The 13 Tell-Tale Traits of a Scammy Real Estate Investment Guru

50

I am not a real estate guru. I don’t have anything to sell you. I write articles like this because I am a property manager, and it hurts my business when people fall for scammy real estate gurus. I don’t want people coming to me in a panic hoping I can recover their failed investment. I want investors coming to me confident in their competence and understanding my value before the interview starts — because otherwise, I’m more likely to turn them down than they are to decline my services. So, here are 21 signs that your real-estate investment guru of choice is a scammer.

Download Your FREE guide to evicting a tenant!

We hope you never have to evict a tenant, but know it’s always wise to prepare for the worst. Navigating the legal and financial considerations of an eviction can be tricky, even for the most experienced landlords. Lucky for you, the experts at BiggerPockets have put together a FREE Guide to Evicting Tenants so you can protect your property and investments.

Click Here For Your Free Tenant Eviction Guide

The 13 Tell-Tale Traits of a Scammy Real Estate Investment Guru

1. They constantly brag and talk themselves up.

The instant a guru starts off anything by mentioning how successful, wealthy, or happy he is, my alarm bells go off.

2. They claim that their one “secret” technique can work for anyone.

There are simply too many factors that distinguish one investor from another to have a single technique that every investor can use.

real estate guru scam trap

3. They don’t have lessons, they have pep talks.

If you go to a guru and they use fuzzy math and poorly explained examples to try to get you pumped up, you’re talking to the wrong guru.

Related: The One Real Estate Investing “Secret” the Gurus Don’t Want You to Know

4. They never see a bear market.

Similarly to the above, if a guru tells you it’s a great time to invest in real estate but the market is down and shows no sign of switching, they’re not interested in your success.

5. Their biography/about-the-author blurb emphasizes anything other than their down-to-earth achievements.

No one is actually the “number one,” “leading,” or “most requested” expert in any category of financial endeavor (at least, not measurably).

6. They avoid talking about risk or failure.

Investment — all investment — is about risk: The lower the risk, the less the return. If your guru of choice uses words like “you will make money” or “guaranteed method,” run the other direction — and fast.

7. They claim to run a real estate business and a guru business at the same time and succeed at both.

Bull-oney. They get 24 hours a day just like you and me, and I barely have enough time to run one business, much less two.

8. They offer to invest in your first deal without knowing what it is.

Some gurus will tell their most broke clients that they’ll totally pitch in so they can complete their first deal — after the client has purchased the $40 seminar, the $90 DVD set, the $150 personal tutorial session, and so on. It never happens, and it never will, because agreeing to invest in a deal without knowing what it will be is stupid.

9. Their program emphasizes low/no-down-payment strategies.

Like this above, this is nothing more than a gimmick designed to separate broke people from money they don’t have. Yes, such techniques exist, but they are not in any way suitable for beginners — even “trained” ones.

real-estate-course

10. They have ridiculous price-per-information rates.

The best books on real estate investing can be found at your local library for free — or $20-$40 new. The typical guru book is either free (because it’s nothing more than a very long sales letter for their more expensive products), or it costs $80-$250 and still won’t teach you as much as the legit books.

11. There’s a long “sales ladder.”

If a guru’s book is a pitch for his seminar, you can be 100 percent certain that his seminar is going to be a pitch for his bundled four manuals and five CDs, which will in turn be a pitch for his personal coaching/mentorship, which will exist entirely to keep you coming back for more mentorship.

12. Their testimonials sound too good to be true.

They are! (Also, notice how there’s never enough information for you to get in touch with the people who purportedly gave these testimonials? Ask for the contact info sometime, and watch the guru squirm!)

Related: What’s the Difference Between a Coach and a Guru?

13. They spew “weasel words” or do a lot of “puffing.”

“Weasel words” are those words that allow a guru to weasel their way out of a claim by pointing out the word: “You could make a million dollars or more your first year!” “Puffing” is when a guru uses words that make his system sound better than it really is while having no legal meaning: “The lazy man’s air-tight insider secret that allows anyone to make a killing!”

Bonus: They ban recording their seminars.

The only reason to ban recording is because you’re doing to say things you don’t want repeated in court.

