Investors: Don’t Fall Victim to the Biggest Scam in Real Estate

by | BiggerPockets.com

I’m sick and tired of constantly seeing fake gurus out there trying to sell courses, DVDs, seminars. It doesn’t work, and this is why. Have you ever asked yourself, “Why the hell is someone charging to teach me how to do it if they can just go out and do it themselves?”

If you’re sick, what do you do? You go to the doctor, and the doctor gets you better. If your car breaks down, what do you do? You take it to the mechanic, and the mechanic fixes your car. You don’t go out and buy a seminar or attend a seminar on how to fix your car. You also don’t go out and buy a book on how to cure your health.


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

Finding a Mentor

Now, if you want to learn how to make money in real estate, you have to go and find a mentor. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to pay for a mentor. When I started my journey as a real estate investor, I hustled my way to someone who’s got a $150 million company right now. I called him and cold emailed him and begged him for six months before he took me under his wing and I got a job with him. And he pretty much taught me the foundations for being the real estate investor that I am today.

So I want you to stop buying DVDs, courses, and seminars. I know that a lot of people watching this video are going to absolutely slam me for what I’m saying here, but I honestly think that this is the biggest scam going on in real estate right now.

Related: Real Estate Coaching or Mentorship: As a Newbie, Which is Right for You?

Don’t Fall for TV Celebrity Gurus

You guys are getting sucked into these seminars and buying these courses and DVDs because of what you’re seeing on TV. Some of these folks have created credibility from their TV shows, even though a lot of those TV shows are fake. Ninety percent of them are fake—the figures are fake, and they make it look much easier than it is. I’m begging you—go work with someone who’s doing it every single day. Maybe they don’t necessarily want to teach it because they’re making so much money doing it. But if you offer them value, you might just land a gig that will help set the stage for your investing career.

Have you purchased any courses, DVDs, seminars, etc.? What has your experience been?

Let me know your thoughts with a comment!

About Author

Engelo Rumora

Engelo Rumora “The Real Estate Dingo" is a successful property investor, motivational speaker and serial entrepreneur that quit school at the age of 14 and played professional soccer at 18. He is also a soon to be published author along with becoming a TV personality in his very own real estate house flipping show. To find out more go to engelorumora.com . Engelo Rumora has been involved in over 400 real estate deals and founded five businesses in Ohio. The most successful is Ohio Cashflow, a company that specializes in providing turnkey properties in several Ohio markets. The newest venture is List’n Sell Realty, a real estate brokerage based in Toledo, Ohio and soon to be known as the #1 discount broker in the country.

41 Comments

  1. Good article. Salesmen come in all flavors……some sell stuff, some sell solutions to problems and some sell themselves as both, without being either=The art of self promotion. In legal terms…..a con artist.

    • I was questioning the same thing and valid point about reverse psychology. Not many successful investors are willing to mentor anyone from FREE especially if their mindset is “I don’t want to train my competition.

      Many times, I see the blind leading the blind at the meetup groups and REIAs.

      With that said, I challenge anyone to go to a live foreclosure auction find the cash investors bidding on and buying properties (at the auction) and ask if those investors will mentor for free. I am curious to hear how that goes.

      • Engelo Rumora

        I have no issues training my competition.

        The fact is that not many will work longer or harder than I so I always end up winning.

        I’ve had many employees that have worked for my company, learned a tonne from me. Then left abruptly to start their own thing.

        Here I am and most most of them are back to their shitty little lives and haven’t done anything significant with the experience that I passed on to them.

        So teaching someone for “free” and being worried that they will be your competition hasn’t been an issue for me.

        I’ve had way to many people ask me for something but never really willing to give anything in return. Even ifn this instance, if only they where a bit more persistent with following up, maybe they would have caught my attention.

        Nothing beats hard work and if you bang the door hard enough, someone will open it.

        Now, I’m composing a consulting tab on my site that is going to be so bloody expensive just so no one bothers me anymore lol

        The high price point is there to “scare people” off hehe

        Thanks and much success

    • Sean Bryan

      All he’s saying is an ounce of practice is worth a pound of theory.

      You should never stop learning, but you should know education is the last great scam, and not just in real estate. It’s an amorphous product. Students don’t know what they’re supposed to know and don’t know when they’re shortchanged. That and nontraditional education is about as unregulated as it gets.

      Forget real estate for a moment. Is it wise to spend tens of thousands of dollars on a computer science degree if you haven’t yet taken a free Khan Academy course to determine if you both enjoy coding and have an aptitude for it?

      • Engelo Rumora

        100% agreed Sean,

        Formal education will earn you a living while personal development will give you a lifestyle.

