Many people are told that investing in commercial real estate is a great way to get ahead in life. And while that can be true, investing without direction can have the opposite effect. Regardless of how grand your entrepreneurial dreams, nothing will prove more beneficial than building your real estate portfolio on a strong foundation. We’re not talking bricks and mortar – we’re talking about investing the time in self-education prior to making your first commercial real estate investment. The more you know, the more you’ll be able to navigate a particularly complicated industry with precision and confidence.
In this article, we provide our recommendations at Feldman Equities for some of the best real estate investing books you can read prior to doing your first commercial real estate deal.
Related: How to Buy Commercial Real Estate
General Real Estate Books
There are a handful of books that are valuable to anyone in the business from sales professionals to real estate and otherwise. These books provide valuable life lessons, advice for people looking to close deals, general information about demographic trends that will influence business decisions, and more. Here are some of the most valuable “general” books that real estate investors of all kinds will want to spend time reading.
How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie
This longtime classic teaches people countless principles to become a likable person, handle your relationships well, win others over and help them change their behavior without appearing intrusive. Three valuable lessons from How to Win Friends and Influence People: (1) You can make a first great impression just by smiling. (2) To be interesting to others, talk about their favorite topic: themselves. (3) If you want to convince people to do something, get them to contribute their own ideas on the subject you are trying to convince them about.
Successful real estate investors often find themselves in a position where they need to win friends and influence people, which is why this book is a must-read for any business professional—especially those who anticipate being in a position to negotiate commercial real estate transactions down the road.
Never Split the Difference, by Chris Voss
Never Split the Difference is arguably one of the best negotiation books out there today. It was written by an ex-FBI hostage negotiator. Buying a car? Selling a house? Wanting a raise? Bargaining with the kids over their bedtime? Life is a big negotiation – and Chris Voss walks through how to have the upper hand in those negotiations. This book proves especially powerful for those engaging in commercial real estate deals, where transactions can be complicated and often require significant back and forth negotiation between the buyer and seller.
Winning, by Jack Welch
Jack Welch spent 40 years working for General Electric, serving as CEO for the last twenty years of his career. Jack Welch was considered one of the most successful CEOs of the entire 20th century. He provides his perspective on all aspects of business, from marketing to HR, to business expansion and innovation. His honest, be-the-best style of management became the gold standard of business. He placed a relentless focus on people, teamwork, and profits. When Welch retired in 2001, he walked away with the (then) biggest severance payment of all time: $417 million, a nod to the value Welch added during his tenure as CEO. During that time, GE’s value grew more than 4000%.
A few key takeaways from Winning:
- Your mission should be to be the dominant player in your industry. If you can’t be the dominant player, get out!
- The workplace does not have enough blunt communication. Welch cautions against sugar-coating facts.
- Don’t chase money, chase what you love doing and the money will come.
- Measure the performance of every person and department of your business.
- Never surprise somebody by firing them. They should know it’s coming well in advance.
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Commercial Real Estate Books
Here are some of the best books specific to commercial real estate investing.
Made in America, by Sam Walton
This book is the autobiography of one of the most successful billionaires in history; Sam Walton of Walmart. This is the story of his life and provides some interesting facts about his early days including real estate. Sam Walton wrote this book after he was notified by his doctors that he had 6-12 months to live.
Although not widely known, Sam Walton was a marketing genius and reveals his marketing secrets. People often forget that Walmart began as a single-store operation, which Sam Walton then grew into the empire it is today. He details the innovative ways he stayed ahead of his competition, using an airplane, for example, to scout for real estate – long before his competitors were evaluating sites by air. From up in the air, he’d be able to see traffic flows, how cities and towns were growing, and could evaluate the locations of competition (if any). When he found a site he loved, he’d land the plane and approach the owner, trying to work out a deal right then and there. Made in America teaches valuable lessons, from real estate management to marketing, from staying ahead of your competition to investing in the success of your employees.
Trammell Crow, Master Builder, by Robert Sobel
Sobel brings alive the story of Trammell Crow, the visionary real estate developer whose brilliant career served to shape the future of the field, particularly as it pertains to office development. The book follows Crow from his origins as a small-time real estate investor to his transformation into a corporate symbol. Conviction, trust, respect, and a desire to make things work are key tenets of this book. Key lessons from this book include:
- Trammell Crow had a unique ability to create high-quality buildings and was a genius at marketing them.
- People generally like to deal with “nice people” – so always be nice, but shrewd.
- Look for people with high ethical standards, intelligence, creativity and ambition. You can always teach them the nuances of commercial real estate.
This book provides thoughtful insight into many of the major issues that real estate owners and developers encounter while trying to build a company and is a must-read for anyone looking to build their CRE practice.
