A spate of newly published real estate books has produced two gems. Jeffrey C. May, a home inspector who specializes in allergens and environmental hazards, has written a book called “My House is Killing Me!” Robert Shemin, an attorney who appears to be making a very nice living buying and renting investment property, has written a follow-up to his bestseller “Secrets of a Millionaire Real Estate Investor.” The new book is called “Secrets of a Millionaire Landlord.”

“My House Is Killing Me!”
May’s book bills itself as a home guide for families with allergies and asthma, and in some places, the book reads like something out of a science journal.

In the first chapter, called “cast of characters,” May describes in detail the visible and microscopic organisms that live in our homes, including dust mites, mold, and yeast, and the creatures that feed on them. These organisms can cause coughing, itchy eyes, and breathing difficulties, making life very difficult for some individuals.

The problems start with house dust, May writes, because it is “its own universe, providing nutrition and shelter for an entire community of microscopic life.” May includes black and white photos of the offending mites and molds, going into graphic details about their destructive capabilities.

For those of a more sensitive nature, consider skipping that chapter.

The rest of the book takes the reader through various rooms in the house, including the bedrooms, bathrooms, living and family rooms, kitchens and dining areas, laundry room, basements and attics. In each of these environments, May spells out the problems that could cause a mite or mold problem to grow and what you can do to correct it.

For example, in the bathroom, May suggests using warm water to flush your toilet. Why? “In moist climates or on humid days, the cold toilet tank and connecting pipes may be below the dew point, so that moisture from the air condenses on them and drips onto the floor or rug, where odor-causing mold and bacteria can flourish. Piping some hot water into the tank can keep it above the dew point and prevent condensation.”

Throughout the book, May relates stories of his environmental detective work, figuring out why people are suffering physically in their own homes.

For one family, whose teenage son has asthma, and who spend years being a couch potato on the family room’s mushy down sofa, May suggested replacing the sofa with a leather or vinyl-covered sofa. He also suggested putting an allergen-resistant cover on the boy’s mattress.

The last part of the book deals with cleaning up the problem. May covers the problems of renovation dust, paint stripping, lead paint, asbestos, urea formaldehyde foam insulation, and how to keep a home office clean.

By giving a wide variety of excellent advice on identifying and cleaning up common household environmental hazards, May will help you make your home more comfortable place to live – even if you don’t have allergies.

Secrets Of A Millionaire Landlord
Robert Shemin was worth at least a million dollars when he published his first book, “Secrets of a Millionaire Real Estate Investor” several years ago. I liked that book because it gives you solid, step-by-step information on buying homes, duplexes and apartment buildings for profit.

His new book, “Secrets of a Millionaire Landlord” describes how he manages his growing portfolio, finding good tenants and making each part of the deal “a profit center.”

Apparently, Shemin feels that most landlords aren’t good business people. They don’t know how to properly screen tenants, set tenant-landlord boundaries, or take care of the daily hassles of managing investment property.

Fortunately, Shemin has put his wisdom into an entertainingly-written book, filled with his “Robert’s Rules” and anecdotes that share interesting information.

Shemin covers the pros and cons of various types of rental properties, how to get started in the business, handling maintenance requests, finding quality tenants, collecting rent, avoiding evictions, and rent-to-own (or lease with an option to buy) deals. The back of the book includes sample forms for property acquisition and financing, general landlord forms, sample leases and applications.

If you’re looking for a how-to book on being a great landlord, this will probably fit the bill. The most interesting thing I learned was that Shemin has had success in charging 25 percent more if a tenant wants to pay by the week than if they pay by the month. For example, if the monthly rent is $400, he charges $425 to pay by the week.

My House is Killing Me!, by Jeffrey C. May (Johns Hopkins University Press, $16.95); Secrets of a Millionaire Landlord, by Robert Shemin (Dearborn Trade Publishing, $18.95).