6 Fantastic Books to Learn About Investing Passively in Commercial Real Estate Syndications

Most successful real estate investors can give you multiple recommendations for books that helped guide them in their journey.  You can find a wide variety of real estate books with topics ranging from flipping properties to buy-and-hold rentals to investing in real estate investment trusts (REITs). If you have not done any real estate investing, you may want to check out the following classic books. Robert Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad, Poor Dad and its follow-up Cashflow Quadrant and Gary Keller’s The Millionaire Real Estate Investor are excellent books for understanding the advantages of passive cash flow and real estate investing.

“By reading, you download an entire person’s life into your head without having to live their life.” – James Altucher (best-selling author and podcaster)

Books on buying commercial properties like apartment buildings and self-storage facilities are also becoming more prevalent but are mainly geared towards teaching the budding active investor and, in the case of syndications, the general partner or sponsor. Fortunately, in the last few years, more books are targeting passive commercial real estate investors who are too busy or have no desire to be active syndication sponsors of large properties.

Although the term “passive investing” can mean investing in “Wall Street” index funds or even turnkey single-family rentals, in this article, I summarize my favorite books that will give you the confidence to passively invest in the commercial real estate space. I give each book a level of “education” rating just like college courses have. Books that are labeled “101” should be easily understood by newbie real estate investors while the “201”, “301” and “401” books will have increasingly more in-depth discussions about things like partnership compensation models and underwriting deals like a syndicator. But please do not assume that the 101 level books are too basic. These books will easily give you enough comfort to screen sponsors and to assess prospective properties.

Pages: 119

Level: 101

Review:  When Dr. Vanessa Peters is not treating patients’ ailments in her family medicine practice, she is busy syndicating commercial real estate deals. With busy professionals, namely physicians, in mind, she wrote a thorough book on the advantages and pitfalls of passive syndication investing. The book starts out describing the difference between passive real estate investing and truly passive investing. The latter is probably the type of investing that busy professionals want to pursue. The author does a superb job of explaining terms that you will encounter in syndication materials. I appreciated the section on the three T’s for evaluating sponsors – Trust, Team, and Track record. Most of these passive investing books concentrate on multifamily assets, but she has an informative chapter on the merits of self-storage facilities and mobile home parks. The chapter named “Your Roadmap to Financial Freedom” illustrates with the use of tables how you can achieve a six-figure passive income in eight years. This chapter alone was worth the price of the book in my opinion. If you are interested in investing in real estate but are too busy to find, buy, and manage properties, then you can get a head start on passive investing by reading this book.

Do the Work Once, Get Paid Forever (2019) by John Bogdasarian

Pages: 141

Level: 101

Review: Author John Bogdasarian is founder and CEO of an investment group that owns $1/2 billion worth of commercial real estate and serves 400 investors. As he states in the Introduction, “this book is for professionals and business owners who have limited time and energy to nitpick the details of real estate investment deals. It’s for people who have the money to invest in real estate but need a good steward for that money.” The title can be deceiving, but “do the work once” refers to finding a few trustworthy sponsors and keep investing in their deals (“get paid forever”). Although there are no chapters dedicated to explaining deal metrics, the author probably does not want to bog down the future passive investor with these details. He instead emphasizes the philosophy of commercial real estate investing vs. other types of investing. The “Investor Due Diligence” chapter on vetting and aligning with sponsors is one of the most extensive of all the books discussed in this article. The author also gives some heartfelt advice on investing in general, such as not putting more than 20 percent of your net worth with one person or entity.

Pages: 155

Level: 101 – 201

Review: When a book’s foreword is written by best-selling author Robert G. Allen (Nothing Down, Multiple Streams of Income, Creating Wealth, among others) and TheStreet.com (the website of stock market guru and Mad Money host Jim Cramer) lists this book as one of the best real estate investing books, you may want to pay attention to the contents in this book. I read it twice. Author and podcaster James Kandasamy, who has 1,700 apartment units under management, utilized his experiences as an operator to give readers a solid background to feel confident when discussing commercial properties with syndicators. One of my favorite sections was “Considering Deals” where he reviews core, value-add, and deep value-add properties, the main commercial asset classes, market cycles, and the types of syndication offerings (specific, blind pool, and funds). In the chapter on analyzing a deal, he admits that he does not want the reader to suffer from “analysis paralysis”. However, I did appreciate his excellent explanation of the metrics that are of most interest to investors: cash-on-cash return, equity multiple, average annualized return, and internal rate of return (IRR). By using examples to discuss the pros and cons of each metric, the reader should be able to discern these numbers in the private placement memorandum or executive summary. James writes in a conversational tone that enables the reader to finish the book in one or two sittings. Passive Investing in Commercial Real Estate should be an essential read for potential investors or those wanting to further their education.

