Why Real Estate Courses Are Usually a Waste of Money (& What to Do Instead!)

by | BiggerPockets.com

Real estate courses don’t work. So what should you do instead?

Not only do real estate courses not work, some can lure aspiring investors into wasting tens of thousands of dollars, and some may even set them up for disaster with outdated and now illegal practices. But there is another reason why they fail, and here’s how I found the best solution.

Think Twice Before Taking Courses

When it comes to real estate courses, often very little of what is taught will be applied in the field. This seems to apply to real estate investor courses, seminars, and books. There’s lots of exciting information to get you pumped up to head out there, only for you to realize you still don’t know how to do anything!

I believe these courses don’t work simply because I feel the best way to learn is by doing and taking action. Contrast the above types of “training” with an apprenticeship with a chef or your dad teaching you how to ride a bike. You’ll be shoulder to shoulder with that chef as they help you master each step. And they wouldn’t dare allow you to serve a final dish that wasn’t an amazing success (at least I hope not). While you might have fallen off your bike once or twice, chances are one of your parents first sat you on your new set of wheels and ran along next to you holding you up, or even fitted you out with some training wheels so that you couldn’t fall.


Related: 7 Reasons That Real Estate Course is a Complete Sham (& How You Should Actually Learn!)

How I Learned This the Hard Way

I got my start in real estate the same way many new investors are trying to today. I attended seminars, read online advice, and a lot more. The problem is that there are so many unforeseen experiences that you will face in the field that will not be covered in the course. And in fairness — there are too many potential variables to be covered in any one book, weekend, or forum thread.

Even after starting in the industry and going through courses on buy and hold investing, wholesaling and other strategies, I still made mistakes. BIG ONES! But I learned from them, and it made it easier the next time. You can check out some of the ways I completely wrecked a few deals in my BiggerPockets post here.

Fortunately, I managed to get through it, and I haven’t been chased out of town by sellers with pitchforks and brooms. I never would have gotten to the level of success I am experiencing today unless I got out there and started taking action.


Time to Learn to Do Something

“My best successes came on the heels of failures.” — Barbara Corcoran

Real estate mogul and Shark Tank investor Barbara Corcoran says that the number one trait of entrepreneurs who end up successful is their willingness to try new things and fail.

Related: The One Piece of Advice That Changed the Course of My Real Estate Career

By all means, you should invest in knowledge and practice. There will always be more to learn and new things to test in real estate. There is wisdom in reading real estate books, getting a coach or mentor, and constantly striving to learn new things. And yes, there are even great real estate advisors out there as well.

But spending $40,000 on coaching to come out on the other end with no experience probably isn’t the best ROI for most aspiring investors. There’s TONS of free information here on BiggerPockets alone, and the veterans you’ll meet here will normally tell you this is the way to go starting out.

Do get some basic knowledge. Then get out there and do it. Keep learning while you go. If that sounds scary, look out for my follow up article. It’s on one of my favorite ways to earn and learn safely with real estate partnerships and teaming up to get through those first few deals.

Investors: Do you believe in taking courses or do you think they’re a waste of time and money? Why?

Let me know with a comment!

About Author

Sterling White

With just under a decade of experience in the real estate industry, Sterling currently manages over $10MM in capital, which is deployed across a $26MM real estate portfolio made up of multifamily apartments and single-family homes. Through the company he co-founded, Holdfolio, he owns just under 400 units. Sterling was featured on the BiggerPockets Podcast and has been contributing content to BiggerPockets since 2014, with over 200 posts on topics ranging from single-family investing and apartment investing to wholesaling and scaling a business.


  1. Let\’s be brutally honest, the multitude of Real Estate Courses hawked by real estate gurus differs little from the myriad of Health Fitness Centers around the USA. All claim easy obtainable results with minimum efforts and year after year, decade after decade a naive public spends hundreds of millions thinking they can sit home on a couch and structure real estate deals or lose weight.

    The real estate gurus know the statistical results of success are slim as do the fitness centers and both know the number one reason is … a gullible and often unmotivated consumer who in reality will never get off the couch and go through the mechanics of what has been offered to him/her.

