Thursday, September 18, 2008

Buy low, sell high

The Peebles Path to Real Estate Wealth: How to Make Money in Any Market. R. Donohue Peebles and J.P. Faber. Wiley. 216 pages

Disclaimer: This is a book review, not a personal profile or a breaking news story. If you are interested in reading more about R. Donohue Peebles, use the Google! As a developer in South Florida and other communities, he's received quite a bit of coverage.

In reading this guide to making money in real estate, shards of Peebles's curriculum vitae emerge, though that's far from its focus. Still, there's a bit of a narrative thread that wends through it, though each occurrence offers a brief glimpse and no more.

Essentially most of the book is a prosaic and painstaking primer on the fundamentals of real estate selection, evaluation, negotiation and financing, then buying and selling the property.

If you weren't already aware that the idea is to buy low and sell high, you'll find Peebles's lessons quite valuable. But most sapient and sentient beings understand that, and if they've read any real estate book -- or bought or sold a home - have learned this fundamental principle.

But like the redoubtable son of Rich Dad Robert Kiyosaki, Peebles advises to pursue undervalued properties and negotiate fiercely with lenders, owners, government officials or whomever holds the keys (literally or figuratively). Of course, as real-estate prices plummet, finding these bargain properties, according to Peebles, isn't too tough. All you need is cash. Or if you don't have any cash, good credit. Or if you don't have good credit well, more about that in a bit.

Peebles (and his co-author, J.P. Faber) write clearly and simply, and with some humor (though no knee-slappers) and drop plenty of references to South Florida, which might aid anyone who wants to annotate this book with footnotes detailing the author's achievements. Interestingly, there's just a single unindexed reference to fellow South Florida developer and fellow author Jorge Perez -- as a subject of litigation. Though Donald Trump is mentioned, as Peebles gleefully strips the varnish off the Trump legend by pointing out how the blustery serial failure is popularly perceived as a success -- a source of wisdom, even, for erstwhile apprentices, while defaulting on debts and executing other abortive and bone-headed deals.

There's also an interesting analysis of the real-estate glut caused by bureaucratic bumbling and incompetence in the wake of the savings and loan collapse in the late '70s and early '80s. Peebles, though, was able to rise above the chaos and managed to profit by being in the right place and boldly going where others could or would not.

Throughout the text, Peebles also touches on his various personal residences, their asking prices, how he acquired them and what he paid, as a means of illustrating his instructions and illuminating his methods. It's interesting though not especially compelling.

The best part of the book, though, is tucked away in the back, as Peebles instructs prospective investors to divest themselves of most inhibitions and traditional proscriptions against amorality in dealing with private and public institutions. Though it's been widely reported that mortgage money is tight and that some institutions are now requiring as much as 40 percent down, Peebles preaches boldness. Seems to have worked for him!

published 9/8/08 in The Miami Herald

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