Please, make my life easier: learn your way around a scam real estate investment guru before you invest your mom’s money in a crappy property and try to pin your hopes on me or another property manager to turn things around. Thanks!

Investors: Have you had any encounters with gurus who exhibited the above characteristics? Anything you’d add to this list?

Let me know with a comment!

About Author

Drew Sygit

Drew is the manager of Royal Rose Property Management, a fairly high-tech solution for Detroit Metro area property owners & investors.

50 Comments

    • Drew Sygit

      @KEVIN: last time I checked John Reed hasn’t updated his website in awhile. It still has good Intel on most of the seasoned “gurus”, but not the newest ones:( Either way his exposes are great cautionary tales on not to believe everything you hear them brag about.

  1. Jeffrey Hare

    Almost every one of these so-called “gurus” has a caveat: “Consult with a real estate attorney.” I welcome calls from individuals who sincerely are trying to consult with a real estate attorney prior to jumping into an investment deal. But often the callers seemed shocked to find out that their “Guru” course, which cost upwards of $50,000 (charged to a credit card, usually), failed to provide them with the necessary legal forms, let alone the correct legal advice. Now, the new investor has spent all of their savings on an elaborate asset protection scheme and has no money left to purchase assets! Your local REI Association often can provide you with all of the resources and often some great introductory courses by real experts, for substantially less money, and investing a couple of hours with a real estate attorney can save you $$$. Greatest ROI ever!

    • Drew Sygit

      @JEFFREY: so true! Many investors would be better off throwing their $25k-$50k at a property as the lessons they will learn from the real world will teach them more than almost any class or seminar.

    • Drew Sygit

      @ADAM: Thanks for the compliment — and that would be interesting. Of course attorneys and most of Wall Street are certified in some manner and it doesn’t seem to help protect the average “Joe”.

  2. Hil Hernandez

    Drew, great job! I enjoyed reading your post. There are many other things that can be added, but if anyone doesn’t get it after what you’ve already outlined, then maybe there is no hope!

    My brother and I learned what we know the hard way, yes we lost some money on a deal that was “SOLD” to us by someone that made a big profit dumping the property. You have to be really careful when starting out in this business and all the best advice and tips are usually free. You’ll find many here on BP, if not, just ask!

    You know, it’s not rocket science! It’s like the person that looks for the perfect weight loss diet their entire life. Fundamentally, 3-2=1, so eat 2 calories and burn 3, you lose 1! Real estate investing is fundamentally the same thing. However, do the math yourself and don’t trust the seller, wholesaler, etc… that brought you the “deal”, for some reason their math always looks better.

    Learn about the market in your target area, how to price rehab cost, appraised value of the completed, rehabbed property and do the math! There are great tools here on BP that will help you determine a good deal. Be conservative and make educated decisions on your first deal.

    Thanks for the post!

    • Drew Sygit

      @HIL: sorry to hear about your bad experience. We call that, “getting burned by touching a hot stove”. Seems we all do that as little kids and learn quickly not to do it again. Unfortunately, many gurus follow PT Barnums saying of, “there’s a sucker born every minute”.

  3. margaret smith on

    I have been through some gurus- and continue to educate myself. Fact is, most, if not all, use at least a couple of your astutely diagnosed tactics to sell product. The education may be valuable, but… One size does not fit all! It is a minefield out there, and difficult to decide who to buy into. My advice is to join your local REIA, or several if you can, and get all the free (or inexpensive local) education you can. While doing this— Do no business! Just learn, find out who is who in your area, make connections, get advice. Don’t spend money except where you hear from trusted sources that this money is well spent. Would you jump into a cockpit to fly a plane after a few lessons? This is a profession, and it has lots to learn and understand.

    BTW, I am in SW Florida. Don’t know about other places, but we have a continual stream of local “investors” and “mentors” zeroing in on the newbies. Beware the very nice guy/gal who develops a personal relationship with you, and shortly wants you to write them a check for something. Ask me how I know this!

    • Drew Sygit

      @MARGARET: SW Florida market is hot again, the real estate market that is, and hot markets attract these “sharks” like blood in the water. Great advice on being cautious of those that try to buddy up to you – as many have bad intentions. The worst are the ones who have good intentions but don’t know what they are doing. They’ll lead you right of their cliff…

  4. Jim Ehlinger

    Drew,
    Great article and to the point… unfortunately I can say I know someone who went thru many of the steps you outlined the expensive way… if they knew of BP before the gurus, they could have used that money for another down payment on another property… I am glad though that I learned thru BP after seeing what they did….

