Ten Books You Must Read Before Investing in Real Estate

I started investing in real estate more than 10 years ago.  Like many others, I got curious about this, and eventually I decided to buy my first property, and then my second, and many years later I have 21 units that I own along with my wife and I have passively invested in 9 different syndications (I will explain what that is), that own upwards of 1500 units combined.

Before I get to the book list, let me explain that there are several ways to invest in real estate, you can be an active investor or a passive one.  An active investor is directly involved in activities related to running or managing the property: you can buy a house and rent it, or you can put together a group of investors that look for a bigger size deal, put it under contract, gather another group of investors (passive) and buy and run the deal.  This is commonly referred as a syndication, and it is a profitable way to invest.

Now to the list.  I have read many real estate related books, and a friend asked me recently which books would I recommend to someone getting started in this journey, my list may be missing some good books, but I can tell you that the ones mentioned are worth every penny, and if you want to be an informed investor you must read at least a few of them.  If there are books you have read that are not mentioned here, please put them in the comments section.

1.- Rich Dad, Poor Dad: Without a doubt this is a classic, and if you ask among real estate investors, I would bet more than 90% have read this book and is perhaps the one that got them started in the business.  I am not sure if the rich and poor dad are real, but the book is full of practical advice and inspiration.

2.- What Every Real Estate Investor Needs to Know About Cashflow: This book is full of formulas and examples on key financial metrics related to real estate.  Many investors buy real estate banking on appreciation, and it is likely the property will appreciate, my advice is that any property you buy must cashflow.  This book is a must for any aspiring investor.

3.- The Hands-Off Investor: I just recently read this book, and I can tell you that the price you pay is a bargain compared to the value delivered.  I have been a member of an active mentorship group, where I have paid a good amount of money to learn, and I wish I would I have read this book earlier.  The author (Brian Burke), does an excellent job explaining how multifamily syndications work. 

4.- The Weekend Millionaire's Secrets to Investing in Real Estate: How to Become Wealthy in Your Spare Time: Getting started in real estate can be overwhelming, and this is like the saying: “How do you eat an elephant?” One bite at a time.  This book does exactly that, it simplifies the process and gives actionable advice on how to get started.

5.- Best Ever Apartment Syndication Book: This book is written by Joe Fairless and Theo Hicks.  They have a podcast with the same name, and furthermore, Joe runs a very successful syndication company and I have invested in a number of his offerings.  The book perhaps repeats some of the same concepts you will read about in other books, but it does it in a very easy to digest manner.

6.- The Geometry of Wealth:  Although this is not necessarily a real estate book, you must read this book to understand your reasons for getting into real estate.  Real estate can be a very profitable business, but your why must go beyond just making money.  A meaningful life in the end is what we all aspire to, and this book contains plenty of food for thought.

7.- Crushing it in Apartments and Commercial Real Estate: Another great book, told from a different perspective.  It has a mix of personal stories, financial concepts, and tactics to get started.

8.- The Book on Rental Property Investing: My list would not be complete without a book from the bigger pockets library.  If you have not stumbled on it, Bigger Pockets is an excellent website, with tons of free content.

9.- The Complete Guide to Investing in Rental Properties: This one of the first few books I read, and it gave me a good blueprint on how to get started.  This book is more appropriate for those seeking to buy their first small property (less than 5 units).  The concepts are applicable across and you will not go wrong making this one of your first reads.

10.- The Millionaire Real Estate Investor: Written by Gary Keller of world fame.  This book is full of actionable advice from a legend.

This concludes my top 10 list.  I still recall my wife telling me that she would not allow me to get into this business if I did not read at least 1 or 2 books before.  Many years and books later, I realize how right she was, in order to be successful in this business, I would recommend that you read as many books as you can get your hands on.  Best of Luck!!


The Summer of Coronavirus

I have always wondered what it was like during the spanish flu?  Obviously they did not have social media, and the predominant means of communication was newspaper.  Nowadays we have the world wide web, and we are probably more communicated than we have ever been.  Video conferences are as popular as phone calls, and the speed is very good.

 

That is without a doubt one of the factors that has kept office productivity relatively high.  Many of us have been working from home for now almost 5 months, and signs indicate that this may continue for months.  Until there is a vaccine, an effective treatment, or herd immunity, nothing really changes, we know more about the virus and we are able to better take care of ourselves, but that does not mean that we can go back to socializing the way we used to.