        I’m a big believer in taking action, working hard and figuring things out along the way.

        Much success

  2. Curt Smith

    Hi I agree with your core premise!!! But there are several catagories of help sellers, alot are selling helpful info and at modest prices. The class of folks I definately agree with you are the:

    – fortune builders REI training. OMG what a rip!
    – Kiosoki’s rich dad training. Same thing. expensive and drops you off without doing deals.

    There’s other education Mills that are factories, helping you increase your credit limit to pay for their training.

    I’ll draw a line in the sand. Education that costs over $997 in practical terms can’t deliver the proportional valiue. A person can only learn so fast and around $997 is about all you can learn in a few months. Maybe $497 is the break point. My point is that the $25k Fortune builders 3 day weekends can not deliver proportional value, yoiu can’t learn 25 times faster in their education vs the $997 guys 3 day training.

    BUT there’s lots of folks selling $97 things and I buy a lot of them to reverse engineer and pull the valuable one liners from. One of my favorite good guys selling small $$ amount education is Mark Walters, but there’s many many good folks selling really good content!

    Then there’s the national level educators: Dykes Boddiford, Pete Fortunato and a few others who’s intelligence and content is heads and shoulders and often unique so I travel for their education.

    Engelo I respect what you are saying, 100% agree, but as one who as made it as well, but via the local REIA, local “doers” path plus paying for knowledge here and there I know that what you said sounds black and white but I view the reality (and I bet you agree) that REI education is a shades of grey reality.

    I like Tai Lopez (51 steps guy) who said be the 30 yr old driving the nice car, not the old guy driving the nice car. Because most folks who become successful by making all the mistakes first hand take till they are old to finanally have made it. (dove tailing into Engelo’s comment) Learn from others so you can accelerate your success. My input is, that its not always via pay them nothing mentors. These opportunities are very rare, even in large REIAs. IE I can’t take anyone on as a student (free or they pay, neither) so if I can’t who can? There’s few who can. Fortunately I hear of a few who do. I also hear of a few of those mentors taking advantage of the students!

    My tips are:

    – Joine ALL of the local REIAs even if you have to drive 2 hrs each way.
    – Go to all the REI groups and over time figure out who is really doing deals.
    – click on those ads offering REIA training systems. Buy a few. Study them and not just put them on the shelf.
    – Always be reading REI books. A book a month at least!!!!!
    – Get on a bunch of education sellers mailing lists. Watch their videos, watch their live presentations. You will learn something for free.
    – I under represented struggling to do your own deals in this list. Every other bullet should be struggle daily at lead gen, talking to sellers, driving for dollars, calc MAO, signing contracts, canceling contracts, a few will make money. Learn a long the way.

    You’ll get your 10,000 hour education and find a level of success.

    • Curt, I don’t know you, but some advice……I’m 68, built five companies and now fully retired with some investment properties in my portfolio, so I feel I can tell you without holding back…..you are chasing a $5 with a $20. I don’t know what value you put your time at, but all the hours you pledge to ‘improving’ your performance might be better spent actually doing battle to get ahead.

      Successful people make mistakes…lots of them. Unsuccessful….they take what they see as shortcuts. The differentiating factor between failure and success is to take mistakes and turn them into success by moving forward. Successful people immerse themselves in making things happen, not reading/driving and not listening to others that don’t work for them or who don’t have any skin in your success. This creates your good instincts….not reading, or taking another person’s success map as your own…it’s not a shortcut…and most shortcuts turn out to not be shortcuts in the end. You deserve good luck if you want it, but you must do the heavy lifting to get it.

      • Engelo Rumora

        Daryl,

        I’m F#$%ing screenshoting your comment and printing to hand deliver to my staff tomorrow morning hehe

        Love it mate but what you mention is the “bulldozer” way of succeeding.

        It hurts putting your head through the wall but I do it every day.

        It’s a slugger match without much finesse lol

        Curt has some good points (More finesse based IMO) but I also prefer taking action and making S#$% happen and learning from the actions I take.

        Thanks and have a great day

    • Engelo Rumora

      Hi Curt,

      Thanks for your detailed comment and perspective.

      It is much appreciated.

      To date, I’ve never paid for any course, dvd, etc…

      I have a library of books that I’ve read over the years, get my daily fix with business articles and I surround myself with the nations greatest entrepreneurs.

      I spend a fortune on lunches, dinners and coffees along with “trial and error”.

      That is how I learnt and advise others to go down a similar path.

      Nothing beats first hand experience and your Network = Net-worth.

      Great comment tho and you had some great tips.

