Carefully Evaluate Your Real Estate Education Options

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Let me make this brief and straight to the point. Real estate investors . . . your time is your most precious asset. You CAN invest in real estate without money but you cannot invest if you do not have time to find, evaluate and consummate deals.

Now, we all know that quite the little cottage market has popped up with people peddling real estate “education”. Yes, education is important — absolutely critical. However, I’ve noticed that many real estate classes are about 75% filler and 25% usable information. We need to change that from within.

I’m a seasoned investor. I am very confident in my real estate knowledge but I still want to try to get in a few classes under my belt to get the creative juices flowing and maybe learn some new tricks. Last year I made a commitment to get myself to the local real estate investor association meetings. On several different occasions I got up and left early out of sheer disgust. In one instance I distinctly remember listening to a guy for over an hour and not hearing one thing on the topic on which he’d claimed to be an expert. Instead I heard about how he was a college slacker that got a job in middle management and was miserable. He told me at length how getting laid off from that job was the best thing that ever happened to him. He told me that real estate investing was a great way to make money. And, of course that we should not be afraid to make a significant commitment to our real estate education, like the small investment needed to obtain his course or mentoring program. Meanwhile, the time commitment on my part was significant. The meetings were twice a month and consumed an entire evening. I noticed a drastic drop in the number of offers I was putting out and therefore I literally found myself with nothing in the pipeline and scrambling for deals.

Ladies and gentleman, most of us put a lot of time into our investing. Many of us have second jobs. We need education but I think we need to push back against this kind of fluff. To all the real estate gurus and educators I say please save us your life stories or at least get them down to 5-10 minutes. And, by-the-way, we already know that real estate investing is a great business, that’s why we’re sitting in that meeting on a beautiful Saturday afternoon. Quit trying to sell us on real estate and get down to business. I would really appreciate an educator who could get his lecture down to about an hour. One action packed, straight to the point, hour of education. I’ve yet to go to a 3 hour seminar that I didn’t think could be trimmed down to an hour of actual information. 3 hours is great as long as there’s 3 hours of useable information.

Things to keep in mind when evaluating your education options:

Topics: Is the subject you’re going to learn about within your investing model? Are you lacking in knowledge in that specific topic? Sure you can always learn something else but is that one new nugget of information worth the time away from your actual deals or family. The answer may depend on current circumstances but be cautious about taking time away from actual money making activities.
Opportunity costs: What money making activities are you potentially taking time from to attend the class? Could you be spending that Saturday viewing properties, making offers, or just spending a little extra time managing the deals you already have?
Avoid the Trap: Too many of us meander into seminars like mindless cattle because from the very beginning of our careers someone told us that we’re slackers if we’re not constantly taking courses or attending seminars. Remember, the guy that told you that was probably selling real estate seminars or classes. There are many ways to get educated. Seminars do have an added value of networking with other like-minded professionals but be deliberate and active in your selection process.
Don’t fall into the NETWORKING Trap: Yes, knowing people is an awesome tool in real estate but I will tell you that there are a lot of pretenders at these seminars and meetings. In fact, if I talk to 10 people at a meeting one (maybe) actually does or can do what they claim. The best way to meet real legitimate investors is to do deals. Ask any self proclaimed investor if they buy homes and they’ll all say yes. Go find a great deal and then start asking around. Then you’ll really find the legit buyers.
Reality: Keep these factors in mind as you evaluate a speaker and in selecting any real estate education.

  1. Real estate is not easy money!
  2. There is no such thing as PASSIVE INCOME! You have to mind the store or pay the price.
  3. There is no such thing as RISK FREE!
  4. Real estate is a get rich SLOW business. Be skeptical of anyone that says otherwise.
  5. Speaker, don’t waste my time!

Education and networking are so very important — don’t get me wrong. Make time to network. Make time and invest in your education, but be deliberate about selecting the topics and speakers. Do not just go through motion because you’ve been told you should. Going to a Saturday Seminar for 6 hours is a huge commitment. Those 6 hours equal more time than many real estate investors spend on their business in an entire week. Please do not undervalue your time!

Photo: dantwohundred

About Author

Justin Pierce

Justin’s work ethics and values are based on his small town western upbringing and eight years of active duty in the United States Marine Corps. He currently resides in the D.C. area. He holds a BA in Management, a Masters in Business Administration and an active Virginia Real Estate Agent license.

