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Swimming away from the sharks

Foreclosure Investing for Dummies Ralph R. Roberts and Joe Kraynak Wiley: 363 pp., $21.99

July 22, 2007|Frank Nelson | Special to The Times

Do the folks behind the prolific "For Dummies" book series ever sleep? Apparently not much. With more than 1,000 topics already under their belts, they seem constantly alert to the market's next niche opening, however small.

No trend or passing fad escapes their notice, and in the 16 years since "DOS for Dummies" first landed in bookstores, they have repeatedly shown that the most unlikely subjects and activities are still ripe for the "Dummies" treatment.

Real estate has enjoyed its share of attention with volumes on home buying, house selling and house flipping, the latter penned by Ralph R. Roberts and Joe Kraynak. Now, Roberts, highly successful in real estate sales, and freelance author Kraynak have teamed up again on "Foreclosure Investing for Dummies."

Readers will feel at home with the familiar "For Dummies" format -- pages peppered with lists and enlivened with amusing anecdotes, a sprinkling of cartoons and regularly recurring icons alerting readers to potential pitfalls, things to remember and worthwhile tips.

This format, encouraging what Roberts calls a "skip and dip approach," makes for a relatively easy and entertaining read, no mean feat when dealing with such a complicated subject.

Roberts also earns kudos for urging those considering foreclosure investing -- an area where blood in the water tends to attract the sharks -- to act with integrity and fairness. Being principled and compassionate, he writes, aren't barriers to being successful and making a profit.

Before earning a reputation as a real estate guru, Roberts apparently lost an early house to foreclosure, an event that perhaps makes him more sensitive to the plight of others who find themselves in that predicament.

Roberts puts plenty of meat on the bones when discussing such topics as financing, liens and legal issues, the foreclosure process, dealing with distressed homeowners and carving a path through thickets of property records. There's also a handy state-by-state reference to foreclosure rules and regulations.

But at other times, the writer leans so heavily on the obvious that the guidance on buying foreclosed property might equally apply to buying a car, clothing or even the weekly groceries.

For example, among other things, readers are advised to have sufficient funds in hand, do their homework, inspect the goods before they buy, not believe everything the seller tells them and set realistic goals.

It's hard to judge demand for a book like this. But with the Center for Responsible Lending talking upward of 2 million foreclosures over the last eight years -- an accelerating trend -- maybe the market's bigger than it first seems.

Roberts and Kraynak have cobbled together enough facts, figures and sensible advice to ensure this book will repay its modest price tag many times over. Despite that, however, it's hard to shake the impression that "Foreclosure Investing for Dummies" stretches itself just a little too thin.

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