Monday, May 24, 2010

BOOK REVIEW: Learn the 'new rules' of real estate

Book Review
Title: "Buy, Close, Move In! How to Navigate the New World of Real Estate -- Safely and Profitably -- and End Up with the Home of your Dreams"
Author: Ilyce Glink
Publisher: Harper, 2010; 304 pages; $14.99

All of a sudden, real estate has gone from the "milquetoastiest" of finance topics to the most controversial, or nearly so. Every other person you meet has an opinion about what happened, how we got here, whose fault it is and what the future holds. This transformation, this sea change, has spawned a new sub-genre of real estate books: the "new rules" book.

Titles about new rules are, frankly, no longer new. But most treat the subject in a fairly academic way, which is no longer useful. To correct this problem, real estate journalist Ilyce Glink has authored a very consumer-friendly entry to the "new rules" genre: "Buy, Close, Move In! How to Navigate the New World of Real Estate -- Safely and Profitably -- and End Up with the Home of your Dreams."

Glink, a well-known journalist specializing in real estate, credit cards and personal finance matters, introduces the book with a breakdown of the digital transformation of real estate over the last 20 years or so -- from the digitization of old-school multiple listing service printed books, which brought listing information to the people, to Craigslist.

After covering the digital divide, Glink transitions into the credit crisis, the housing crisis and mortgage fraud, providing a summation of events that nicely lays the framework for lay readers to understand the New World of Real Estate she sets forth in the rest of the book.

Glink closes her intro with a key point, the third element of this new real estate geography in which we all live: the evolution of buyers into savvy, 2.0-trained, research-focused house hunters who crave information and know how to get it online.

After the first chapter, "Ten Things That Have Changed in Real Estate, Ten Things That Haven't," which focuses on some high-level general observations about how the industry changes and constants -- Glink moves into practical need-to-knows and actionable advisories for real estate consumers, driven by the changes in the industry.

In Chapter 2, "What Buyers Need to Know Now," Glink gives a brief but power-packed compare-and-contrast overview of the old standard rules of residential real estate versus the new rules for buying a home.

In Chapter 3, "The New World of Mortgage Finance," Glink does a deep dive into the subject, touching on such timely topics as financing and refinancing in a declining market, where Fannie and Freddie fit into the home finance industry, what loan options are still available on today's market, and changes to the mortgage market, including FHA loans, closing costs and appraisals.

Next, Glink covers "Fixing Your Credit History and Credit Score Forever," helps buyers get a handle on the question of "What Can You Afford to Buy?" and touches on that super-sensitive issue so many homebuyers face today: "Down Payment and Reserve Money: Where to Find It and Where to Stash It."

Finally, Glink segues into the world of real estate investing, coaching readers through a very basic, very general primer on "Identifying Amazing Opportunities: Short Sales, Foreclosures, Fix-and-Flips and Buy-and-Holds," including some big-picture strategies for negotiating with sellers and lenders.

Then, she offers a brief discussion of how to fund real estate investments and how to use them to profit from the opportunities created by the current market climate, before concluding with an appendix that catalogs some of the many mistakes, in her opinion, that real estate consumers and investors are frequently making.

While this book appears to target both buyers and investors, its strongest suits are the sections for homebuyers, specifically in their plain English, jargon-free explanations of what one can expect and how one can successfully navigate this hazard-filled market.

Particularly for those would-be buyers who think buying on today's market is virtually impossible, or who are intimidated by the prospect of even trying, "Buy, Close, Move-In!" is a great first step to demystifying and zapping the intimidation factor out of your homebuying drea

Reviewed by Tara-Nicholle Nelson Inman News May 18, 2010

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