The Hands-Off Investor (2020) by Brian Burke

Pages: 368

Level: 101 – 401

Review: This book is the longest in this group and is definitely the most complete. Author Brian Burke, who is CEO of his investment firm that has $200 million of real estate assets under management, has written a comprehensive road map for the passive investor. Although this book should be read from cover to cover, it can easily be used as an encyclopedic reference for multifamily syndication investing. The chapters are organized into sections on evaluating sponsors, evaluating the real estate, and evaluating the offerings and investment structure. The author provides convincing evidence for why the sponsor is the key to any syndication. An excellent sponsor can turn around a bad deal, but a bad or inexperienced sponsor can kill a great deal. I really appreciate the effort the author put into explaining each line item in the pro forma cash flow statement found in the executive/investment summary. Understanding the nuances of these vital figures can help an investor determine if an asset is going to have a good chance of reaching that goal IRR or cash-on-cash return. Many passive investors do not pay enough attention to debt structure, but the author again does not disappoint by giving us a thorough rundown of the different types of loans seen in these commercial deals. After several chapters on investment structures, underwriting, waterfalls, and syndication fees, the author concludes the book by walking the reader through the investment process from explaining the various documents to expectations during the investment to tax reporting and closing distributions. This outstanding book should be required reading for not only “hands-off investors”, but also for sponsors.

Pages: 151

Level: 201 – 301

Review: Written by an author using a pseudonym, this book is a comprehensive work on investing in real estate syndications.  But if this is the first such book you pick up or download, it can be slightly intimidating. But I do like that it starts out with a glossary of common syndication and investing terms.  The next chapters go in-depth on such topics as investment structures (REITs, syndications, private funds, crowdfunds, etc.) and real estate product types (office, retail, industrial, self-storage, apartments, triple-net, and land). My favorite chapter covers compensation models and fees. The author does a great job of illustrating the elusive “waterfall” compensation between sponsors and passive investors. The chapter on deal metrics thoroughly explains the usual suspects encountered in most investment/executive summaries – the ones that most passive investors would pay attention to the most. The book ends with a section on “pulling the trigger” to walk you through what to expect at each stage and to give you some familiarity with the necessary paperwork before wiring your money.


Pages: 109

Level: 301-401

Review:  Although this is the shortest book on this list, it certainly does not lack in content. I am not so sure this is the first book that a novice passive investor should read, but if you want to have a full comprehension of the underwriting metrics, look no further than this book. Author Robert Beardsley oversees acquisitions and capital markets for his real estate firm, and his straightforward explanations of advanced topics is a testament to his vast experience underwriting hundreds of potential multifamily acquisitions. The chapter on sensitivity analyses should be read several times because it discusses the various stress tests, such as breakeven occupancy, that should be evaluated to find deals that are more likely to succeed and are more resistant to “black swan” events. Since many investment summaries and private placement memorandums will not list these important parameters, this section will explain why you need to obtain this information from the sponsor before wiring your money. Robert also does an exceptional job of deconstructing the nuances of preferred returns vs. no preferred returns within the bigger picture of the total return. Passive investors should take their time digesting this book to gain a full understanding of the various metrics. Even experienced sponsors would probably have much to gain by reading this book.


Steve Suh is one of the founders of Left Field Investors. He began investing in real estate in 2005 when he bought his business’ office condo.  After owning a few small residential rentals and seeing that it was not easily scalable, he transitioned to the world of passive investing in commercial real estate syndications. He enjoys learning and talking about real estate and hopes to educate more people about the merits of passive investing in the Left Field. 

Nothing on this website should be considered financial advice. Investing involves risks which you assume. It is your duty to do your own due diligence. Read all documents and agreements before signing or investing in anything. It is your duty to consult with your own legal, financial and tax advisors regarding any investment.