  5. James Green

    You forgot:
    – the first 10 min before the spiel is a projector showing motivational quotes and famous fight res
    – at the end of the pitch, there is always a limited discount for those that but today!
    -they tell you to charge it on your credit card,make an “tax deductible investment in yourself”
    – they have a flip show on cable
    They have a 30 min infomercial & are coming to a city near you with their “proven methods” to make millions with low/no money down

    I could keep going. Yes I took the bait on a guru, but I learned from it and found BP.

  6. Andrew Syrios

    Don’t forget that their products (i.e. set of three ring binders) normally sells $3000, but today, and today only, you can get it for three easy payments of $499.99! All you need to do is follow their simple instructions on negotiating with your credit card company to raise your credit limit.

  7. How does one differentiate between testimonials that are “too good to be true” and ones that are just really good and legit? I’ve fallen onto the side of believing that all testimonials are fake until slapped silly with their legitimacy.

    • Mike hoherchak

      This is a great article. I wish this had been written before I ventured out into learning about real estate! I’ve been to numerous “boot camps” and weekend long seminars over the years. The worst one was my first one. Like most guests on the podcast it seems everyone started by reading Rich Dad/Poor Dad. I did as well. Ironically his was the scammiest “boot camp” I’ve ever been to. However, on the flip side, the best one and most legit one I’ve been to (in my opinion) was an apartment/multi-family “boot-camp” by Dave Lindhal.

      With that being said, I think the only parts of this article I don’t agree with is #7 and #12. I personally know many people who run multiple successful businesses at the same time. A good friend of mine runs 3 very different businesses in 3 different industries. He’s making a fortune. For famous people that we all know, I think about Elon Musk who runs 3 successful businesses (Tesla, SpaceX, SolarCity), Richard Branson who manages over 400! In my opinion, I just think #7 isn’t a good qualifyer of a scam artist in general. If you know how to properly set up systems and automate as much as possible, a business can essentially run itself.

      For #12, there are laws governing testimonials, endorsements, etc. Essentially, they are required to be legit and contain disclaimers as necessary. Straight from the FTC website here: https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2009/10/ftc-publishes-final-guides-governing-endorsements-testimonials

      • Drew Sygit

        @All: good comments on testimonials. They all seem to be for sale.

        MIKE: Lets rephrase #7 as a question, if their own real estate business is doing so well, why are they taking time away from it to do seminars?

  8. “4. They never see a bear market.” On the other hand, a bear would be the time to buy because everyone would rather buy low, right? How about the gurus telling you to buy at the top of the market in 2006 and make big profit on the guaranteed appreciation?

    “Ask for the contact info sometime…” Even if my testimonial were legit, I would not want a bazillion people contacting me about it.

    The fact is your red flags are indicative of any scammy operation. I have seen it with multi level marketing as well. Once, my kids were part of a community theater performance, and the next thing I know I am getting offers from “agents” to represent them, but only if I first spend thousands of dollars for acting lessons and pictures.

  9. Robert Morse

    I got taken to the cleaners with the so-called “Yancey” real estate investment course (actually Abundance EDU). Everything in this article is absolutely correct. I spent a total of about $32K. After filing complaints with the attorneys general in three states (Florida, Nevada and Utah), and with the BBB in Utah, I got a call from Abundance EDU’s “quality” department. They offered me (and have paid) $16K back. Was it a fair settlement? Hell no! But I was desperate, and after nearly a year with no results, I had to take it. They told me I wouldn’t be able to take advantage of any of the program, but they didn’t tell me I couldn’t spread the word on what a bunch of BSers these clowns are. Oddly, their lowest price package is $18K; seems I should get whatever those folks get, right? Anyway, there’s a new kid in town, and his name is Affluence EDU. Sound familiar? It’s the Tarek and Christina (from “Flip or Flop”) show! It’s also the exact same BS non-producing, suck-every-dime-so-you-can’t-invest program. Some of these jokers have been taken to task by the government in the past (Armando Montelongo, Trump University), but they still proliferate and flourish. Do the government’s attorneys suck that badly that they can’t consistently take these guys down before people lose hundreds of millions of dollars? How about a “sting” operation to see what actually gets said and (not)done! Admittedly, their contracts are pretty good at protecting themselves, but come on, that isn’t really the issue! The problem is the content, or more accurately, the lack of. If these courses delivered on what they promised and actually provided the training, assistance, guidance and mentoring they offer, they would be a bargain at twice the price. The problem is, THEY DON’T! Let’s not forget the money they promise you’ll have access to! More BS! If you could actually meet their requirements, you wouldn’t need the money; and if you get it, you’ll give up most or all of your profits in fees and interest. Yes, I am aware that hard money, transactional funding and private money loans are modern euphemisms for loan sharking, but there comes a point…. but I digress!

