Sunday, June 11, 2017

Best Real Estate Book of All Time

One of the most common email questions I get is simple.

"What is the best real estate investing book of all time?"


For many years, there was a growing consensus in the real estate world the best book ever was the 1959 classic "How I Turned $1,000 into a Million in Real Estate in my Spare Time" by William Nickerson.

No doubt this was and still is an amazing book even if the contents are dated.  The properties he targeted in the book, fixer-uppers which need just a coat of paint and some minor repairs, are today mostly scooped up by professional property flippers who can often pay all cash.  In Nickerson's day, property flippers of single family homes were much rarer than they are now.

My current answer to the "Best Book" question above is one you may not have ever heard of before.

The 1979 classic "How We Made a Million Dollars Recycling Great Old Houses" by authors Sam and Mary Weir.

This book, much like Nickerson's, is a personal account of how this married couple got started in real estate and how they ultimately crossed their target of $1 million.

But what makes this book so special is its personal tone, almost like reading someone's diary.  There is LOTS of great advice in this book, albeit some of it dated now.  There are better vapor barriers today than nearly forty years ago, for example.  But their common sense advice on every subject a real estate investor needs to know makes this book a winner.

No get-rich-quick advice here.  Instead, a total commitment to professionalism and hard work.

For me, the best part of this book is a chart (today it would be called a spreadsheet) of every property the couple bought along their way to one million dollars, including the street address, purchase price, sale price, dates of ownership, and more.  I have never seen a real estate book before or since with such honesty, including them admitting mistakes and losses along the way.


More importantly, the Weirs ultimately settled on a strategy of targeting older and larger homes instead of normal single family properties since fewer buyers wanted these so-called "money pits."  It can be argued today's "Rehab Addict" Nicole Curtis adopted the strategy of the Weirs.  Nicole was three years old when the Weirs published their book.

Still, targeting larger and older homes which need LOTS of improvements is a strategy that still works in many cities.

The book is sold used on Amazon.com and I occasionally still see it in thrift stores.  It is well worth the read.

One final point.  I always wondered what happened to Sam and Mary Weir after they wrote this book.  It seems they never wrote another.  Did they set a new goal, say $10 million in real estate?  Did they retire from rehabbing after saving so many properties?  Did they stay together?  Why not another book?

We know what happened to William Nickerson.  He continued to invest in real estate and give lectures on investing until his death at the age of 91 in 1999.

But the fate of Sam and Mary Weir is unknown to me and I am hoping some reader of this post can extinguish my curiosity for me.  If you know about the Weirs, please reply to this post below.  The readers of this website have come through with some amazing information in the past so I have my fingers crossed once again this lingering mystery can be solved.

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