25 Comments

  1. Excellent points. Critical listening is crucial. Is the speaker is telling you how he or she did a deal, or teaching you how you should do the deal? Are they pitching or teaching? Will the speaker’s technique work with your goals, your lifestyle? Is it realistic – for you? Do the math — what were the real costs to get that great deal? How many hours did they spend in total to make the transaction work? Was it less per hour than you make in your current day job? One great meal does not make you a Chef – it means you cooked one great meal. Success in real estate requires hard work, time, and an ability to adapt to changing conditions.

  2. As a dedicated Educator for many years, I have learned that material in the course/seminar that is presented is very critical! What can I learn that will expand my knowledge base for Real Estate that will increase my income potential? There are alot of fluff and product selling that is currently going on, many of these Speakers or self proclaimed experts take advantage of Investors, Real Estate Professionials, etc…
    We have developed and created courses that have Continuing Education for Real Estate Professionials thoughout the U. S. to distance ourselfs from the self proclaimed experts, and we do NOT sell products just pure education. What a concept!

  3. When I saw this I felt compelled to write this especially since I just had the Robert Kyiosaki 3 day workshop(9-7 Fri & Sat & 9-4 on Sun) this weekend. If you are ever thinking about attending this 3 day work shop DONT!!!!!!!!!!! SCAM!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The speaker tells you from the beginning you are not allowed to ask questions or say anything negative about the class and you are not allowed to network. Every question that he asks the audience he tells you to answer it by saying “oh yeah” and when he asks you “are you getting it” and you shake your head no he still keeps going. He goes soooooo fast on purpose and when you tell him to slow down he says its you not him because it’s a learning curve(which is another reason you should tone it down a little). He tells us that these multi-million dollars deals which he goes way too fast for us to even understand. The whole 3 days they are trying to sell us their advanced classes which range from $13,000-$$49,000. Then they ask us to raise our credit card limits to put the “education” on our credit cards. How the hec is this right? You are asking me to go into more debt. Then they make you feel sooooo guilty that you didn’t sign up for their advanced classes. They really play with you mentally and emotionally that if you take the class then you will have financial freedom. Hmmm this class is about financial freedom and you are askimg me to go into more debt. Their answer to that ” pay the minimum payments then on your first deal you can pay it off” yet they never garantee you that “deal”. They mention “time is everything” but for people who preach this they waste a lot of it. You go into this thinking this is a basic fundamental real estate class but 95% of it is is trying to sell you the advanced class. Talk about wasting my time. Then when the class concluded all the people in my class gave this joker a standing ovation. Are people this stupid? Time is important to us please dont waste your time by going to this.

    • Eleni- It actually takes a great deal of courage (and skepticism) to attend one of these events and NOT go along with the crowd. The event producers have huge psychological advantages on their side and focus on persuading you to spend money on them and not on real estate. I highly recommend the following book to all real estate investors “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion” by Robert Cialdini. The author exposes how charlatans in any industry use psychological techniques to their advantage AND how to protect yourself from them. Of course you could also use this information to your nefarious advantage, but I don’t recommend it least you find your name on this forum associated with the word “scam.”

  4. Justin Pierce

    Eleni,

    Thanks for sharing. As a community we need to get better at putting the word out in a critical and professional way so maybe future educators will get the point. I think some educators think they’re actually doing the right thing by filling the class with fluff. They don’t think that an hour class is worth anything. But, I think differently. I’d pay more to the educator who can get me the most information in the shortest amount of time so I can hit the streets and put it to work.

    Sorry you had such a bad experience.

    Regards,
    Justin Pierce

  5. I have been following our local REIN group, and each session I see posted costs $48 for non-members, and $28 for members. That is pure garbage in my opinion! I belong to a technical group (supports my day job), and we meet once a month and give free presentations. We want to share information not cop out and sell it for top price. What is the point of paying for membership when it still costs an arm and a leg to go to anything? I want to work my way into real estate, not get nickel-and-dimed out of it. I thought the group would be about different professionals sharing their knowledge with this community, not selling it. I have learned lots of useful stuff from Bigger Pockets, and on occasion called and spoken to some of the writers to discuss more details.

    • Greg – I’m not sure if you’re already participating on our forums, but if not, I definitely recommend you jump on the site and start participating. Outside the BP Blog here, there are tens of thousands of people active on the site every week, providing a great means for networking, learning, and doing business. See you over there.