Holdouts! by Andrew Alpern and Seymour Durst
This is a book about the trials and tribulations of developing in Manhattan and, more specifically, the challenges presented by holdout landowners who refused to sell to developers. Many commercial real estate developers have experienced this “holdout” problem first-hand. Durst describes some of these real-life scenarios: a strip of land 5” wide and 78’ deep that’s owned by a taxi driver whose asking price was so outrageous that it killed a developer’s plans for a large apartment house; an empty 9×20’ site in the middle of a Wall Street office building that was once used as an outhouse in the 18th century; a two-story building surrounded by a tall apartment building on Upper Broadway that stands in the way of future development. These are all examples of holdouts that stalled redevelopment efforts – but didn’t have to. This book provides valuable strategies for how to work with and overcome holdout problems like these.
Real Estate Investing Books for Beginners
Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki
This is perhaps the most famous real estate investing book featured here today. The story is written from Kiyosaki’s perspective of having two fathers, his real father (poor dad) and the father of his best friend (rich dad). He details the ways in which both men shaped his thoughts about money and investing. The premise is that the average person doesn’t need to earn a high income in order to become rich. Instead, he sees the power in putting your money to work for you, which is what rich people tend to do. Other lessons from the book include:
- It doesn’t matter how much money you make, but rather, how much money you keep.
- Financial aptitude is what you do with money once you make it, how you keep people from taking it from you, and how to make you money work hard for you.
- Rich people acquire assets. The poor and middle class acquire liabilities that they interpret as assets.
This book is a practical how-to guide for beginners. This book will help you decide whether to invest in real estate. It will teach you the basics about being financial independent, about concepts like leverage, cash flow and much more.
Think and Grow Rich!, by Napoleon Hill
Originally published in 1937, this book has gone on to sell more than 70 million copies – and with good reason Hill spent the majority of his life studying successful people and their habits, and the 13 most prevalent habits are featured in this book. Advice like “be stubborn and always stick to your decisions,” and “join a Mastermind group to cut the learning curve” are practical tools for beginners looking to learn about real estate investing. A lot of the book is focused on ways to increase income and is generally applicable to any industry. However, this is a quintessential self-improvement book that will truly prove valuable to those looking to excel in the real estate industry.
Real Estate Investing Books for Experts
The Power Broker, by Robert Caro
You’ll need to set aside a substantial chunk of time to get through The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York, as this tome is a staggering 1,344 pages long. But don’t let this scare you away, as this is an invigorating book about power, cities, politics and government that will sure to please any expert real estate investor. This Pulitzer Prize-winning book has been named one of the 100 greatest books of the 20th century. It is a biography of Robert Moses, who was one of the most powerful men in NYC and the State of New York during his time. It tells the story of how, when denied power within the normal framework of the democratic process, Moses stepped outside that framework to grasp power sufficient to shape a great city and to hold sway over millions of lives. He shaped New York’s parks, beaches, highway system, public housing, and countless other elements of the urban landscape. This is the thrilling story of how Moses became such a dominant player in New York’s history. It’s all about how to amass power and how to wield it.
The Rise of the Creative Class, by Richard Florida
Commercial real estate investors interested in learning more about what’s driving the growth of urban environments will certainly want to read The Rise of the Creative Class. In this book, economist Richard Florida details the composition of the “Creative Class” – which includes anyone who works in any profession that requires creativity: engineers, architects, designers, writers, artists, musicians, even businesspeople, educators, health care providers, lawyers and more. He talks about how the Creative Class, more than any other demographic, is responsible for how U.S. society has changed since the 1950s – and what the Creative Class means to the future of our cities.
Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time, by Jeff Speck
Jeff Speck is a city planner and urban designer who advocates internationally for smart growth and sustainable design. In his latest book, Walkable City, Speck provides a remarkable collection of data that highlights the challenges facing our urban environments. He goes on to provide a detailed breakdown of the “Ten Steps of Walkability,” which serves as an informative guide to commercial real estate experts looking to have long, meaningful impact on their communities through building design and architecture. Naturally, as the title of the book would imply, Speck urges readers to think about making our downtowns more walkable and less car-centric, a definitive change from how they’ve been developed over the past 50+ years.
Related: How to Invest in Institutional Quality Real Estate
The books outlined above are not only enjoyable, but also provide real-world advice and lessons for those looking to invest in real estate. Investing in one’s education isn’t simply an accumulation of specific information, but rather the building up of an ecosystem that can strengthen decision-making when opportunities arise. These books are intended to open investors’ eyes to the nuances of the behind-the-scenes sausage making process in which so many commercial real estate deals happen. With the tools provided in these books, investors will be prepared to respond to situations and excel in their careers.
It’s worth noting that in addition to these books, there are many great blogs, real estate journals and podcasts that serve as excellent how-to guides for prospective real estate investors. These should be used to supplement the material from books, particularly as blogs, real estate journals, and podcasts can respond to new and innovative real estate practices in real time (such as the integration of smart building technology, new marketing and leasing platforms, how to use virtual reality to land deals, and more). An ongoing education that includes published books and other up-to-date media is the best way to stay on top of your real estate game. Now, check out our portfolio of commercial real estate at Feldman Equities to see how advancing your education within the industry can help succeed.
Related: Diversification In Office Building Investing
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