Book Review: The Skinny on Real-Estate Investing

Book Week at Get Rich Slowly comes to a close today. Well, I guess tomorrow's Ask the Readers is about books, but this is the final review. I've saved the best for last.

Over the past year, I've had a chance to read several titles in the “Skinny On” book series. And although I've only mentioned them in passing here at GRS, I love these books. Today I want to tell you about them.

The skinny on “The Skinny On”
Each of the “Skinny On” books follows the same format. The story is told in comic-book style using simple stick figures and line drawings. Every book tackles some personal-finance or personal-development topic (credit cards, time management, and so on) by following the story of Billy and Beth, a couple with a problem. To help them solve the problem, author Jim Randel enters the story (as another stick figure) and talks through the best advice on the subject.

Yesterday as I walked to lunch, I read The Skinny on Real Estate Investing. I mean that I read all of it. In the 45 minutes it took to walk from my office to my favorite taco place, I read the book from cover to cover. As I did, I marked some of my favorite passages. With Jim Randel's permission, I'm going to show you some of these passages. I think it'll help make the concept clearer.

The Skinny on Real Estate Investing
Here are bits from the introduction of The Skinny on Real Estate Investing. (Note that there aren't any page numbers in “The Skinny On” series; instead, there are panel numbers.)

The Skinny On Real Estate Investing

 

The Skinny On Real Estate Investing

 

The Skinny On Real Estate Investing

 

The Skinny On Real Estate Investing

 

The Skinny On Real Estate Investing

 

Throughout his books, Randel uses Billy and Beth as examples of everyday folks who are just trying to make a better life for themselves. They do dumb things — and then try to correct their mistakes. Their actions also serve as an excuse for the stick-figure Randel to show up and offer sensible advice:

The Skinny On Real Estate Investing

 

The Skinny On Real Estate Investing

 

And here's the thing: The advice in the “Skinny On” books is sensible. It's not based on shortcuts and fads. Randel shares time-tested techniques that provide the best opportunity for success. And while he maintains a positive attitude, he's not shy about sharing risks and drawbacks:

The Skinny On Real Estate Investing

 

The Skinny On Real Estate Investing

 

The Skinny On Real Estate Investing

 

Based on these samples, you might think that the “Skinny On” books are light. I'll admit that they're not as dense as some books, but I think that's a good thing. They're accessible. They skip a lot of the transitional nonsense that goes into a book, getting right to the heart of the matter. And when math is needed, Randel's not afraid to share the numbers:

The Skinny On Real Estate Investing

 

I like these books for many reasons, and not just because they're personal-finance comics. For one, I agree with Randel's philosophies on personal finance and personal development. He's all about taking charge of your own life, and taking the slow, safe path to success.

The Skinny On Real Estate Investing

 

I also like that Randel cites his sources. He frequently refers to books and websites to support his claims, something that most self-help books don't do. (They want you to just accept the author's wisdom as a given.) (The Skinny on Real Estate Investing doesn't cite as many sources as his other books, but it's an exception.)

>Finally, I admire how Randel can take a complex subject and reduce it to easily-digestible chunks. He hasn't dumbed things down, but he's careful to explain confusing subjects and to leave out the non-essentials. These books provide periodic review pages, and the end of each one includes a ten-item summary of key points.

The Skinny On Real Estate Investing

 

The Skinny On Real Estate Investing

 

The Skinny on Real Estate Investing is an introduction to the subject. It provides the Big Picture about what it takes to buy and sell real estate for profit, but it doesn't give details on how to find deals, how to make deals, and so on. This is the first part of a three-part series, and I'm unsure whether all of the books in tandem would actually give the reader all the info they need to invest in real estate. But this is a fine place to start. I've been interested in the subject for a long time (much to Kris's chagrin), and have a much better grasp of what's involved after having read this book. I plan to read part two.

Personal-finance comics
For a while now, I've wanted to find a way to combine two of my greatest passions: personal finance and comic books. I've read some personal-finance comics (most notably those from the Federal Reserve), and, to put it frankly, they suck. They're dull and uninspiring. I've chatted with Pop from Pop Economics about how one could produce effective personal-finance comics, but haven't taken any action.

That's okay, though, because Jim Randel seems to have found a way to meld comics and money in a way that makes sense. Because make no mistake: The “Skinny On” books are comics. Sure, they use cheesy stick figures instead of work from expensive artists, but so what? That's part of their charm.

By sticking with (heh) simple line drawings, Randel is able to focus on what's important: the content of his books. The comics format provides freedom that a traditional text-based book doesn't have, but Randel doesn't abuse this. Instead, he's created a series of fantastic, informative volumes about financial literacy and personal achievement. I give these books my highest recommendation.

Books in this series that I've read and can recommend include:

And writing this review has made me want to read more, so I have a pile of other “Skinny On” books to take home with me for the weekend:

Are there any duds in here? There may be, but I haven't found one yet. I've been impressed with the presentation and content of these books. The Amazon reviewers seem to love the books, too. These titles may never become best-sellers like the “for Dummies” and “for Idiots” series, and that's too bad. The “Skinny On” books are great introductions to their topics and deserve a wider audience.

Note: Author Jim Randel has dropped in on the GRS comments a few times in the past couple of months. (Another reader dubbed him “Skinny Jim”, which I like.)

 

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Nicole
Nicole
9 years ago

Very cute!!

Thanks for the recommendation. These look awesome.