 

With the passage of time we will look back and reflect on how this pandemic changed the way we go about many things, as well as many industries.  Many business will disappear and many others will appear.  It is still my belief that we have not seen what the pandemic did to our economy.  Back in march when governments ordered everybody to stay home, a number of stimulus packages and help came to the rescue.  That money dried up, and now congress (in the US) is fighting to come up with a second stimulus package which as of today is not yet in place.  If this situation is not fixed, we will start seeing evictions, more people losing their jobs, and so on, as this behaves as a vicious cycle.

 

As grim as all this sounds, and the fact that our social interactions have been limited to seeing people behind a computer screen, or social distancing with a face mask and 6 ft in between, we will look back and see the silver lining in all this.  From my part I can say that the last 5 months have allowed me to spend lots of time with my beautiful family.  At times we have gotten into each others hair, but by far this has been a blessing more than anything.  My son came back from Europe the very day that President Trump banned flights from Europe (what a blessing), my daughters have not run out of ideas to keep us entertained, from game nights, to movies, to “lockdown” proms, to even organizing a birthday party for my wife that we will never forget.  In addition, I have had time in the evenings to reflect on my goals, and since I have a more flexible schedule, I have been able to exercise regularly.

 

Let me comment quickly about the power of goals.  At the beginning of the year I set a few goals, typically I focus on health, wealth, growth, and spirituality.  My health goal was to run 650 miles throughout the year, and I can report that as of today, I have run almost 595 miles, putting me way ahead of schedule to meet my goal.  I had a specific goal, and I wrote it down, and I have been tracking my progress weekly, I was able to come up with one or two more specific goals, unfortunately, goal setting is still a process that I am very much working on.

 

I was asked a couple of weeks ago about my favorite leadership books.  As I look back at all the books I have read, it is difficult to select my top 10, nonetheless I will try to do that.  If I were to go back in time and decided to pick 10 books on leadership to read, this would be my list, I am listing them in no particular order:

 

1.- The Magic of Thinking Big:  Great book, and makes you realize that it takes the same amount of effort to dream big or small dreams.

2.-  Stumbling on Happiness:  I cannot recommend this book enough.  We live life chasing things that will NOT make us happy.  A big house, a great paying job, expensive toys.  Put his book on your list.

3.-  Never Split the Difference:  Great book on negotiation, with very specific and actionable advice.  Chris Voss has negotiation down to a science.

4.- Grit (The Power of Passion and Perseverance):  To be successful and happy grit is a must.

5.- Man’s Search for Meaning:  This book was written by Viktor Frankl, a concentration camp survivor from Auschwitz.  This is an amazing testament on how the only thing that can never be taken away from you is how you react to what happens to you.

6.- Its Your Ship:  I read this book years ago, and it contains 10 solid leadership concepts.

7.-  Rudy (My Story):  This book was turned into a movie.  It is the triumphal story of Rudy Ruttiger, who was a Notre Dame football player that no one expected would ever even make it into the team.

8.-  Give and Take (Why Helping others Drives Your Success):  Being a leader means being last, and putting the interest of those you lead ahead of your own.

9.-  How Will You Measure Your Life?:  This book describes corporate leadership principles applied to your personal life

10.-  Leaders Eat Last:  Simon Sinek is most famous for his book “Start With Why”, however in leaders eat last Simon delivers many reasons for why leaders need to be servants in order to truly lead.


Ten Books You Must Read to Achieve Financial Freedom

I started saving money and got serious about my finances when I was 25 years old.  I was still in school finishing my graduate studies.  As a typical student, I did not have a lot of discretionary cash, and I remember going to Barnes and Nobel (when brick and mortar stores where still a thing), and reading as many books on finance and investing as I could.  Today I will try to distill all the books that I have read into 10.

 

Let me first start that on any journey or life endeavor, you have to start with a purpose, your purpose has to be so clear and so strong that you will not be stopped when facing challenges or disappointments (and you will, believe me).  Things will not always go your way, disappointments will come, reasons to quite will be abundant, the lure to buy things and spend the money you have saved will be constant.  All along, you will be armed with a strong will and a resolve to stay the course because you have clarity on why you re doing this.  For this reason, it is a combination of psychology and knowledge, and neither one is more important than the other, if nothing else, perhaps psychology would get the upper hand.  Psychology is about clearly defining why you want what you want, and having a vivid vision of where you want to be and who you want to be in the future.  Reasons come first, answers will come second, and as one of my mentors told me early in my career: “If you why is big enough, the how will take care of itself.”

 

With that let me start with my list of books that will help you develop your mindset, and will give you tools to to remain strong:

 

1.- Rich Dad, Poor Dad: What the Rich Teach Their Kids About Money That the Poor and Middle Do Not!; A classic and best seller by Robert Kiyosaki.  This book summarizes the concept behind an asset and a liability, and how cashflow producing assets are king.