      Thanks again

    • David Moore

      Your advice to travel for Dykes Boddiford and Pete Fortunato is great! The person who mentored my mentor advised me to go to a Dykes Boddiford seminar. Worth the travel to another state & spend a weekend learning.

      One thing I would add to your advice is that not only should one educate themselves they need to act on that education. Knowledge is power, but without action it is nothing.

  3. Thomas Phelan

    You pose a fair question: “Why the hell is someone charging to teach me how to do it if they can just go out and do it themselves?”

    The answer is simple if you have ever attended a highly marketed Real Estate Guru Conference, example Ron Legrand.

    If you were Ron Legrand what would you rather do, visit a dozen prospective fix and flips homes, submit offers and counters offers, come to an agreement, go under contract, close, repair the property and then list it and wait for it to be sold and closed to receive a check amounting to maybe $15,000 – $30,000 in profits three to six months later?

    Or, how about addressing 300 – 500 hungry attendees at a highly promoted conference, perform your platform sale’s pitch and see a $1,999 – $3,999 Course sold to 50 – 100 eager buyers who rush to the back of the conference room with credit cards in hand? The math tells the story.

    Also bear in mind that if Ron Legrand couldn’t come up with one single success testimonial he probably wouldn’t succeed just as a Las Vegas Casino must have some slot machines pay off some of the time, Real Estate Gurus must have occasional winners and they do. I was one of them.

    Where the element of “honesty” is lacking isn’t always exclusively attributable to the alleged Circus Barker, Snake Oil salesman Real Estate Guru, rather it’s the purchaser who in his/her heart of hearts knows he/she may diligently study the Course but won’t put in the actual time necessary to succeed, making a lot of phone calls and visiting a lot of properties..

    I think a good analogy is a fitness gym where the majority of people who join know they will never fulfil an intense, time consuming workout regimentation. They know from the beginning they may show up a time or two but will soon quit and place blame of everyone and everything except themselves.

    Fitness gyms know this dynamic well and exploit it to the hilt. Can you imagine every single member of a fitness gym showing up on a Friday evening to work out? The line would wrap around the building and the parking lot would be overflowing. People inside the gym would be waiting perhaps for hours to use a particular machine.

    At least a Guru’s real estate course has no such physical limitations.

    That being said I absolutely agree that a having a Mentor is a better way to approach the real estate business because a competent, professional Mentor will hound you like a Drill Sergeant or personal fitness coach whose motto is “No pain no gain”.

    However, if we eliminate the Mentors who charge a fee, and the industry seems to be flooded with them, there are few Mentors remaining and willing to do it for free.

    Why would someone successful in real estate where every minute counts and can be used for another deal, another listing, another sale etc. want to have you tag along asking questions that only slow the Mentor down?

    The only answer I can come up with is, “Money”. The Mentor will want to charge you money or receive money from another avenue, e.g. TV rights like Million Dollar Listing and any of the numerous Fix and Flip shows that crowd the screen.

    I truly wish this ethereal Mentor altruism existed but I guess I have done too many real estate deals and witnessed too many players all seeking the d=same thing, i.e. a maximum paycheck for minimal time invested.

    This is why Internet Courses or so popular now, people want to believe they can stay home and masterfully flick a few computer keys to effortlessly buy and flip properties for big profits.

    Believe me, the physical fitness industry is green with envy that it too cannot come up with an Internet stay-at-home workout product.

  4. Engelo Rumora

    Great comment Thomas,

    In my opinion they all are still scammers with their BS products, courses, etc…. None of them want to trade time for money so they put their “knowledge on paper” and sell the S#$%.

    Guess what? I’m happy to trade my time but for my 14 full time staff (total of 50 dependent on my main company) and other business that generate millions and millions of dollars in revenue every year.

    I’m happy hiring people to source, offer, negotiate, buy, rehab, tenant, manage and sell hundreds of deals.

    It’s the good old hard work and an honest living way 🙂

    As rude and raw as I am mate, my ethics are through the roof and seeing the fluff S#$% they sell makes me sick.

    I know the whole seminar circuit scam back to front and that makes it even “yuckier” for me to watch.

    I say yes and yes on your gym analogy. They empty out come March as soon as the “New Years resolution” dwindles down lol

    I posted in another comment above that “if you knock hard enough, someone will open the door”

    Most people only knock once and the door stays closed. That’s why they never find anyone willing to be their mentor for free.

    I’m even setting up a site now that will charge an absurd amount lol

    I don’t want any clients to be honest and it’s just for folks to stop asking me for something once and never willing to give anything in return.

