Real Estate Gurus: Be a Healthy Skeptic, Not a Curmudgeon

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From time to time, I like to visit John T. Reed’s Real Estate Guru Rankings website. It’s entertaining to read his blunt criticisms of the many gurus out there today. John reminds me of the guys we’ve all met, maybe our next door neighbors or the guys at the barbershop. They seem to have seen everything and have a sharp word about almost anyone. Yes, John is a fun read, but there’s a danger in spending too much time there – you might turn into a curmudgeon yourself.

That’s not to say that John isn’t right, quite often. Let’s suppose you’ve been considering going to see Guru X (I’m not going to name real names, so as not to embarrass the guilty). Before you spend your $99, you head over to John’s site. Hmm. Guru X has filed bankruptcy three times, is the defendant in a class-action suit, and 60 Minutes ripped him a new one in an expose back in 2003. Maybe you shouldn’t give Guru X any of your money.

John’s in the business, too

But there are two things to remember about John. One is that he’s something of a guru himself, although he’s got a “straight-talk” schtick that attracts a lot of people, myself included. He’s not going to film infomercials on a yacht or go around the country in a $5000 suit. But he is selling something. You can buy his books, download free reports, and so on.

As you may have noticed, many of the people offering you advice on real estate are trying to sell you something, including me and most of the other bloggers here. That doesn’t mean we’re con artists. Rather, we use this forum and others because it helps us grow our businesses and we enjoy writing. It helps us grow our business because, if the things we say make sense to you, we’ll have more credibility. And you are more likely to buy from someone who seems to know what he’s talking about.

That’s what John is trying to do, build credibility.

John is also very critical of Guru Y. A few years ago I traveled around the country exhibiting at real estate trade shows. Because I had paid a small fortune to rent my space, I also got passes to see all the gurus who were presenting. And while most of the gurus did seem like con artists, I liked Guru Y. His advice made sense to me. So I was really surprised to see John’s reaction.

Why is John so critical of Guru Y? Because his investment advice doesn’t agree with John’s. Guru Y hasn’t spent time in federal prison or anything like that, and he doesn’t tell people he’ll make them millionaires if they take his training course. He just has a different approach.

That’s the second thing to remember about John T. Reed. His investment advice is based on his experience, which is different from yours or mine, and so he’s learned different lessons.

Being a healthy skeptic means taking each piece of advice by itself, and paying less attention to things that surround it. Don’t ignore the wild claims or the harsh criticisms, but check them out for yourself. Recognize that when something seems too good to be true, it probably is. Recognize that when somebody rips a competitor as evil, crooked, the lowest of the low, the critic has his own agenda.

Trust no one

Hmmm by magnusfranklin

I’m not convinced…

Suspicious man by Dlade

…but I’m willing to listen.

Most of all, be very skeptical of the words “Trust me,” whether they are said or implied. The implication can be through shills, as in “John’s a great guy, and his product really works.” Or it can be through claims of experience, as in “I’ve bought and sold 500 properties!” Or criticism of a competitor, as in “That product is junk sold by a crook.” The implied message is “My product is much better.”

Hey, I’m telling you – don’t trust me. The things I’ve created might be just what you need, but don’t take my word for it! Check them out for yourself – check everybody’s products out for yourself. Make sure the money you invest is always appropriate to the level of knowledge you have about a product. I can say with absolute certainty, spending $5000 on a training course based only on a one-hour presentation is never wise.

Considering buying a book? See if you can find sample pages or other articles or material written by the author. See what John T. Reed says (a lot of the information on his web site is objective, and therefore more valuable). Considering buying a software product? See if you can try it for free for a while. Considering buying a training course or a mentoring service? Google it, see what you can find out for free, and again, go see what John says.

And BiggerPockets can be very valuable in your research. Hey, go ahead and ask if Product Z is worth your money. But as always, watch out for shills.

Photo Credit: magnusfranklin, Dlade

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4 Comments

  1. Brendan –
    John T. Reed is certainly in business for himself, and people need to realize that. If he wasn’t selling courses, then I’d take his reviews more seriously. While he does present some important information that people need to know about, his reviews are the equivalent of a McDonalds review of Burger King — its not going to be good.

    As for your last point about shills, they are everywhere. We get them on BiggerPockets and handle them when we discover them. My advice to people who are looking to learn about a guru or course is to talk to other SUCCESSFUL investors. Do it here on BiggerPockets or at your local real estate club. Find out what these people gleaned from the course in question. You’re always going to have to take the advice of others with a grain of salt, but the more people you talk to, the better your information will be.

    NEVER rely on the advice of just one person . . . get as many opinions as possible and you’ll be able to come to an educated consensus.

  2. I should have mentioned that Bigger Pockets does do a great job getting rid of shills (and other bad guys). I think I was approaching 950 words and looking to edit!

    But my real concern is people who swing too far one way or another. The wide-eyed naive folks get taken every time. The curmudgeons say “they’re all con artists.” Neither approach is correct.

  3. Hey thanks for this. I’m a total newb to the real estate investment space and couldn’t really figure out where to start. I found John’s site but, like you said, I knew some of his ranks where his own and not solely based on fact.

    A lot are, and I respect him for that, but I wanted a more neutral approach to get wise in the real estate investment space.

    I’m going to try out your free ebook and see where it take me.

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