find more info. about any particular topic mentioned which might interest you. Those with a bit more experience in real estate, will perhaps find the read more akin to an honest conversation with a peer / expert / consultant on the subject. The style is fresh and crisp. The author is doing us all a service organizing and putting his thoughts and experiences forth so clearly. Thank you, Mr. Crook.
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