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Allen Gorin is a college instructor with a masters degree who decided to switch to being a home improvement contracting. He has also become a real estate investor and home improvement columnist. This book consists of reprints of his newspaper columns on home improvement.

Gorin is among the contractors. But he is not fully one of them. He seems to know his trade. But he has not forgotten the outsider’s perspective. The book relates tricks of the trade which real estate investors and property managers can use. But it does not contain a real estate investment strategy per se. Gorin brings a welcome sense of humor to the subject, although he tries too hard to be funny. I recommend the book as a general reference for investors who do significant amounts of renovating or heavy maintenance.

Gorin writes of one interesting investment deal. While investigating the purchase of an OREO shopping center lot, he wondered if the bank’s representation that a 3,600 square foot building could be built on the lot was not an underestimate. He researched the question by reading the center’s CC&Rs with a magnifying glass and checking with local zoning and building authorities (Portland, OR). He learned that the main limiting factor was parking spaces. Scrutinizing the parking lot and current parking standards—which are more lenient than when the center was originally developed, he discovered that he could put so many more parking spaces there than the original developer thought that the allowable building would be 8,400 square feet, not 3,600. That dramatically increased the value of the lot.

This originally appeared in Real Estate Investor’s Monthly newsletter.