Andrew Allentuck

Saturday, March 8, 2003

Investing in Fixer-Uppers
by Jay P. DeCima
319 pages
ISBN 0-07-141433-9

Jay P. DeCima has made a career of rehabilitating housing units and writing about his business. In this book of wisdom, he explains how to turn structures that vary from upscale to falling down into money-spinners.

He begins with what he calls "Snob Hill," where the wealthiest folks in town reside, and goes down from there to downtown commercial, older residential, dense slums and suburbia with owner-occupied housing. He advises against investing in slum properties, which is too risky, and against downtown commercial property unless it can be had for the price of property without commercial zoning.

In a list of who NOT to rent to, he lists "scary-looking people with tattoos who hang around property drinking beer and working on junk cars," outlaw bikers, screamers, deadbeats, hookers, and slobs. He infers that credit ratings are accurate, which numerous investigations of the credit rating industry show is untrue. Any landlord who solicits these reports owes it to himself and to the prospective tenant to corroborate the report. Indeed, a recent class action in Ontario appears to reduce the standard of proof needed to prove negligence in credit reports and may drive both credit reporting agencies and credit report users to be more careful in the way they handle the reputations of people who seek credit, employment, insurance and tenancy.

Much of his advice is directed to the sweat equity owners can invest. For example, he urges owners of older properties to do their own wiring. For the handy, this is fine, but he neglects to mention that insurance companies insist on having an electrical inspector check circuits. No inspection, no insurance. Read your policy, Mr. DeCima!.

In the end, this is a good book for the novice house renovator who wants to develop a rental business. Most of the advice is applicable to Canada.