Saturday, July 12, 2014

Other People's Houses

Most real estate books I read leave me uninspired.  The bad books fall into one of three categories:

1.  Jargon and citation dense unreadable tomes.  A CPA's wet dream.  Lots of quotations from the Internal Revenue Code and court cases but really little practical information for investors.  Mostly an exercise in microscopic documentation over useful information.  Imagine reading an encyclopedia for fun.

2.  Nothing new.  The same real estate advice and information I have read in 10,000 books before.  Old wine poured into new bottles.  Boring.  Lazy authors write these books to earn a quick paycheck.

3.  Opinions, motivational speeches, and other claptrap which fills two hundred pages.  The author means well but I'm reminded of the old Clara Peller line, "Where's the beef?"  Readers of these books leave the table hungry, wanting more, but nevertheless with bellies empty.

OTHER PEOPLE'S HOUSES by author Jennifer Taub is NOT one of the above.  This is a fantastic book filled with the perfect mix of facts and figures, anecdotal stories, and advice for investors shrewd enough to read between the lines.

Taub explores the causes of the 2008 real estate and financial market crash and how the same people and factors are still in control today.  Little has been learned since the crisis and few changes put in place to avoid another one.  She's absolutely right.  Nero is still fiddling while the new Rome is being rebuilt as flammable as the last one.

What makes this book so good is her careful balance from being too wonky or preachy.  This book is filled with many pages of citations but does not need them to drive the story.   She tells the tale of the 2008 crash almost like a detective explaining a crime, fact-by-fact leading to a dismal outcome.  Readers of this book can learn from history and avoid reliving the same personal disasters even if policy makers simultaneously ignore the very same words.

One of my standards for whether I like a book is simple.  Do I want to read more by this same author?  Are they that good to make me an instant fan of their work?

OTHER PEOPLE'S HOUSES is such a book.  I really really want to read more of her words.


Here is an interview with Jennifer Taub discussing the 2008 financial crisis and her book.

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