Chris Franckhauser

Vice President of Strategy & Growth, Advisory Partner

Chris Franckhauser, Vice President of Strategy & Growth, Advisory Partner for Left Field Investors, has been involved in real estate since 2008. He started with one single-family fix and flip, and he was hooked. He then scaled, completing five more over a brief period. While he enjoyed the journey and the financial tailwinds that came with each completed project, being an active investor with a W2 at the time, became too much to manage with a young and growing family. Seeing this was not easily scalable or sustainable long term, he searched for alternative ideas on where to invest. He explored other passive income streams but kept coming back to his two passions; real estate and time with his family. He discovered syndications after reconnecting with a former colleague and LFI Founder. He joined Left Field Investors in 2023 and has quickly immersed himself into the community and as a key member of our team.  

Chris earned a B.S. from The Ohio State University. After years in healthcare technology and medical devices, from startups to Fortune 15 companies, Chris shifted his efforts to consulting and owning a small apparel business when he is not working with LFI (Left Field Investors) or on his personal passive investments. A few years ago, Chris and his family left the cold life in Ohio for lake life in the Carolinas. Chris lives in Tega Cay, South Carolina with his wife and two kids. In his free time, he enjoys exploring all the things the Carolinas offer, from the beaches to the mountains and everywhere in between, volunteering at the school, coaching his kids’ sports teams and cheering on the Buckeyes from afar.  

Chris knows investing is a team sport. Being a strategic thinker and analytical by nature, the ability to collaborate with like-minded individuals in the Left Field Community and other communities is invaluable.  

Jim Pfeifer

President, Chief Executive Officer, Founder

Jim Pfeifer is one of the founders of Left Field Investors and the host of the Passive Investing from Left Field podcast. Left Field Investors is a group dedicated to educating and assisting like-minded investors negotiate the nuances of the passive investing landscape and world of syndications. Jim is a former financial advisor who became frustrated with the one-path-fits-all approach of the standard financial services industry. Jim now concentrates on investing in real assets that produce cash flow and is committed to sharing his knowledge with others who are interested in learning a different way to grow wealth.

Jim not only advises and helps people get started in passive real estate syndications, he also invests alongside them in small groups to allow for diversification among multiple investments and syndication sponsors. Jim believes the most important factor in a successful syndication is finding a sponsor that he knows, likes and trusts.

He has invested in over 100 passive syndications including apartments, mobile homes, self-storage, private lending and notes, ATM’s, commercial and industrial triple net leases, assisted living facilities and international coffee farms and cacao producers. Jim is constantly looking for new investment ideas that match his philosophy of real assets producing cash flow as well as looking for new sponsors with whom he can build quality, long-term relationships. Jim earned a degree in Finance & Marketing from the University of Oregon and a Master’s in Business Education from The Ohio State University. He has worked as a reinsurance underwriter, high school finance teacher, financial advisor and now works exclusively as a full-time passive investor. Jim lives in Dublin, Ohio with his wife, three kids and two dogs. In his free time, he loves to ski, play Ultimate frisbee and cheer on the Buckeyes.

Jim earned a degree in Finance & Marketing from the University of Oregon and a Master’s in Business Education from The Ohio State University. He has worked as a reinsurance underwriter, high school finance teacher, financial advisor and now works exclusively as a full-time passive investor. Jim lives in Dublin, Ohio with his wife, three kids and two dogs. In his free time, he loves to ski, play Ultimate frisbee and cheer on the Buckeyes.

Chad Ackerman

Chief Operating Officer, Founder

Chad is the Founder & Chief Operating Officer of Left Field Investors and the host of the LFI Spotlight podcast. Chad was in banking most of his career with a focus on data analytics, but in March of 2023 he left his W2 to become LFI’s second full time employee.

Chad always had a passion for real estate, so his analytics skills translated well into the deal analyzer side of the business. Through his training, education and networking Chad was able to align his passive investing to compliment his involvement with LFI while allowing him to grow his wealth and take steps towards financial freedom. He has appreciated the help he’s received from others along his journey which is why he is excited to host the LFI Spotlight podcast and share the experience of other investors and industry experts to assist those that are looking for education for their own journey.

Chad has a Bachelor’s Degree in Business with a Minor in Real Estate from the University of Cincinnati. He is working to educate his two teenagers in the passive investing world. In his spare time he likes to golf, kayak, and check out the local brewery scene.

Ryan Steig

Chief Financial Officer, Founder

Ryan Stieg started down the path of passive investing like many of us did, after he picked up a little purple book called Rich Dad, Poor Dad. The problem was that he did that in college and didn’t take action to start investing passively until many years later when that itch to invest passively crept back up.