    However, in spite of this tremendous handicap and insurmountable odds, just like Las Vegas where some of the Slot Machines must pay some of the time else people quit playing, a few consumers will make money, some lots of money. I know, I was one of the fortunate ones who took some of these courses and made a lot of money that changed my life.

    Thus the symbiosis will go on indefinitely whether it be a Fitness Gym on Mars or a Fix and Flip on the moon.

  2. Ben Leybovich

    Sterling – I sell a course. Lots of BPers join CFFU, and I don’t think that many are disappointed. I also don’t think that just because some chose to pay me in order to go faster, in any way diminishes my contribution to this forum or others. I am a teacher, and teach is what I do, and for every 9 people who get answers from me for free, 1 decides to pay me. I work hard at making everyone on BP smarter, and nonsense articles like this rub me the wrong way…

    I suppose, since the title says “Usually”, I’ll let you slide this one time. But, you should know that the reason I do what I do is because I enjoy knowing that my students won’t have to lose tens of thousands of dollars as I did in order to understand how to make better decisions…

    Good information is certainly worth the money, or do you disagree?

    • Sterling White

      I completely understand your viewpoint Ben. I believe that some people will benefit from these courses as I stated in the article & some people won’t. My ‘opinion’ is the best way to learn is by actually doing, because real estate courses will not be able to cover all of the unforseen obstacles once ventured into the real estate industry. This is speaking from experience.

      • Ben Leybovich

        Of course not, Sterling. A course is intended to underscore fundamental, and direct general thinking. NO course could cover all of the details, nor guarantee outcome…

        So, have you ever paid for education of any kind? In other words, are you opposed to education costing money, or only to real estate education costing money? Which is it?

        I’ve done all 3. I’ve paid for college education, real estate education, and the school of hard knocks. You know which was the most expensive? LOL

        • Sterling White

          Great question Ben. From a practical standpoint I am not opposed to education costing money. People have to make money somehow by using their time to educate. If they did it for free then they won’t be able to cover their overhead.

          Out of the 3 I would have to guess school of hard knocks?

  3. DG H.

    Hello Sterling:
    I appreciate your post. I have been investing since the early 1990’s. I was hungry for information and came from a small town in Rural Texas where no one would give you information nor even knew of the up and coming info in the market. So…long story…. I got into the events that was for information. Lots and lots of info from speakers that would just scratch the surface of the crux of the material and of course they had a book, CD, software or something to make THEM money off of the participates and I UNDERSTAND that. BUT you are totally correct. A person in your area and in the trenches of real estate that will share is the only true way to know your market and get the “real deal” for your investing career. I’m sure you are letting everyone know …all information isn’t created equal and to get as much as you can but be AWARE that many many people are in it to make money. Some of them make more money selling you information than doing deals and some haven’t really done many deals. Everyone needs to go after their dreams and never give up…just be vigilant about who and where you’re money is going for information.

  4. Sharon Vornholt

    Hi Sterling –

    I have to jump in here and agree with Ben. I can see that you have been investing a few years now. When I started investing in 1998 there were few if any courses, coaches or anything that resembled that. I only had my local REIA. That’s it.

    While I agree that you learn by doing, having the right learning materials (courses and seminars) with information organized and presented in a fashion for faster learning is by far superior that taking decades to figure it all out and that is exactly what most investors do. They get so frustrated trying to do it all on their own they ultimately fail.

    I like to compare this to getting a college education. Every shred of information you learn in college which costs a whole lot of money is free for the taking on the internet. Can you imagine trying to figure out how to get all of the information and skills for an engineering degree or any other degree for that matter on your own? Can you do it? For sure, but how many decades will it take? How much money do you stand to lose while you fumble around and do that?

    Like Ben, I make money from seminars and coaching. I have also given freely to folks of every investing level for almost 20 years for free many of them on this site. I tell folks all the time to get their basic information for sites like BiggerPockets and my blog. There are a lot off sites with great (free) information. I firmly believe this where everyone should start.

    Every day I still learn from all the “free stuff”. But I also invest in myself and my education every single year. To say all courses are bad, and all people teaching something they get paid to teach is ridiculous.

    I don’t think anyone starting out should spend $25,000 to attend a seminar that leaves them without a dime to invest. That is crazy.

    This is what I know; without exception, every really successful I know has invested in their education right from the start . I might add that in almost every case they grew their businesses much faster too. They will all tell you their education is a mix of free and paid.

