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Investing guide mostly a rehash

How to Invest in Real Estate With Little or No Money Down Robert Irwin McGraw-Hill: 224 pp., $16.95

September 05, 2004|Robert J. Bruss | Special to The Times

The best thing about "How to Invest in Real Estate With Little or No Money Down" by prolific author Robert Irwin is the title. Because, unfortunately, the content doesn't deliver.

Irwin has written more than 30 real estate books. Most are excellent. I can recall only one other disappointing effort, and it was written with a coauthor.

Much of the material in this book is from his previous works on other realty topics. There is very little new content about how to acquire investment property with little or no cash. Personal examples would have added some realism.

Of course, buying an owner-occupied house or condo with virtually none of the buyer's cash is routine today. But it is more difficult, although not impossible, for investors.

Does real estate tycoon Donald Trump, for example, buy investment properties with cash from his pocket? Of course not. One way or another, he finances virtually 100% of his acquisitions. "Mom-and-pop" investors can do the same. Yet Irwin's book fails to focus on how.

The book wanders off the topic. What does the chapter "The Keys to Being a Successful Landlord," for example, have to do with purchasing a property with little or none of the buyer's cash?

The book is not without a few redeeming qualities, however. It does emphasize how important it is for income-property buyers to anticipate possible negative cash flow (when property expenses exceed rental income) and to be able to handle such a situation. Also, the chapter "The Big Surprise: Transaction Costs" is very good. Irwin explains the closing costs that many buyers of investment properties often overlook.

But even here, Irwin loses direction. He diverts to topics such as getting a real estate sales license and buying without an agent rather than showing how to handle or at least minimize closing costs.

This seems to be a formula book that the author cranked out in a short period of time to meet a contract quota. Although the book's cost is minimal, it offers few or no new ideas.

Only a small portion of the book is devoted to acquiring investment property with little or no cash. Much of that information involves owner-occupied houses, much different than acquiring investment property.

Throughout the book, Irwin seems to indicate that the only way to acquire investment property is with a new mortgage loan. Having bought numerous properties for nothing down, I know there are many creative methods to avoid dealing with mortgage lenders. The author neglects to explain these methods or use personal examples of his nothing-down investment purchases.

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