2.- The Richest Man in Babylon:  Building wealth is not new, it goes as far back as the Persians and Sumerians.  George S. Clason teaches in this short book a number of concepts that we must keep in mind in our road to wealth.

3.- Think and Grow Rich: A classic by Napoleon Hill.

4.- The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy:  This book came out in the 90’s and it is as relevant today as it was back then.  Wealthy people are not necessarily the ones that you see driving the nicest cars and having the biggest houses.

5.-  The Geometry of Wealth: How to Shape a Life of Money and Meaning:  Brian Portnoy draws you to reflect on the true meaning of money and wealth.

 

In addition to having a purpose, it is also important to have some tools that will help you along the road.  I must admit that there are lots and lots of books with financial advice.  I am listing some of the best books that I have read and with sound advice to help you get started and continue on your road to personal financial success.  The books are listed in order from basic to more advance content, but does not mean that one is better than another.

 

1.- The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness; written by Dave Ramsey.  The book contains solid financial advice in easy to understand terms.

2.-  The Money Book for the Young Fabulous and Broke;  This book is one of Suze Orman’s first books.  It may contain advice that at times is similar to Dave Ramsey’s.  Nonetheless, if you consider yourself inexperienced in the topic, this is a great book to get you started.

3.-  MONEY Mater the Game: 7 Simple Steps to Financial Freedom; By Tony Robbins, this book is excellent, it is more than 600 pages long, but worth every page.  Tony give very sound financial advice, and discloses secrets from his interviews with world acclaimed investors.  If you have to pick only one book, this would be my choice, it is a mixture of basic and intermediate topics.

4.- The Motley Fool Investment Guide:How the Fools Beat Wall Street’s Wise Men and How You Can Too;  I must admit that the motley fools does more to educate the common individual such as you and me than anyone else.The book, written by Tom and David Gardner will teach you in a very easy way what you need to know to start investing in stocks, bonds, and funds.

5.-  Bull’s Eye Investing: Targeting Real Returns in a Smoke and Mirrors Market;  I cannot finish my list without recommending John Mauldin’s book.  The book is not new, but contains advice that is just as relevant today as it was when it was published.  John is a great writer and very candid and forthcoming with his advice.  I would say, this book is perhaps a little more advance than the others, but if you read it, you will gain precious advice on how the markets really work.

 

In the end, the important aspect is to have a clear goal, live below your means, save, invest wisely your money, and wait for it to compound.  I hope my book recommendations help you become a better investor and a better person.


That Dream Job You Have Been Fantasizing About... Doesn’t Really Exist

We seem to think that money brings happiness and the more money we have, therefore the happier we will be.  Furthermore, after graduating from college, we are often inclined to take the most lucrative offer.  Research suggest something different.  According to a recent Gallup survey, less than 50% of Americans are satisfied with their job.  This is despite the fact that the United States is one of the most prosperous countries in the world.  So, if this is true, why is so?

 

A couple of years ago, I read a book by John Maxwell (Today Matters).  In that book, Maxwell makes the case that things do not make you happy, trips do not make you happy, people do not make you happy, only you make yourself happy.  In reality, happiness is a state of mind, and we have the power to change how we feel in any situation and at any time.  This point has been made time and time again, and if you have never read “Man’s Search for Meaning,” by Victor Frankl, you need to put that in your must read list.  Now, I am not dismissing the fact that there are jobs that pay more than others, and that the basic human needs must be met before we can focus on meaning.  What I mean is that you need to earn a minimum amount to satisfy your basic needs, but after that, your happiness and level of satisfaction with your job, it will not grow exponentially.  Quoting Daniel Gilbert (Psychology Professor at Harvard), “If you do not think that money makes you happy ask the person living under a bridge, and if you think that money makes you happy, ask Bill Gates”.

 

Our relationship with money and meaning is a very complex one.  However, one thing is certain, once you have a food, clothing, shelter satisfied, more money will not make any single one of us happier.  In a recent poll, college graduates indicate that the most important element in getting a job is the salary, this ranks above quality of life, location, and working hours.  But is this true? People in prestigious professions (i.e. Doctors, Lawyers, Wall Street Investors) have suicide rates 1.5 times above those in average professions.  The luring and appeal of a larger paycheck has in fact, a detrimental effect in our metal health.  If our goal is to be happy, why do we sabotage ourselves by working longer hours and taking on more stress with the hope that this will give us our next job promotion?  This topic intrigues me and I have read a great number of books to understand the psychology of happiness and success, and although I have learned a lot, I must admit that the answer is not that easy.