    There is an investor that I personally know who has a 7 figure business. Does she still have a coach? You bet she does. That’s how she got to 7 figures.


    • Brad Lohnes

      Hi, Sharon. I agree with what you’re saying here and in particular I like your analogy. I happen to have an engineering degree and certainly wouldn’t have wanted to piece that together off of the Internet! Also, I’ve worked with programmers who are more self-taught, and while they can certainly be good, there is a tendancy for them to lack a solid foundation of fundamentals – which is of course what you get as part of a degree.

      As I pointed out in my comment below, I tied the “Internet education” approach for property investing and honestly got nowhere. A proper course tied everything together – and now I can benefit from a lot of the free stuff that is out there as you mentioned.

      Thanks for your comment.

  5. karen young

    My husband and I took the “Rich Dad” RE course last year for approx. 5k. I had read at least a dozen books and had started looking at property. The course brought everything that I had read together in an coherent way. The teacher taught a lot by telling how he had handled situations – and now that we are on our RE journey we are coming across the same situations. In my opinion it was worth it.
    and tax deductible!

  6. Brad Lohnes

    Hi, Sterling. Thanks for your post. I understand that your main point is that, with real estate investing, there is more to be learned by doing than by sitting in a classroom, and of course I believe this to be true.

    However, I do need to chime in with some of the others who either teach or have taken a course and paid good money for it. When I had the desire to get started (after reading Rich Dad Poor Dad!), I was searching the Internet, asking questions on forums (I hadn’t found BP at that time), got books, etc. but I was still in the dark as to how to actually go about investing in rental property. If I’d remained in that state, chances are I would have never got started and eventually moved on.

    I decided that I wanted a course, and investigated what was on offer here (in New Zealand). I attended free seminars and was quite skeptical – I was trying to figure out what each group was actually trying to sell me. Some were selling property, some were selling coaching for a specific strategy (e.g. “flip 10 houses per year, invest in 1 buy-and-hold, rinse, repeat). Ultimately, I found a company that seemed to just be selling education, which is what I was after.

    I spent $8000 (New Zealand Dollars) on a 12-week course, 3 hours of classroom time per week, so 36 hours total. However, our primary instructor (and in fact a team of instructors with various specialties) was available to answer questions, provide additional information, etc. throughout the week. So essentially I bought a coach as well. My coach worked with me through my first deal – examining the numbers, dealing with agents, negotiation (an area where I still need more work), she came to look at the property with me during due diligence and we discussed renovations that would be most effective for our goal (buy and hold). We covered all of this stuff during the course but I had coaching while applying it to an actual deal.

    Another huge benefit was being introduced to various professionals, some of whom became part of my team (accountants, solicitors, etc.). Some I didn’t go with and chose my own, but they all had something to offer.

    Long story short, I purchased 2 properties before the course was even over, and made an increase to our net worth of $80,000 after costs for the first 2 deals and including the cost of the course. So, straight up by the numbers, the investment was clearly worth it. Now, we have a 3rd property, sold off a dud that we had from a past life, and are hundreds of thousands of dollars ahead (property boom in 2015 over here) – and we’re still early in our investing career.

    But even more, I came away with knowledge, confidence, a team, and a whole bunch of information that I haven’t even applied yet…some I will, some I won’t.

    Of course, no course can provide all of the possible information, but there are at least some out there that are the genuine deal and are providing a very good service.


  7. Charles Morgan

    I have posted this before, there are good real estate courses/teachers and bad ones.
    I recommend taking Real Estate courses from a local college before even considering a seminar type course. You will have a basic knowledge of the fundamentals that will help you evaluate the possible returns of another course.
    If you go to a seminar and are told that you need “Advanced” training or admission to an “insider” circle to be successful then you may want to consider running from the seminar.
    That $5k or $20k course is the one that I believe Sterling is targeting, and rightly so. That $5/20k is better spent on buying your first property whether it makes you money or you lose it.
    In my opinion, a hands-on $5k mistake will teach you more than a $5k seminar.
    Disclaimer: I took real estate classes at our local community college, I have never spent more than “free” on a mentor/coach/seminar. I now own 7 properties plus the one I gifted to my son.

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