4 Essential Books on Real Estate Investing for Novice Investors

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You’re ready to invest in real estate to build wealth with rental properties and house flips. You need some guidance, but the abundance of books on real estate investing is overwhelming. Which ones are truly helpful?

To save you from reading countless book reviews, we did the legwork for you. We’ve curated a list of the four best books on real estate investing currently available. In our selection process, we scoured reader reviews on Amazon and Good Reads, read excerpts, and carefully considered what the real estate and financial book critics had to say.

For the final selection, we interviewed Paul Wheeler, a seasoned real estate investor for 35 years and a top real estate agent in Tulsa, OK, who sells homes 64% faster than the average agent. Wheeler reads close to a hundred books on real estate investment a year and advised us that these four best-selling books create the ultimate starter pack for a novice investor.

Criteria informing our selection process

We took a multi-pronged approach to determine the best books on real estate investing. Our thorough and impartial examination considered several criteria:

Sound Advice: We looked for books that don’t waste your money – on them or investment properties. The books on our list provide reliable financial guidance, as confirmed by Wheeler and top real estate book critics.

Author expertise: We searched for authors with substantial investing experience who boast solid credentials in terms of longevity, position, and success in the industry. All books selected are written by authors who are principals of reputable companies and have expansive investment portfolios.

Average reader reviews: It’s pretty much impossible to please everyone, but trends don’t usually lie, so all of our selected books have an average rating close to five-stars. Beyond taking the average rating into account, we read pages of reader reviews to understand the details behind the ratings. We read the best reviews, the worst reviews, and those in between to understand what people liked and disliked about each book.

Relevance: Investment strategies change with the times. We selected current books that reflect the real estate investment environment today or provide tried-and-true evergreen advice.

An apartment building that is used as a real estate investment.
Source: (Pedro Ramos / Unsplash)

1. The Book on Rental Property Investing: How to Create Wealth with Intelligent Buy and Hold Real Estate Investing by Brandon Turner

Page count: 360
Year published: 2015
Price: $13.99 on Amazon
Amazon rating: 4.7 stars / 2,847 ratings
Goodreads rating: 4.42 stars / 3,133 ratings

Why we recommend it:

This book is packed with expert insight ensconced in homespun personal stories. Using real examples, Turner shares his experiences and knowledge, as well as those of other investors in the BiggerPockets community. You’ll feel like you’ve got a personal life coach, helping you understand the what-to-dos and what-not-to-dos.

Here’s why we consider this book essential for those new to real estate investing:

  • Trustworthy author: The author, Brandon Turner, has written several books on real estate investments and rental properties. He’s also the co-host of BiggerPockets Podcast, a weekly podcast about investing and wealth-building with over 1.3 million listeners. He shares his past mistakes as an investor and his secrets to success.
  • Easy-to-read formatting: Formatted like a how-to book with step-by-step suggestions, this easy-to-understand book lays out detailed instructions for just about every aspect of investing, offering different strategies, and pointing out the pitfalls along the way.
  • Entertaining lessons: Each chapter comprises one step, with navigational directions provided through practical lessons, personal stories, pro tips, and common mistakes – all in bite-size sections for quick reference later. This book lists the pros and cons of every phase of the process, from the initial property search to calculating your ROI.

What you’ll learn:

You’ll learn the basics of real estate investing, including:

  • Building cash flow with rental property
  • Analyzing properties
  • Building a team
  • Understanding finances and real estate taxes
  • Recognizing the reasons other investors fail

What the best reviews say:

Reviewers liked that this book covers the entire process of breaking into real estate investment from start to finish in a very simplistic format. Further, Turner doesn’t push just one approach to property investment. He spells out options and diverse strategies and even discusses regional and geographical differences to allow the reader to choose what works best for their circumstances.

What the worst reviews say:

Critical readers lamented the lack of statistics and scientific data. Everything is anecdotal. A common critique focused on the tedious aspect of the book due to repetition, including repeated self-promotion.

Must-read chapters:

Chapter 3: Four Sample Plans
This chapter outlines a simplified year-by-year breakdown of how to start with $20,000 and turn that into a million dollars in seven to eight years by leveraging equity and cash flow to trade up.

Chapter 5: Analyzing a Rental Property
Beyond the purchase price, you’ll have to calculate numerous other expenses such as closing costs, cost of repairs, monthly mortgage payments and utility bills, HOA fees, property management fees, and the average vacancy rate.

When deciding whether a property is a good buy or a goodbye, you’ll also have to consider your cash flow and the potential for appreciation. There’s a lot of math involved, and some of the calculations may not be on your radar, so this chapter is a great resource.

Chapter 10: Which Properties Make the Best Rentals?
While Chapter 5 examines the numbers, Chapter 10 takes a broader look at whether or not a particular property will pay off as an investment. For example, like Goldilocks, you don’t want too few bedrooms or too many: It has to be just right. Translation: A home with too many bedrooms will likely rent to a family with several children, who are more likely to damage the property.