    Anyway, let’s keep spreading the word and hopefully people will find this information BEFORE they get taken. Not that I have any strong feelings, mind you!!

  10. Robert Seed

    I think this is a good article with a lot of valid points. I’m also a property manager and see a lot of the same issues you mentioned in the article. I will say, the irony of offering a free e-book at the end of the article for BP, which then upsells for a pro-membership, or software, etc… is in some ways similar to the program you mentioned in your article. That said, BP is a great place for debate and more transparent discussion than most any course.

    I have purchased tons of real estate information over the years, but that said, I almost always learn something valuable that has made or saved me money. So I look at it like a buffet, where there may be 80-90% things I know, but if I can learn one new thing to give me an advantage, it was worth it.

    Lastly, I do get tired of my inbox being dominated by pitches 24/7.

    Great article, thank you.

    • Drew Sygit

      @ROBERT S: seems like you have a good handle on dealing with “gurus”. We pretty much do the same thing and maybe buy one package of materials a year. The most we’ve ever spent though is around $600. Far cry from the tens of thousands many spend. Oh, and we bought those materials at a presentation at our local REIA:)

  11. Steven Archer on

    This is a great post. But don’t forget the timeless ringer of injecting superstition. Add a touch of evangelical and explain away why such a successful multimillionaire would spend his valuable time “teaching the way” to the unwashed masses instead of enjoying the spoils of his success. As another poster stated, this is not exclusive to real estate gurus, but scammers in general. If they start talking about religion, get suspicious.

    • Drew Sygit

      @NIKKI: from our casual observations, a pretty low percentage of people that spend all this money money on gurus, actually gets into real estate investing. And many more only do one deal, never to do another. Thanks for posting.

  12. Deanna Opgenort

    I work on the technical side of producing conferences — I HATE getting to a job and finding out that it’s an MLM of any sort.
    Beware of “laddering” of reputation — person A (a complete stranger) gets up and “introduces” person B in glowing terms (their accomplishment, how kind, wonderful, brilliant etc they are) , person B does the same for person C, who makes the pitch. The fact that they are each praising the next person instead of bragging about themselves somehow makes it believable, despite the fact that YOU KNOW NOTHING ABOUT ANY OF THESE PEOPLE, AND THEY ARE IN CAHOOTS TO RIP YOU OFF.
    Agree with former poster about the “Look at my mansion, look at my yacht, look at my beautiful wife, don’t you wish you were me?” pitch = it’s a con.

  13. byron charles

    7. They claim to run a real estate business and a guru business at the same time and succeed at both.

    Bull-oney. They get 24 hours a day just like you and me, and I barely have enough time to run one business, much less two.

    Number 7 was spot on, I work full time to fund my Real Estate business since this is my first year getting the business running and i have no time whats so ever.

    • Drew Sygit

      @BYRON: in one of the comments above it was pointed out that several successful people run multiple businesses successfully — Elon Musk, Richard Branson, etc. These are rare individuals AND they don’t really run the day-to-day or even week-to-week on their businesses. They are business OWNERS that hire people to do their bidding and run their companies. One of Robert Kiyosaki’s best points was about the Four Quadrants of business and covered this.

      Most gurus though, imply that they are also still hands-on investors, which seems far-fetched to be able to do.

  14. Vince Mayer

    It’s pretty easy to post a comment/opinion on gurus but I never see any recommendations for alternatives.