    • Jeff Brown

      Hey Justin — This post just got you on my A+ Christmas list. 🙂

      Truly useable, valuable information is almost always a surprise when it shows up. When speaking at various seminars/conferences, I do my level best to surgically remove even a hint of ‘sugar coated corn flakes’. The last thing I wanna see on the audience’s faces is disappointment.

  6. Greg,

    I agree, I made a committment last year to go to the local RE group meetings twice a month. It was about the same costs as you mentioned, they always started late, they were full of fluff, and mostly consisted of pitches to get you to come to their full day meetings on Saturday, at additional costs, of course. The opportunity costs where the most burndnesome. I spent a lot of time that could have been spent on my business. I’d hoped it would pay off in connections made with good wholesalers feeding me deals… nope.

    I think I need to set aside the time to actually gather a private group of real life, active, serious, investors with more emphasis on networking and free no frills presentation by group members about what they’re doing in the local market. That, I believe, would be a more attractive model, but there’s no money in it…

    Thanks for the post.

  7. Virginia Gabaldo Willis on

    Justin,
    Thanks for the straight talk on RE classes/menters/coaches. My husband and I had the “Oh Yeah” guy Eleni talks about at the Rich Dad intro 3 day class. We did sign up for one of their most expensive packages. Did we waste our money? I don’t know yet…. it has been 9 months and we are still paying those credit cards. We had some previous RE experience, 2 rental homes, but we are hoping to learn some new techniques/meet new like minded people/ get our REinvesting bisiness off the ground faster. I see now we could have done much of this through internet groups like BP and various books and REIA clubs. We are trying to justify our over $50K educational investment with the fact that it really will not matter later…. what’s $50K when you have generated over $1,000,000 in equity?

    Wish us luck!
    Virginia

  8. Good luck, Virginia. Although, I don’t see any reason to spend any more than about $10,000 max on RE Education. I think I may have spent less than $5k on mine and that includes getting my real estate license. Sure, if you make a million dollars then that will be a pretty good return, but that $50,000 could have been put to use as seed money, or down payments, or rehab costs and those projects would have given you a great real world, hands on, education. Again, good luck. And, thanks for the comment.

  9. It’s difficult to calculate the ROI on educational programs. If you spent $10K as Justin did, got a license (an educational process by itself!), and learned how to avoid making a $100K mistake, you got a really good return on your investment. SJREI offers an annual membership for around $225 to attend 11 monthly meetings, and slightly less to attend an all-day “JumpStart” seminar for new investors that includes breakfast, lunch and snacks. Like many REIs, there’s a cost to get the room, print materials, etc. The real value is in meeting other like-minded individuals who are willing to share their experiences – for better or worse — so you find investment models that fit your objectives. As a real estate attorney, I can tell you that many clients should have invested more time and a little money in education BEFORE they wrote their check!

  10. Great post Justin. Was just at a conference last month where they went on and on about time being your most valuable asset. Then they spent five days delivering three days of content. Worse yet (especially if you’re from the cold, wet, dark Pacific Northwest) we were in LA but kept indoors dawn to dusk while the beautiful warm sunshine was outside! I should have skipped the whole last day and gone to the beach. Even though their actual content was world class the fact that they were so disrespectful of our time guarantees that they’ve gotten all the money out of me that they ever will.

    • Giovanni, that’s a great point. I don’t know if I made that point clear enough in my post. But, yes, even when the class provides great information they can still waiste your time and that is completely disrespectful. We go to the class on good faith and get insulted.

      This sounds like a plot out of the movies. You’re lucky they didn’t slam the doors shut and turn into Vampires. I guess in a way they did. Sounds like they sucked the life out of you.

  11. Bravo. Couldn’t agree more with every word. As a rule, I found chatting with investors and other industry professionals in seminars, meetings or on the internet far more educational and enlightening as to general, specific or niche markets, then any content delivered in any workshop, seminar or publication. (having said that, there are some great books out there – read the reviews online before you buy).

      • Still one of the best – “Investing in Real Estate”, 4th edition – / Mcgreevy & Eldred

        But there gazillions out there – just read the reviews. Also hugely depends on your chosen niches (and you should have at least one thing you’re an absolute expert at before expanding to all and sundry, in my opinion).