 

Let me go back to an author that I have been reading and following for at least 10 years.  Dr. Daniel (Dan) Gilbert, in his book “Stumbling on Happiness,” Gilbert makes the case that the human brain is very good at recreating from the past, and horrible at extrapolating into the future.  We think that events or things will make us happier (if positive), or will make us more miserable (if negative) than what we will actually feel.  This of that iPod that you dreamed about, and used for perhaps a month and ended up being sold at a garage sale for a fraction of what we paid.

 

If you have read all the way until this point, hopefully you are starting to realize that there is hope, that job that we hate, is perhaps not about the job, but about our attitude and the meaning that we give it.  Now if you job is not providing with the minimum level of economic support required to cover your basic needs, then you may have a good reason to up-skill and look for another job.  Otherwise, the solution may be a lot simpler than we think.  Notice that I said simpler, but it will still require a change in your mindset, which is not always easy.  The difference between a job, a career, and a calling is exactly the meaning that we derive from our jobs.  We work on a job almost purely for money, it is a transactional relationship, in a career, we focus on our growth potential, a calling is in a class of its own, when we have a calling, money is important, but it is not the driver, the driver is the difference that we are making and the meaning that we derive, in other words, what you do for a living is perfectly aligned with your why.

 

If you are one of the lucky people that has a good paying job, rather than dreaming about your perfect job, your time would be better spent retooling the way you think about your job.  We have the power to change our thoughts and the way we feel, and one thing is for sure, beyond a basic level, more money will never make you happy.

 


The Silver Lining

It has been some time since I have not posted.  I wanted to reflect on what has happened over the last 6 months.  The world has been overwhelmed by a pandemic, we have been forced to limit our activities, and try to stay at home, and we have seen things happen that we never imagined would be possible.  As an example, I work in the oil and gas industry, and never in my life would I thought I would see negative oil prices.  The US economy has shed millions of jobs, and while the recovery is starting to take hold, we are still far from having healthy conditions.

We still have yet to see whether the government stimulus package will be extended (although there is a good chance), but if it doesn't, what effect would this have on the economy.  In the meanwhile there is a disconnect between the stock market and the economic numbers we see, and I guess this is due to the massive amounts of money that are being injected into the system and are finding a home in the market.

Despite this, the past 3 months have brought many memories, and have actually offered a chance to spend more time with my family, and also reflect on how lucky we are to have health, food, shelter and many other things that we typically take for granted.  Let me recap a few of the things that will make me remember the 2020 COVID lockdown as something positive that happen in my life:

We got to celebrate my daughter's graduation

We did more than 4 food drives around our neighborhood to gather food for a local food back

We celebrated as a family our oldest daughter's prom

We experienced empty shelves at the grocery stores ;-)

As I start to write more frequently, I will start sharing my thoughts on the economy, the stock market, and of course, real estate.  I still believe real estate offers the best path to financial independence and this crisis will offer many opportunities if we remain vigilant.

Be safe and take care!

 

Sal

 

 


Good Friends, Hard Goodbyes and Off to Sardinia

This is a sad time of the year for us. Living as an expat brings many joys, adventures, excitement, and friendships. Obviously as friendships are made, some others leave for new adventures. Over the next few weeks, we will see a number of great friends depart. It is always a mixed bag of emotions as you are excited about their new life and coming adventures, but you also know that they will be irreplaceable. New friends will be made but every friendship is a snowflake, even though they may look the same, no 2 friendships are the same.

Last night we had dinner with a pair of great friends and their family, Mark and Shannon will be leaving soon to go back to their new home, and we wish them all the best, we have truly been blessed with their friendship and their example. We remember and cherish our time spent here with them and their family, and we wish them all the best in their new start. Mark and Shannon: May God Bless all of you and thanks for sharing part of your lives with us!

As for us, we are off to Sardinia, I will be posting pictures from there

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Location:Wassenaar, The Netherlands

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Last night in medugorje

This will probably be my last post. Today we had another apparition. But first of all let me say Happy 4th of July. For those in the USA, eat a few hamburgers, hot dogs and lots of watermelon for me. Ivan today treated us to an American desert (see below). Also happy birthday to my nephew Will, a big hug!!!

Now let me say a few words about the last couple of hours here in Medugorje. We went this afternoon to Cenacolo. You can learn a lot more about this online, just google Cenacolo, it is a worldwide organization established by a Nun, (mother Elvira) from Italy. It is a rehabilitation center based purely on prayer and hard work. We heard testimonials from 2 ex addicts. It is a very moving place. They do not use medicines or wean off people, it is exclusively through bringing them closer to God by praying and working all the time.