This chapter gives additional tips, including:

  • Expect more repairs with an older home.
  • Homes with garages typically secure longer leases than homes without.
  • Save money by having the tenant pay for utilities.

It also suggests some critical fixes to interest buyers, such as:

  • Replace outdated kitchen cabinets and countertops.
  • Eliminate mold and its cause.
  • Repair a leaky roof.
A pile of cash gained after investing in real estate.
Source: (Celyn Kang / Unsplash)

2. The Millionaire Real Estate Investor by Gary Keller

Price: $20.99 on Amazon
Page count: 368
Year published: 2005
Amazon rating: 4.7 stars / 1,139 ratings
Goodreads rating: 4.27 stars / 3,064 ratings

Why we recommend it:

You know the adage: If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck — it’s a duck. According to Gary Keller, founder of Keller Williams Realty International, one of the world’s largest real estate franchises by sales volume, you have to think like a millionaire investor to become a millionaire investor. And he’s going to show you how to do that through interviews with more than 100 millionaire real estate investors.

Here’s what we also love about this book on real estate investing:

  • Well organized: The book is organized into three distinct sections designed to put you into the right millionaire mindset. Each section teaches you the basic skills of real estate investment and provides strategies to accumulate wealth.
  • Helpful appendix: One of the most useful tools is the appendix, consisting of worksheets and flow charts on topics, such as cost of repairs, criteria, personal balance, and personal budget.

What you’ll learn:

Keller dispels many myths about real estate investment that might inhibit potential investors from getting started. He then provides a roadmap for identifying investment opportunities and vetting them, generating leads, developing a team, building a network, working the best deal, and understanding your finances.

This book also covers the following principles of wealth management:

  • Accumulation
  • Money flow and the investor mentality
  • Techniques and strategies
  • How to overcome second-guessing yourself
  • The importance of perseverance in the investment game

What the best reviews say:

Readers shared that this book takes a deep dive into multiple approaches to real estate investment, starting with the fundamentals of finances and an examination of some common scenarios. As Wheeler says, “everyone does it differently” — that can be overwhelming.

Readers appreciated the mathematical modeling of various examples as a way of proving the advantages of diverse strategies. They also valued the insights, experiences, and checklists all presented in a well-written compilation.

What the worst reviews say:

In one word: fluff. Beyond that, many felt that the book was more motivational than instructional – yet another pep talk with too many empty platitudes but not enough specified strategy or details on the “harsh realities of real estate investing.”

Must-read chapters:

Part One, The Five MythUnderstandings About the Way You Look at Investing
Think of this chapter as a pep talk from the SNL character Stuart Smalley: You are smart enough, and you are good enough to become an investor in the real estate market. Top agent Wheeler confirms the author’s sentiment, sharing that it’s essential to get over your fear of investment because until you buy a property, “nothing happens.”

Keller shows you how to overcome your fears and excuses to get started and stay in the game. He breaks down the complications and risks of investment and shows you how to find investment opportunities.

Part Two, Own a Million
The average real estate investment book explains different types of financing and how to get them, but Keller goes further by listing 17 money issues and how to stay on top of them. This chapter also examines the perils and the promises of buying and selling investment property.

A building used as a real estate investment.
Source: (William Bout / Unsplash)

3. ABCs of Real Estate Investing: The Secrets of Finding Hidden Profits Most Investors Miss by Ken McElroy

Price: $16.95 on Amazon
Page count: 220
Year published: 2012
Amazon rating: 4.6 stars / 1,164 ratings
Goodreads rating: 4.08 stars / 5,111 ratings

Why we recommend it:

Part of the Rich Dad Advisors series, The ABCs of Real Estate Investing focuses on larger scale investing into commercial properties, such as apartment complexes and multi-family homes. Written by Ken McElroy, principal and co-partner of MC Companies, a full-service real estate investment and property management group, the book provides a straightforward guide to locating and estimating the value of multi-family properties.

  • Expert advice on the multi-family market: The National Association of Realtors reports that the multi-family market is hot due to favorable credit financing, high-demand, and low vacancy rates, so having a guide to assess these properties could be your ticket to real estate riches.
  • Motivational guidance: McElroy explains not only how to become a successful investor but also why you should want to be one. He also teaches you how to transition your goals into a meaningful outcome by leveraging partners and cunning negotiation.
  • Easy-to-follow for beginners: First-time investors will find this a good “starter” book that is simple to follow.