  12. Melinda Allen on

    At this point I’d like to give a shout out for the Richmond REIA in Virginia. These meetings are well worth the time! The president, Troy Ross, makes it a point to steer clear of the guru’s, he brings in successful local investors/members to speak, teach, and share their experiences. He forms panels of experts to speak, small groups of lawyers, title company agents, etc, and conducts an Ask the Expert meeting on some occasions. Troy and partner/realtor Deb are very creative with these meetings, they respond to the feedback of those attending.

  13. I want to get started in real estate investing, but I am not sure how to get started. Can someone recommend any suggestions? Your suggestions would greatly be appreciated.
    Thanks

  14. Just rehashing from the new members forum post-

    Wouter – I’d recommend doing extensive research first and deciding on where you’d want to invest as a start – considering you are going to want to stay in the same country for at least a few years before cashing out and/or expanding further, give this some thought.

    Key criteria, in my opinion, should be –

    1) Stable government & non-corrupt officials – carribean tax havens with glittering opportunities and such, often turn to an investors graveyard, as the government, police or local influentials can make your property (and visa, and permission to enter or trade in the country) disappear in a single phone call. Been hearing things like this about Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and alot of Europe (you’d know best about that one) – still skeptical about the Philippines – I hear many good things from some, bad from others, but I’d keep an eye on them in any case.

    2) Stable/temporarily recessed but stable economy, based on your risk preference and reliance on capital gains. For example – nobody’s quite sure what will happen with Greece and portugal (unstable, recession end date unknown), and are mostly certain the USA will someday bounce back (normally stable, temporarily recessed but with high recovery potential). Therefore, the USA is now renown for undervalued, repossessed and easily renovated properties that may be worth much more if and when they recover. Japan is renown as “the land of no capital gain” since their bubble burst in the early nineties, but has one of the world’s largest, most stable economies, and spectacular cashflow. With Asia’s growth, Japan presents a perfect alternative to China, which many still fear is difficult for foreign investors due to government control and high corruption. In any case, even if you’re into risk and future capital gain projections, try to steer clear of real warzones (at least until you build a substantial, diverse portfolio with solid hedging).

    3) If you’re going for capital gain, do your research and find the developing areas. If you’re going for cashflow, do your research and find the high return areas (but again, make sure you’re not in a downright warzone – no tenants means no income, regardless of what the potential rent could be).

    4) Decide what type of investor you want to be. Are you a hands-on, micro-management maniac, or are you comfortable receiving reports and reacting to them, while others do the work for you and free you for other pursuits, or to further expand your investments? This should determine what you do on your first visit to wherever you choose to invest.

    5) If you chose to do everything yourself (caution – VERY DIFFICULT from abroad, particularly in unknown lands), use your time on your first visit to find the best team possible (this begins with internet research, references, setting of appointments, etc). If you choose to turn-key, use your research time to find the best turn-key company (again, references, telephone conversations, personal impression and connection is very important, as you will be communicating with this one company or person for all aspects of your business investment).

    6) With turn-key companies, you often do not need to visit your investment area at all – do so anyway, at least sometime during the first year after you’ve purchased, simply to get a feel for the people you’re working with, the area you’ve bought into, and verify or alter any assumptions you may have made from abroad. If you’re managing the investment yourself, you’ll definitely need to visit and handpick them, give them an idea of what you’re after, and monitor them religiously.

    In both cases, you shouldn’t have to visit the area more than once. Once you trust your team or the turn-key company’s team, and have an ongoing rapport with them, you can safely delegate. And surely, one visit, before or after your first purchase, to the area you’re purchasing in, is worth it, isn’t it? If you make an average of, for comparison, $10,000 more a year on your 1/2 mil investment because you chose to invest in country X, surely it would be worth your while to invest half of the first year’s extra profit on a single business trip?

    Don’t think about your first investment ($50,000 VS $5,000) – think about the infrastructure you’re setting in place for all future investments ($5,000,000 VS $5,000) you may make in this country if your research proves to be fruitful. This single trip is a fraction of what you stand to make if your selection of deals encompasses the globe rather than one or three countries.

  15. I had the same experience when I visited my local real estate clubs. It is a shame that there is no local place where people can actually meet and exchange ideas.
    Investing in real estate is exciting, challenging but mostly it’s a lot of hard work.

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