After that visit to Cenacolo we came back to the house for dinner and another appartion. On this, my last day, I asked Ivan if he could use my rosary to pray today and during the apparition, which he did :-)

Here are the main points from todays message
- Ivan assured us that if we could see our Lady for just one second and see the piece of heaven that he sees every apparition, we would not be interested anymore in this world
- the most difficult thing for him is trying to describe Her love for us
- again as all this week, our Lady was happy and joyful, and use the same greeting "praised be Jesus"
- after that she extended her hand over us and prayed in her mother tongue (aramaic) for all of us, for the sick, for vocations and for priests
- Today she particularly prayed for the family and for the youth
- she stressed to pray to God within our families, and give him a special place at the center of our families
- our mother blessed us all with her motherly blessing, and blessed all the articles and petitions put in the altar
- Ivan mentioned that our Lady know exactly what we need and the prayed for all of us
- after that Ivan had his private conversation
- she then continued praying and left in prayer with the sign of the cross
- The main message for today was prayer within the family

Let me conclude that after all this week, the message I take is to have an active prayer life, we do not pray enough, and we have lost our freedom to many material things. God wants to love us but many times we do not let him. My last activity is to go to adoration from10:00 to 11:00 pm local time. As in the beginning, I will keep praying to God for all of you, and that he help us find the peace within our hearts to live a live according to his teachings

Soo long, i will try to send one more posting, but if I don't thanks for reading this, but more importantly, put into practice what these blogs contain

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Ivan's chapel before the apparition as we are making our way in

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How about this for a 4th of july cake?

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Today he invited an Italian crowd to see the apparition

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Ivan and I after the apparition

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And why not a selfie with Ivan :-)

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Packing my bags and a picture of the rosary that I gave Ivan to use during todays apparition

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My Last Full Day at Medjugorje

Like they say, "all good things come to an end". Today is my last full day in Medjugorje, so far i have attended morning mass and i climbed apparition hill. We are about to visit a rehabilitation center called Cenacolo, this is run by an Italian nun and promises to be an amazing and moving experience, all addicts coming into this facility are rehabilitated with nothing but love, as corny as you may think it sounds. I will be writing later about this place more. Tonight i have my last attendance to a live apparition, and rest assured that I will keep all those petitions and intentions in my heart, and I have placed all the intentions given to me in the basket in front of the altar. It has been quite hectic and I did not write about yesterdays message. Here are some of the major points:
- some of the messages are repetitive, but our Lady says "why should I give you new messages if you have not mastered the ones I have given you?"
- she was very joyful and happy and thanked us for responding to her calling for prayer, and asked us to keep praying for her intentions
- she prayed first for all priests and vocations, and then for all of us
- she prayed in particular for the sick
- today she asked us to create and promote prayer groups
- she asked for the young people to get involved in such prayer groups
- she then imparted the motherly blessing over all of us
- she then had a private conversation with Ivan, which he does not share with us
- she kept praying and left praying by saying "go in peace my dear children"

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Last night at veneration of the cross

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This mornings mass at St James (my last in medjugorje)

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My last climb to apparition hill and in front of Gospa

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I received a beautiful and inspiring email from a friend as I was sitting here, thanks for the email (you know who I am referring to :-)

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Apparition hill on my way to cenacolo, look at all the busses from all places, italy, poland, slovakia,....

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Mount Krizevac in Medjugorje

This morning I woke up at 3:00 am to walk and pray the viacrucis in mount Krizevac. Mount Krizevac is a hill in medjugorje where in 1933 the people from Medjugorje built a 30 ft tall cross to conmemorate the 1900th anniversary of Jesus death at the cross. One can climb up by praying the 14 stations of the cross. This morning I did just that with 3 more of my fellow pilgrims: Father Joey (my room mate), and Keith and Marian who are celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary. We got to the top of the mountain and experienced a magnificent sun rise.

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Here we are starting our walk at 3:30 in the morning

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A picture taken from the road to the base of the hill, the church of St James is in the distance, my ipad does not take the best pictures at night and therefore is a bit grainy

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Here we go starting our ascent

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Reaching the top at 5:15am

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The sun rising behind me

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My climbing partners

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How about this sunrise

We will have mass in 1 hr and then I will go and climb apparition hill once again. In the evening, Ivan will be having his daily apparition and I will be posting his message later on. Since I will be fasting all day today I will be braking my fast this evening in style by having a pizza and a large beer, which I am already savoring.

Cheers!

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