    If only they kept knocking…

    Thanks mate

  5. Curt Smith

    @Daryl LOL great comment! I find that I don’t cover the full scope of my thoughts when I start typing. I would have included your tact of fire-ready-aim-fire-recalibrate-fire again -success- do it some more-etc.

    I’m not an example of this good advice! LOL as such I quit my day job later in life thanks to real estate but I had all the tools had I just jumped in and did it learning a long the way. Yes mentors accellerate and save on expensive mistakes.

    Another side topic is: how to choose a mentor, a coach, a pay for course? The premise here IMHO should be the core criteria: does the teacher DO what they are teaching in the immediate preceding month? How many per year. Only move forward if they are doing what they teach. This one criteria would get folks much higher quality help. Tnx Engelo for the intriging blog title!! LOL

    • Engelo Rumora

      “The premise here IMHO should be the core criteria: does the teacher DO what they are teaching in the immediate preceding month? How many per year. Only move forward if they are doing what they teach. This one criteria would get folks much higher quality help.”

      Yes and yes

      Curt,

      Can you write a blog for me mate?

      I’ll just put my face on video for it hehe

      Thanks 🙂

  6. Christopher Smith

    Engelo

    I would agree.

    Sure someone with real depth of real estate experience to turn to at critical times would always be very helpful to just about anyone, but that is not what these programs / groups are “selling” (emphasis added). What they are pushing is about 95% hand holding and emotional coddling, and 5% (if that) real substance which begs the following question.

    If you need someone like one of these organizations to perform this specific function for you (i.e., to assist you in baby stepping through your comfort zone), what chance do you really think you will be successful in a field that requires an immense amount of grit, drive, self starter initiative, unrelenting perseverance and the willingness to assume individual risk, this on nearly a daily basis.

    • Engelo Rumora

      Very good points Chris,

      Maybe a shrink is a better/cheaper option if you need emotional coddling lol

      You are right tho mate

      I have found that most folks are just lazy and unwilling to put in the work.

      It’s that simple

      50% of it is just showing up.

      Thanks

    • Christopher, you clearly have your head in the game. There are several key traits, some of which you’ve nailed down, that are key requirements for being a successful entrepreneur. The industry chosen is immaterial to success, it’s the fabric of the person that matters. I’ve always defined an entrepreneur as someone who clearly has problems working for someone else, has an actual talent for making business happen, and is capable of drinking out of a fire-hose while chewing on ground glass at the same time.

      One of the greatest lies we tell ourselves and our children is that anyone can be anything they want if they only put their mind to it and work hard. No they can’t, and neither can any of us. Just because you have the talent to sing in a rock band doesn’t mean you can sing opera, no matter how much training you’re willing to pay for.

      • Engelo Rumora

        Daryl,

        I think “talent” is BS.

        Nothing beats hard work.

        I agree tho that you will never be the fastest man/woman in the world unless you’re born with fast twitch muscles hehe.

        Just do the best you can with what you’ve got and you will always be able to improve.

        Thanks

  7. John C.

    Good for you, Engelo. Somebody had to be blunt and say it. Lol

    I like the gym analogy that another writer brought up. I too use this analogy when explaining to others how to achieve their goals.

    It’s grit, determination, persistence, and self discipline. Most people only have enough discipline to go to the gym for a month or 2 after making their New Years resolutions.

    Same for dieting, saving and investing, etc.

    The successful ones stick it out for years, for life. They make it a part of who they are, not just for a short while.

    Congrats to you on your extreme success.

    • Engelo Rumora

      Thanks John

      I’m still chipping away and no “extreme success” yet.

      On another note

      F#$% New Years resolutions.

      They don’t work and never will.

      Set an end goal 5 years in advance and brake it down to 3 years, 1 year, 3 months, 1 month, 1 week, 1 day and 1hr

      They take action every day to achieve that end goal.

      I believe in setting goals and targets and not just fluffy S#$% like “Stop Smoking”

      Thanks again

  8. Ben Leybovich

    So – I spent 2 hours on the phone with 3 of my students. All of them paid an exorbitant amount for my CFFU course – $199. Phone conferences are free of charge cause I like people…

    Once off of those calls, I checked my email, and guess what – decided to click on a BP newsletter for the first time in a few months.

    Engelo, how’re you doing?

  9. Elicia Goodale

    Great advice. I’ve been a sucker for a couple of seminars, etc. Even in the past week before finding BP, I have been marketed to by a company wanting me to go in $10K for education/networking. I’d much rather start here, particularly given that I initially contacted the person on a Meetup without realizing what would ensue.

    Top 5 books for a beginner??