Ryan became an accidental landlord after moving from Phoenix back to Montana in 2007, a rental he kept until 2016 when he started investing more intentionally. Since 2016, Ryan has focused (or should we say lack thereof) on all different kinds of investing, always returning to real estate and business as his mainstay. Ryan has a small portfolio of one-to-three-unit rentals across four different markets in the US. He has also invested in over fifty real estate syndication investments individually or with an investment group or tribe. Working to diversify in multiple asset classes, Ryan invests in multi-family, note funds, NNN industrial, retail, office, self-storage, online businesses, start-ups, and several other asset classes that further cement his self-diagnosis of “shiny object syndrome”.

However, with all of those reaches over the years, Ryan still believes in the long-term success and tenets of passive, cash-flow-focused investing with proven syndicators and shared knowledge in investing.

When he’s not working with LFI or on his personal passive investments, he recently opened a new Club Pilates franchise studio after an insurance career. Outside of that, he can be found with his wife watching whatever sport one of their two boys is involved in during that particular season.

Steve Suh

Chief Content Officer, Founder

Steve Suh, one of the founders of Left Field Investors and its Chief Content Officer, has been involved with real estate and alternative assets since 2005. Like many, he saw his net worth plummet during the two major stock market crashes in the early 2000s. Since then, he vowed to find other ways to invest his money. Reading Rich Dad, Poor Dad gave Steve the impetus to learn about real estate investing. He first became a landlord after purchasing his office condo. He then invested passively as a limited partner in oil and gas drilling syndications but quickly learned the importance of scrutinizing sponsors when he stopped getting returns after only a few months. Steve came back to real estate by buying a few small residential rentals. Seeing that this was not easily scalable, he searched for alternative ideas. After listening to hundreds of podcasts and attending numerous real estate investing meetings, he determined that passively investing in real estate syndications was the best avenue to get great, risk-adjusted returns. He has invested in dozens of syndications involving apartment buildings, self-storage facilities, resort properties, ATMs, Bitcoin mining funds, car washes, a coffee farm, and even a Broadway show.

When Steve is not vetting commercial real estate syndications in the evenings, he is stomping out eye diseases and improving vision during the day as an ophthalmologist. He enjoys playing in his tennis and pickleball leagues and rooting for his Buckeyes and Steelers football teams. In the past several years, he took up running and has completed three full marathons, including the New York City Marathon. He is always on a quest to find great pizza, BBQ brisket, and bourbon. He enjoys traveling with his wife and their three adult kids. They usually go on a medical mission trip once a year to southern Mexico to provide eye surgeries and glasses to the residents. Steve has enjoyed being a part of Left Field Investors to help others learn about the merits of passive, real asset investments.

Sean Donnelly

Chief Culture Officer, Founder

Sean holds a W2 job in the finance sector and began his real estate investing journey shortly after earning his MBA. Unfortunately, it could not have begun at a worse time … anyone remember 2007 … but even the recession provided worthy lessons. Sean stayed in the game continuing to find his place, progressing from flipping to owning single and multi-family rentals to now funding opportunities through syndications. While Sean is still heavily invested in the equities market and holds a small portfolio of rentals, he strongly believes passive investing is the best way to offset the cyclical nature of traditional investment vehicles as well as avoid the headaches of direct property ownership. Through consistent cash flow, long term yield and available tax benefits, the diversification offered with passive investing brings a welcomed balance to an otherwise turbulent investing scheme. What Sean likes most about the syndication space is that the investment opportunities are not “one size fits all” and the community of investors genuinely want to help.

He earned a B.S. in Finance from Iowa State University in 1995 and a MBA from Otterbein University in 2007. Sean has lived in eight states but has called Ohio home for the last 20+.  When not attending his children’s various school/sporting events, Sean can be found running, golfing, shooting or fly-fishing.

Patrick Wills

Chief Information Officer, Advisory Partner

An active real estate investor since 2017, Patrick Wills’ investing journey began like many others – after reading the “purple book” by Robert Kiyosaki. Patrick started with single family rentals, and while they performed well, he quickly realized their inability to scale efficiently while remaining passive. He discovered syndications via podcasts and local meetups and never looked back. He joined Left Field Investors in 2022 as a member and has quickly become an integral part of the team as Vice President of Technology.

An I.T. Systems Engineer by trade, he experienced the limitations of traditional Wall Street investing firsthand in his career and knew there had to be a better way to truly have financial freedom.

Unfortunately, that better way is inaccessible to those who need it most. His mission is to make alternative investments accessible to everyone who seeks to take control of their financial future and to pursue their passions in life.

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