Andy Hough
Andy Hough
9 years ago

These are good books. As you say they are light but get right to the point. I’ve got a stack of them to read and review myself.

Mike Piper
Mike Piper
9 years ago

Wow, I’d never heard of these before. But I really dig the idea.

Unrelated note: When you self-publish (as Jim appears to), the book doesn’t have to be a best-seller for it to become a meaningful income source. 🙂

Kevin M
Kevin M
9 years ago

Cool idea, I heard of the Skinny On series through Adam Baker but never investigated them. I agree they are a good intro to important topics.

Chasen
Chasen
9 years ago

Love these Skinny On books! I actually haven’t read this one… but thank you for pulling out the best stuff.

Ian N
Ian N
9 years ago

J.D., I think you are confused about time management; the whole point is to free up more time to play Starcraft 2!

Sherman Unkefer
Sherman Unkefer
9 years ago

These look great – thanks for showcasing them!

AC
AC
9 years ago

Wow. You learn alot just by reading this one comic. When I came into my current job, my boss quit his within three months citing that he and his wife’s real estate business was starting to take off. He was even boasting that they were going to be millionaires in four years. That was end of 2007, beginning of 2008. He should have read these books.

Lainey
Lainey
9 years ago

These sound pretty interesting. I wonder if the library has them?

mbelousov
mbelousov
9 years ago

Very neat, I like the cold facts that doesn’t sugar coat the risks. The thing with real estate is that it’s like anything else in life – if you think you can, you’re right – if you think you can’t, you’re right. The only thing I don’t like about this is the scaremongering that real estate can dramatically drop in value. He should (maybe I missed it) have clairified that other markets can be just as volitile, just look the paper markets the last decade… The ultimate beauty of real estate is control, something that is hard to achieve with… Read more »

ditchtheboss
ditchtheboss
9 years ago

I have never heard of these books. I will definitely research. Is there one for getting out of debt or personal finances management?

I guess it can be hard to focus on such broad topics but I would be interested in one of those as it is the subject of my blog.

http://www.ditchtheboss.blogspot.com

The Skinny On
The Skinny On
9 years ago

Thanks so much to J.D. for this write up and all of you guys/gals for the kind words/comments!

@ditchtheboss we have a book titled The Skinny on Credit Cards, which covers some personal finance and debt. You might enjoy that.

Here is a preview : http://bit.ly/bsvucS

-Chris

Chickybeth
Chickybeth
9 years ago

Thanks for explaining the “Skinny Jim” comment! When I read it, I thought the other guy was being mean, but couldn’t figure out what he was getting at calling Jim “skinny”! lol

lulu
lulu
9 years ago

This preview of the real estate book really makes me want to read others in the series. Go Skinny Jim! Thanks JD!

Nate
Nate
9 years ago

These books look fantastic. I just purchased about 6 of them on Amazon. Thanks for the referral JD!

The Skinny On
The Skinny On
9 years ago

Thanks for such a kind review, JD. We are so appreciative of the support.

We just hope to make a meaningful, positive difference in people’s lives. And if we pick up a fun nickname along the way, then all the better.

Thanks again.
Skinny Jim

Greg McFarlane
Greg McFarlane
9 years ago

J.D., you must have received a different edition of this book than I did. Randel references concepts like return on investment, leverage, cap rate and cash flow, but gives them only the flimsiest of explanations. He makes a reference to “Class A” vs. “Class B” office space, without explaining what either one is. And do these passages even count as information?: “A square foot is a square that measures one foot by one foot” “Adding value simply means finding ways to increase the value of your property” To quote the excerpt you mention above, “Anyone who bought in 2005 has… Read more »

Tim
Tim
9 years ago

J.D., thanks for introducing us to this series. As J.D. emphasizes, personal finance is mostly about behavior. While I haven’t read a “Skinny On” book yet, I already love the format. By using Billy and Beth, Jim is able to bring behavior to his lessons in a way that’s easy to relate to. I just got done reading excerpts from his web site and I especially liked the excerpt from “The Skinny on Success.” I don’t think I’ve seen a better illustration of how much work success requires. I know so many people who think like Billy in this passage.… Read more »

Jason B
Jason B
9 years ago

Those look great JD. I’ll have to check out the Skinny On books. I’m a big fan of HGTV’s Income Property (though it’s the same concept over and over) where he takes old basements and turns them into rental units. These look like a great, super-quick primer on the nuts and bolts.

Nick
Nick
9 years ago

I love the series and my wife and I have been looking at real estate to buy for our primary residence for a while (we each own rental property but rent where we live… long story…). But one of our criteria has been that the property needs to be able to cover all costs with fair-market rent if we need to move. We’ve been looking for over a year and the prices are still way off. It’s a very overlooked part of real estate, but think it’s one of the best ways to safeguard against job loss or other emergency… Read more »

ajc @ 7million7years
ajc @ 7million7years
9 years ago

@ Greg – that’s really easy:

Class A is where they send the smart kids and Class B, well …

BTW: Jason, is it even legal to turn basements into rentals?

Visit Link
Visit Link
5 years ago

Thanks! I guess that kind of makes sense, though it would look like a very roundabout and backwards way of saying what you are saying, but:
1. How would the math function, where the house worth goes down by 33% but your cap price goes up just slightly from four% to six% ?
2. How does this fit with the subsequent statement that “rents would need to have to grow by 50%” in order for the investor to “break even” ?

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