    • Good to Great. Strengths Finder. First Break all the Rules. All 3 should be at your library. These will help you define you, how you kick the can down the road…..and how you don’t. Knowing yourself before learning how to do ‘things’ will advance you in ways nothing else will. If you read these and subsequently feel you are on the right track to your own successes, you’ll get there with minimal training and mentoring. You will have identified the ‘right stuff’ for what you want to do.

  10. Brandon Hall

    I think education is valuable – but only from those who have a proven track record, and *generally* not from those mass-marketing their education.

    These seminars are a complete joke, 100% agree with you Engelo. I have clients that literally spend $40k-$80k for a “blueprint” to help them syndicate deals, flip houses, etc.

    I have to be the bearer of bad news and inform them that such education is NOT tax deductible if incurred prior to their own business starting up. That’s generally a shocker.

    That said, I do spend about $30k per year on business coaches. I consider them my “board of advisors” and they all have significant successful business experience. This is key for me because I’m only 26, trying to grow a business, and manage 5-6 employees. I don’t have decades of experience so my coaches help to lessen the learning curve and avoid pitfalls.

    Nice article!

  11. Karl B.

    I never felt the need for a mentor, paid or otherwise. Information is everywhere. Everything an investor needs to know is on this website, in the podcasts, and of course, through personal experience once he or she gets started.

  12. gisa armstrong

    I really thank you guys…I do hear you all and respect you too as successful people or on their way to being succeful, because I am 21. You are all my elders. Am a smart worker and persistent one. I don’t know the word “hard working” because I have not yet chosen the real path to follow and work harder for it….few months I thought of REI, and I worked the way I could and finded this website…now, am with you brothers….my country is a quick developing country, and I know in few years someone with real estates will get rich from it. So, I want to know, how to start REI when you don’t even have 20$ in your pocket, but I have a good working mind…but it needs your knowledge power to supply it and start working.

    Thank you.

    GOD IS GREAT

  13. JODIE TYNDALL

    Recent licensed agent in NC and I am interested in RE investing and learning how to find the funding for these flips, rentals, etc. I was thinking of going to the Than Merrill seminar but it sounds like a total waste of my time when the resources are available to me online. My background is in business and am taking a break to get this business started. Any thoughts on info for funding and input on seminar.

    Thank you

    • Christopher Smith

      I’ve been to one or two of these, and you won’t miss much. They are glorified pep rallies all directed at selling you hand holding services. Essentially nothing of substance is addressed other than the promise you will get something of real value if you just keep purchasing the more advanced elements of their program.

      These meetings have been deftly tailored to put you in a state where you will turn of your rational thinking mind and get caught up in the imagery (or should I say illusion) of being a successful real estate magnate. The great irony is if you need all the upfront emotional coddling they offer you have almost no chance of being successful in an endeavor that requires you to be able solidly stand on your own two feet without baby stepping assistance.

      • JODIE TYNDALL

        Thank you Christopher for the honesty. Based on your experience, where should I begin? I am familiar with locating foreclosures but I need help with completing the deals and acquiring financing, etc. Can you recommend where you would start if you were me and know what you know now???

        • Christopher Smith

          I guess all I can tell you is how I began. First, I am only in the Rental Business and I don’t flip properties (at least not so far). My first property was the accidental landlord thing, moved because of a job change and didn’t want to sell my home. It worked out reasonably well, but again it was just one property.

          Then 2009 hit with the housing crises and there were properties galore at 65% plus discount from their last selling price. I live outside Silicon Valley so I started buying up properties during the 2009 to 2013 time frame. It was then I needed to get really serious about managing properties because by then I had a number of them.

          So my approach was very passive in the beginning just learning as I went but without much real focus, and then it accelerated very rapidly after I acquired a whole portfolio of properties. As I indicated before, I went to a couple of the standard “sales” seminars in the beginning (pretty much totally worthless stuff), and I realized very quickly I was going to needed to educate myself if I was going to learn this business.

          I started by reading quality books on the subject of acquisition and management of rental properties (Bigger Pockets members can give you many recommendations here – see Brandon Turner’s list – some of which he has written himself). Although I work full time outside my real estate activities, I was able to find enough time to read a book every two weeks. So it was mostly just taking the self initiative to learn from others, I mean really credible folks now not ultra cheesy self declared TV RE Gurus. This would include for instance Bigger Pockets contributors either through the articles or the blogs. And finally and perhaps most importantly actually learning on the job dealing with my own portfolio or properties.

          Bottom line, I’m still learning and reading now, it never really ends. You can always improve your efficiency (i.e., your profitability) no matter how long you have been doing this. It’s really up to you to find the self starter within yourself. Once you really get going with true dedication, doors will start to open, just walk through them and don’t stop.

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