What you’ll learn:

This book focuses on wealth management and teaches you how to increase cash flow through:

  • Finding the right properties with genuine income potential
  • Reading a property’s profit and loss (P&L) statement
  • Negotiating the ultimate deal
  • Making the most of proven property management tools

McElroy shares his knowledge of:

  • Investment analysis
  • Project management
  • Acquisitions
  • Dispositions
  • Team building
  • Client relations

You’ll also learn how to:

  • Develop budgets
  • Evaluate the market
  • Find and manage properties
  • Assign a valuation
  • Set realistic and attainable goals

What the best reviews say:

Readers appreciated the to-do list and simple step-by-step directions summarized at the end of each chapter for a quick review. They also enjoyed the formulas to determine property value, cap rate, and other equations. Many readers felt that the book offered tangible advice.

What the worst reviews say:

In many regards, readers who left negative reviews found the book too basic and lacking in specifics.

Must-read chapters:

Chapter 7: Is It Really a Diamond?
As McElroy writes, “in good deals the numbers work. In bad deals, they don’t.” If you need help determining whether or not the deals work for you, this is your chapter. McElroy teaches investing principles on asking price and property value, which, on a multi-unit property, includes operating income, expenses, cash flow, capitalization rate, and valuation.

The chapter also covers:

  • The three types of property income and which one to consider when purchasing
  • How to calculate the Net Operating Expenses and Cap Rate – and why you need to know these numbers before you make an offer

Top agent Wheeler says that this chapter is an essential read since it helps new investors focus on the numbers rather than the emotions when purchasing their first properties. He underscores the value of cash flow: “Don’t spend more than you can bring in.”

Chapter 12: To Sell or Not to Sell?
That is the question. It’s not Shakespeare — it’s dollars and sense. But you still need to plan an exit strategy, which is farther down the line than most investors look when buying investment properties.

McElroy sums it up when he says if you don’t have a plan for capital gains, don’t sell. Even if you have a plan for the profits, you still need to decide when to sell. Some of the factors influencing that decision include fixed and variable expenses and the market rate for rent.

A house that will be renovated as a real estate investment.
Source: (Brina Blum / Unsplash)

4. The Book on Flipping Houses: How to Buy, Rehab, and Resell Residential Properties by J. Scott

Price: $15.87 on Amazon
Page count: 320
Year published: 2019 (Originally published in 2013)
Amazon rating: 4.7 stars / 772 ratings
Goodreads rating: 4.36 stars  / 541 ratings

Why we recommend it:

This revised edition of the 2013 bestseller provides a roadmap for experienced flippers and newbies alike. A primer on flipping houses, this new edition offers fresh information about the process during any market, how to find a property, current costs of rehabbing a property, creative options on financing, and large renovation projects.

Here’s why we rank this bestseller as one of the top books on real estate investing:

  • Extremely comprehensive: The book covers a breadth of topics, including evaluating markets, financing a rehab, finding the right contractors, creating a budget and a construction schedule, staging for a quick and profitable sale, and surviving closing.
  • Helpful anecdotes: J. Scott, co-host of The BiggerPockets Business Podcast, pulls from his experience buying, building, rehabbing, and selling real estate to provide common-sense tips in a no-nonsense, detailed format.

What you’ll learn:

You’ll learn how to flip a house from A to Z – or, really, from F to F to F: find, fix, flip. Beyond covering the fundamentals, Scott:

  • Explains the nuances of analyzing a target market
  • Shares his system for rehabbing houses without cutting into his profits
  • Walks the reader through the creation of a Scope of Work that sets the stage for a budget
  • Offers checklists for the due diligence process
  • Provides tips for how to write a winning offer

Scott also teaches you how to:

  • Identify the types of properties you should purchase
  • Perform due diligence
  • Negotiate a favorable price with a motivated seller
  • Create a budget
  • Get creative with your financing
  • Find and manage a trustworthy and talented contractor
  • Stage to impress and sell

What the best reviews say:

Most readers agree that this book is a solid step-by-step guide to the mechanics of house flipping, with detailed and organized categories. Readers appreciate that Scott shares personal anecdotes to validate his tried and true methods. Many reviews mentioned that the sample documents and budgets are a big assist.

What the worst reviews say:

You can’t cover everything in 320 pages. Some readers believe Scott lacked sufficient information on some of the introduced topics, such as liability, insurance, and selling the deal.

Must-read chapters:

The Introduction: Why Did I Write This Book?
It’s unusual to recommend the introduction, but in this case, it’s a practical prelude to what you’ll find in later chapters. Scott’s “20 Steps to Your First Rehab” screens you on your desire to become a flipper. If you already have some experience flipping, you can use the introduction to jump to the information you’re looking for.

Chapter 8: The Flip Formula
Scott boils down the P&L numbers into an easy formula. In a nutshell, the most you can pay for a property is how much you can sell it for – minus the cost of rehab, fixed costs, and the profit you want. In addition to fixed costs, such as taxes, insurance, and utilities, Scott points out the importance of considering other expenses as fixed costs, such as a real estate agent’s commission, closing costs, and seller concessions like furniture.

Header Image Source: (Radu Marcusu / Unsplash)