A Tale of Two Real Estate Gurus

by | BiggerPockets.com

Those who run real estate investment clubs have a big challenge in lining up speakers for each meeting.  Clubs do not usually have the kind of budget that would allow them to pay for speakers, therefore they need to do their best to locate those that will speak for free.  This invariably results in the talk being given by someone who has a specific agenda or something to sell.  This is not necessarily a bad thing, you just need to keep the speakers ultimate motivation in mind when you listen to the spiel.

Some of these speakers are quite good and their knowledge is obvious.  On the other hand, some of the speakers leave you scratching your head and wondering if they have ever owned an investment property.  Investing veterans have little difficulty in separating the fakes from those who are the real deal.  Novice investors may mistakenly assume that if someone is speaking to a group he must know something.  Hopefully they will learn before they are burned by one of these phonies. 

 My primary purpose for attending monthly club meetings is for the networking and resulting connections ( see: Getting the Most From Your Real Estate Club ), however I do enjoy hearing from good presenters. My local real estate club had two very well qualified speakers at a couple of recent meetings.  While both were very obviously qualified to speak about real estate investing, their styles and agendas were a world apart.  

 Guru #1

At our May 2008 club meeting we had a speaker who specialized in foreclosures.  Certainly a timely topic and on that I was looking to learn more about.  I had seen this speaker once before and knew that he was a good presenter and very knowledgeable.  After introducing himself and providing his background, he openly stated his agenda.  He was not there to sell books, tapes or home-study courses, in fact he didn’t have any of that.  The business model for his company was to purchase bank REO (foreclosures) properties in bulk.  He then sold these properties as-is or after light rehab to investors at wholesale prices.  To do that he needed two things, properties to buy from banks and investors to sell them to.

What he was pitching was a two day seminar on how to locate, buy and finance the acquisition of these properties.  He was charging $1800 for the seminar with the guarantee that he would refund your money after the first day if you didn’t feel it was worth it.  He then proceeded to spend the next hour sharing some of his knowledge of the subject.  He was truly impressive and it was a great example of what you would get in his workshop.  He had over twenty people sign up and most of them were veteran investors who are not easily impressed.

 Guru #2

At our most recent club meeting we had another speaker with impressive credentials.  He is currently featured on one the house flipping shows and has a real estate company on the east coast.  The club heavily promoted the meeting because they do not usually have a name speaker and the resulting attendance was much larger than normal.  Many of the regular meeting segments were cut short to allow this speaker to have as much time as possible.

This speaker had an array of tapes and course material displayed, so his agenda was obvious to anyone who was paying attention.  He began his talk with his background in real estate and talked about all of the mistakes he made when he began.  He kept telling us that he was going to teach us how to do this, that, and the other thing during his talk.  I kept waiting for him to actually “teach” something but all he really did was talk about what he was going to tell us.

As the talk progressed it was laced with sales pitches for a computer program, home-study courses and his five-day boot camp.  Some of the pitches were very subtle while others were blatant commercials.  After 90 minutes he closed with a final pitch for his boot camp.  The regular price was $5,000, but is you signed up now it was only $2,497.  But wait, there’s more! He would include a $500 credit for your travel expenses and the first few people to sign up would receive the $2,000 computer program for $1!

A handful of people did sign up.  From what I saw they were newcomers to the club or novice investors.  None of the veterans were impressed enough to part with their cash. 

The Bottom Line

Both of the gurus were qualified to speak about real estate.  However their value was very different.  One was geared to marketing courses and boot camps to novice investors.  Those who sign up would most likely gain valuable knowledge, but would it really be worth the price?  The second guru was targeting experienced investors with a desire to participate in the foreclosure market.  I spoke to several of the attendees who agreed that there was definite value, but it was not for everyone.

If you are ever inclined to sign up for some gurus course, do so with your eyes wide open.  Is the course geared to someone with your level of experience?  What do you hope to gain from the seminar or boot camp?  Will you be able to implement what you learn or are you just falling for a sales pitch from a smooth-talking speaker? Buyer beware.

The great difficulty in education is to get experience out of ideas.
George Santayana

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  1. Great article, Richard! Thank you for highlighting the difference in agendas between the typical speakers at real estate clubs. It is very important for newbies to understand that some speakers are there with one purpose — to get you to spend all of your precious money on their overpriced materials.

  2. Great post! Many years ago my husband and I signed up for a guru’s weekend course. The course taught us a lot of things but didn’t seem to teach us enough. In the end the course was very effective at selling us more courses but not in helping us invest in real estate. $20,000 in courses and 2 absolute crap properties purchased and we really felt swindled and were struggling financially! We got ourselves sorted out and have continued to invest in real estate since… but it was a tough lesson to learn.

    I’m not saying don’t sign up for a “guru’s course”. But, if you do go to a weekend course as a new investor, I have two recommendations:

    1) Have an objective. Know exactly what you want to walk out of that course knowing or being able to do. Write it down before you go in, and review it throughout the weekend. It will help you focus and ensure you get out of that course what you paid money for. As a newbie investor it’s easy to go in, get excited about EVERYTHING, and walk out not knowing where to begin. That is how you end up signing up for more courses and more courses…

    2) Implement what you learn in that course before you sign up for another course! There always seems to be big deals offered at the courses for a bigger and better course or one that is more focused on one technique. Do yourself a favour and spend 3 – 6 months using what you just learned, and if you STILL feel you need more help, then go and sign up for the other course. You will find this saves you a lot more money than signing up on the spot does!

  3. It’s great when you have a speaker that actually is there to teach you something, not sell you something. It’s amazing what kind of secrets some great speakers will share with you for free. I think some of the most valueable speakers that I’ve heard, have been free conferences. Great article!

  4. We work a lot with California clubs and this is becoming a big problem. Clubs are a vital form of networking and opportunity. We really appreciate all the work they do. Finding good speakers who actually TEACH is important and needed. Great article.

  5. Norman Merboth on

    I read a ton and take tons of courses and I’ve seen a real bad trend developing with the business of teaching this stuff. I was talking to an employee of the learning annex and she see’s the same thing everything is always you need to buy more and more. Many books I read now are just a warm up for the courses they teach.

  6. Hi Richard,

    I know exactly which “guru on the east coast” you are talking about. Actually – I was going to schedule him to speak at my club because I received his product to review and I was very impressed with it.

    But… I never did book him because I was getting the feedback from other club owners that he seemed to be a quintessential guru that pitched rather than educate in his presentation. That’s all I needed to hear. Even though I thought his product was actaully good, I could not, in all good conscience, bring to my club – the very type of speaker that I speak out against. I don’t care how good a product might be. It’s not all about selling a product and that is what these pitchers don’t get. It’s about giving their audience value. If someone is going to spend their precious time to attend one of my club meetings – then by god – I better give them value and not a pitch fest by Mr. Slick! Gag me with a spoon!

    There are great educators with excellent product that I can recommend instead. People I feel proud to endorse.

    BTW – one of them happens to be in this thread… hahheemm.. Hello Aaron Norris – please raise your hand…. Your father Mr. Bruce Norris is one of the best in the business! Or I think he might just be the best! If anyone ever wants to get #1 quality education and training I highly recommend Mr. Bruce Norris!

  7. Thanks Rosie. I enjoy working here because he practices what he preaches. We’re in the market buying and selling and I feel we’ve earned the right to talk, here, in California to California investors. I am very proud of dad and he sure does love to teach.

    Thank you for your support and your work as a very different sort of club owner. All the tech nerds LOVE you. Including me.

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