    You need money to start a business but little or no money down is a legitimate, real estate investing strategy. Also,you need knowledge, especially if it’s a business you’ve never been involved in before. Self educate through books? I doubt it. Spend the money for a real estate license? What does that teach you about running a real estate business? Find a mentor? According to guru haters that’s a no no.

    There are veteran RE investors willing to teach new investors but you have to give some value back to the teacher. You have to use common sense but I see nothing wrong with paying for guidance as long as you’re willing to put in the work to make a success of it.

    • Hi Vince,
      I agree a lot with what you said. As for the mentoring, as a newbie I feel like I have nothing to offer an experienced, veteran RE investor. What sorts of things would be valuable to a mentor from a mentee? I fully believe in providing value in return for getting something I want; what would you suggest a mentee could do in return for mentorship?

      Thanks,

      Chris

    • Drew Sygit

      @VINCE: We have nothing against paying for an education — millions have done so to get a college education.

      The problem with “gurus” is how they scam people out of so much and really offer so little.

      To circle back to the college education comparison, do a search on college and student loan scams and you’ll find a lot of concerns about online “colleges” loading up students with a lot of debt in exchange for questionable educations. We predict a congressional inquiry in the near future and more laws.

  15. The responses to this article range from the naïve to the well informed.

    First, let me say that my wife and I followed and paid for courses from a national Guru, he’s still quite active today, and we made a lot of money, hundreds of thousands.

    The real estate game necessarily includes Realtors®, Investors, the Gurus and a huge percentage of couch potatoes who want to believe that they are the chosen ones.

    I see no difference between the real estate arena and the physical fitness culture where probably 90% of those who sign up and pay never show up to the gym to use one machine, something akin to the real estate Guru’s Golden Course still sitting virginal in its shrink wrapping on a shelf in a closet.

    Like Rocky when his trainer admonished him for not having the “Eye of the Tiger” that was essential for success, the desire to succeed must exceed the inertia of one’s buttocks resting on a couch while watching someone else get rich on TV and cursing his/her fate because he/she is still stuck in a world of mediocrity.

    Evolutionary wise most of us are neither the Alpha male nor female thus we grunt and groan through life scratching our heads wondering how others got so rich.

    By nature, or God, our genes are programmed against the majority of us to be aggressive, to grab the ball and run with it. Conversely our genes are designed to prohibit us from asserting ourselves to a level of aggressiveness where success is assured.

    It’s been that way for eons and it will continue to be that way, out of ten humans one is dominant, a couple thinking of trying to become dominant, and the rest satisfied with being told what to do do.

    Can you become a “success” without powerful genes driving you forward to make another cold call, knock or one more door, or take yet another rejection with a smile and move on?

    The answer is thankfully yes; because one’s environment is also a key factor in success and an essential component of education can include a method (Course) offered by some Guru. Employing a Guru’s course can cut your learning curve by months, maybe years if you learn the scripts and make those dreaded cold calls and look rejection in the eye.

    I am skeptical of most Gurus of any industry whether it be physical fitness, join the Army, come to this Church or vote for this political party. All have inherent ulterior motives and the most obvious are those that bash others while offering no alternatives.

    • Drew Sygit

      @TOM: wonderful counterpoint! Glad you used what you paid for to be successful:)

      Good comparison to the fitness industry also. How many fitness “gurus” have been convicted of ripping their clients off?

  16. Christopher Smith

    One item you note above really struck home. I went to one of those guru seminars and when I left I thought to myself. “I didn’t learn one useful thing in the last 2+ hours, this was nothing more than an amateurish pep rally aimed primarily at bunch of gullible wanabes.” Pure cheap salesman garbage.

    • Drew Sygit

      @CHRISTOPHER SMITH: unfortunately it happens.

      Again, this is no different than many colleges/universities that have popped up in recent years using questionable marketing and hard sell tactics to get people to go deep into student loan debt to get a degree that really isn’t worth much. Worse, now they are starting to close, like ITT Institute, leaving students with lots of debt and credits that may not transfer.

      All students, no matter what they plan to study, should research before spending their money.

Leave A Reply

Pair a profile with your post!

Create a Free Account

Or,


Log In Here

css.php