By Barbara Ballinger, REALTOR® Magazine
There’s no shortage of books, videos, and tapes to help you organize your papers and files. Amazon.com alone lists almost 37,000 choices.
Many of the books are written by professional organizers, who are eager to help you eliminate mess in a few easy steps. Their books tend to cover similar ground—why we fail to get and stay organized, what supplies we need to set up user-friendly systems for our desk and electronic files, and what strategies we should deploy to avoid turning physical files into an alternate wastebasket.
Following are four books that demystify the process with easy-to-follow text, charts, drawings, and photographs.
- The Office Clutter Cure by Don Aslett (Marsh Creek Press, 1994) Aslett understands the messes that accumulate in offices. He’s seen them daily as a professional office cleaner. A good incentive for clearing out the clutter, he writes, is to avoid having bad things happen to “good” papers: coffee stains, dirty fingerprints, rust from paper clips. Among his best tips are his 10 commandments, including “Thou shalt never let the To Be Filed pile rise higher than four inches.” Buy this book from Amazon.com.
- Organizing Your Home Office for Success: Expert Strategies That Can Work for You by Lisa Kanarek (Blakely Press, 1998). Kanarek’s tactics will work whether your office is at home or in a corporate setting. She also covers turning your car into a mobile office, useful for salespeople constantly on the move. Among her first pieces of advice is to determine your work style and whether you prefer to keep projects in view or out of sight. Each style can be tweaked to work, she says. If you’re the all-in-view style worker, switch to leaving one reminder out rather than an entire project. If, however, you’re the hide-it-all type, learn how to file papers in appropriately labeled folders so you don’t waste time retrieving them. Buy this book from Amazon.com.
- Organizing Your Work Space: A Guide to Personal Productivity by Odette Pollar (CrispLearning.com, 2nd Ed., 1999). Pollar’s golden rules of organization are to keep a filing system “simple, easy, and manageable.” She suggests three principles: file papers in the broadest possible category, such as “planning” rather than into “five-year plans” and “three-year plans”; label files with an easy-to-remember noun rather than a date, number, or adjective that you’re apt to forget; and alphabetize files within each group to make retrieval easy. Buy this book from Amazon.com.
- Organizing for Dummies by Eileen Roth with Elizabeth Miles (Hungry Minds Inc., 2000). A member of the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO), Roth offers a good incentive to file papers. Studies have shown, she says, that people waste as much as 4.3 hours a week or the equivalent of 5.5 weeks a year searching for papers. She gives her strategies acronyms:
- W-A-S-T-E, for instance, encourages workers to analyze every paper and ask: Is it Worthwhile? Will I use it Again? Can I easily find it Somewhere else? Will anything happen if I Toss it? Do I need the Entire item?
- Her R-A-P-I-D strategy recommends dealing with incoming mail immediately so it doesn’t become part of a growing pile. Read what’s coming in; Attend to notices for meetings, conferences, events; Pay bills; deal with Important correspondence; and Dump what you don’t need.
Finally, if you can remember what you read here, either file it under “useful advice” or toss it.
By Haley M. Hwang, REALTOR® Magazine
Making Big Money Investing in Foreclosures Without Cash or Credit Peter Conti and David Finkel (Dearborn Trade Publishing, 2003) 267 pp., $18.95
Buy this book from Amazon.com.
Although Making Big Money Investing in Foreclosures Without Cash or Credit by best-selling authors Peter Conti and David Finkel is geared toward consumers, there is enough good information in it to make it a worthy read for real estate practitioners who want to learn about the foreclosure niche.
Whether you’re interested in learning about this niche to better serve your investor clients or you would like to start investing in these types of properties, this book teaches you the basics of how to purchase, finance, and profit from foreclosure properties.
The book provides a good overview of the legal process of foreclosures, including a step-by-step breakdown of structuring a foreclosure deal and definitions of industry terms. Pay particular attention to chapters 2 (The Big Picture of Investing in Foreclosures), 3 (12 Ways to Structure Deals Without Cash or Credit), 4 (22 Ways to Find Motivated Sellers), and 6 (24 Foreclosure Pitfalls That Can Cost You Big!). If you want the nuts and bolts of the information without all the unnecessary frills, skip all the “David’s Story” and “Peter’s Story” anecdotes offered by the authors, and the contrived scripts offered throughout the book.
The authors stress that investing should be an educational pursuit that doesn’t stop with the last page of this book. At the end of the book, they provide a list of real estate associations, other investing books, home-study courses, live workshops, mentorship programs, and Web resources to further learn about investing. The book also gives you access to a bonus Web pack, which provides a state-by-state summary of the foreclosure process and links to applicable state laws for many areas of the country, among other things.
Conti and Finkel are seasoned real estate investors, speakers, and authors. Conti also is co-author of How to Create Multiple Streams of Income Buying Homes in Nice Areas With Nothing Down. Finkel also wrote Making Big Money Investing in Real Estate Without Tenants, Banks, or Rehab Projects and hosts “Real Estate Radio,” a nationally syndicated weekly radio show.
Tips for Real Estate Professionals
- Become familiar with the legal process of foreclosures in your state. You should know what things can stall a foreclosure process to give you or your investor clients more time. In some states, for example, just by filing an answer to the lender’s complaint can buy you an extra month of time. The authors write that investing in foreclosure is like a game. “To get good at playing it, you’ve got to study the rules,” they write.
- Best stage to buy is in preforeclosure. The authors write that while there are multiple steps to a foreclosure procedure and there are advantages to buying in each stage of foreclosure, their preference is to buy in the “preforeclosure stage”—the first stage of foreclosure when a borrower misses a payment on his or her loan and, after the grace period (typically 60 to 90 days), he or she falls delinquent on the loan. In this stage, the authors write that you have much less competition because most other investors won’t know about the foreclosure yet and you have more time to negotiate a better deal; you can get into investing with very little money because earlier in the foreclosure process, the borrower tends to owe less money in back payments; and you have plenty of time to find a solution. “Our advice is to buy as early in the foreclosure process as possible because that’s when you’re likely to make the most money,” the authors write. “We and our students have profited in the tens of millions of dollars by buying distressed houses directly from the owners before the house is sold at auction. We believe this is the easiest entry point to immediately start making money investing in foreclosures.”
- Don’t look for foreclosure deals; look for motivated sellers. The authors provide a few not-so-original marketing ideas for finding homeowners who are motivated to sell. Their major marketing suggestion is to run “I Buy Houses” classified ads or post similar signs around your target neighborhood. Other ideas include sending postcards, letters, and coop mailing campaigns (where you team up with other businesses to send out a join advertising mailer). The authors also recommend that you obtain lists of people who just filed for divorce, probate property owners, vacant-house owners, building code-violation owners, and condemned property owners—all good prospects for motivated sellers. Also subscribe to your local legal notice newspaper, where you’ll likely find the addresses of people in both the starting and advanced stages of foreclosure.
- Avoid foreclosure pitfalls. If you have investor clients, you would be wise to read Chapter 6 (24 Foreclosure Pitfalls That Can Cost You Big!) carefully so that you appear knowledgeable about the process and the most common mistakes to avoid with foreclosure deals. Some of the cautionary tidbits offered include talking with the seller’s neighbors to learn the real story about the history of the house, any major repair problems it has had, and other valuable information about the neighborhood; running a credit check on the seller so that you can determine if there are any current or impending bankruptcy, check marital status, and learn about any other creditors; and getting the property professionally inspected so that you know what you’re getting yourself or your clients into and can make an intelligent decision about moving forward with the deal.