16 ways to find a good real estate teacher | Think about real estate
Big promises, showy displays of wealth, and “too good to be true” claims are red flags.
How do you know which real estate investment professors to trust?
The litmus test is this: They must have earned the right to teach, measured by their successful years in real estate, not selling seminars.
Do an Internet search for the teacher’s name and company name(s) with words such as “fraud”, “scam”, “scam”, etc. If what you find makes you even slightly uncomfortable, cross that person or business off your list.
Here are 16 red flags to watch out for when doing your due diligence.
1. Mass Marketing
Website advertisements, mass emailings, and/or infomercials are a sure sign that this person or business is in the business of seminars, not real estate investing. Reputable teachers mostly depend on recommendations from satisfied students. Putting a notice of their next course on their website is enough to fill it up.
2. Use the words “boot camp”, “coaching”, mentoring.
Calling a hotel seminar a “boot camp” is an insult to veterans. “Mentors” and “coaches” are salespeople whose job it is to convince you to spend more money.
4. Insinuating that you will make a lot of money quickly.
The old adage, “If it sounds too good to be true, it is” could have been written about many real estate seminars. If the seminar promotions tell you how much money you can make fast, run away even faster. Real estate is a get-rich-slow investment. Some people occasionally make a profit, but for every profitable person, many more have lost their shirts, pants, etc. Pinball is playing, not investing.
4. Asserting that no one else teaches what they do.
Does the “professor” claim to be famous, successful, expert, etc.? ? Do they promise to teach you “secrets”? No legitimate teacher says such things. Their reputation precedes them.
5. Display wealth.
Show wealth. Scammers often use mansions, luxury cars, yachts, etc. in their marketing to impress you with their richness. These are rented or borrowed accessories.
6. Offer a regular program of seminars.
A full-time real estate investor has little time to teach because he makes a lot more money investing than giving seminars. If they teach more than a few times a year, that’s a red flag.
7. Offer free seminars.
These are the selling points of timeshare without the free hotel room. The goal is to fight to pay for the “real” seminar. You might learn a few things from the one you attend, but the upselling never stops. Legitimate teachers charge a few hundred dollars a day for seminars, and they never sell.
8. Offer special discounts.
Honest teachers never use high-pressure tactics such as “normally $XXXX, but today only $XXXX”.
9. Make success claims.
If the teacher claims to have years of experience in real estate, ask for the addresses of their properties and the name(s) of the entities on the titles. Then search the properties to confirm the claims. If they refuse to tell you, stay away. These details are in the public domain, so confidentiality is not a legitimate excuse.
10. Lacking a solid reputation.
What is the teacher’s reputation with experienced investors? Go to a meeting of a local real estate investment club, find several of the most experienced investors and ask them what they think of the teacher you are considering.
11. Not admitting mistakes.
“You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing and by falling. —Richard Branson. An honest teacher admits mistakes so you can learn from them. A dishonest teacher does not admit them or pretends that they were smart enough to make them profitable.
12. Use motivational language.
“You can succeed!” and other phrases like this are marketing gimmicks. Motivational language has no place in an educational environment.
13. Advocate high leverage.
Does the teacher use terms such as ‘nothing down’, ‘bottom up’, ‘creative funding’ to describe strategies? These high leverage approaches all result in negative cash flow i.e. money out of your pocket each month because the rent does not cover the mortgage, taxes, insurance and l ‘maintenance.
14. Rely on anonymous testimonials.
People claiming to have made a profit with the training are often false, especially if their names are incomplete (“BW” or “John A.” for example).
Look for William McCorkle. He made some $50 million by convincing people that if they bought his real estate courses, they would get rich. In court, his secretary testified that he used friends, employees and paid actors to falsely claim in testimony that they made a lot of money from what they learned from him. He was convicted of 82 fraud and money laundering charges and sentenced to 24 years in federal prison.
McCorkle is far from alone in posting false or misleading testimonials; he just got caught. If the people who offer the testimonials aren’t lying, they’re not telling you the whole story when they say things like, “I bought 20 homes worth $2 million with no down payment!” This means they have 20 houses with negative cash flow (they have to dip into their savings to pay mortgages and expenses each month), 20 roofs, 20 furnaces, 20 air conditioners, etc. to maintain and replace, 20 property tax bills, 20 insurance bills, all without any income from the houses. And they are $2 million in debt. Unless they have very deep pockets – and if they did, they wouldn’t need to use high leverage – they will soon lose these properties. Bankruptcy court, here we come.
15. Claim access to a fund.
Do they have a fund or offer to connect you with funds? Too often people lose their money in real estate and note funds through mismanagement or outright theft. Did you know that the Securities and Exchange Commission can shut down funds that are missing even one document and then confiscate the assets, even if no investor has lost a penny? Have fun trying to get your money back.
16. Sell to students.
It’s a huge red flag. Would you trust someone who told you that if you pay them they will teach you how to buy something at the lowest price and then try to sell it to you? No ethical person would sell what they teach their students or promise to give you access to a “secret list” of properties or tickets for sale, and/or offer to invest with you.
A wise investor once said, “There is an inherent conflict of interest in any education program that also offers investment assets. Someone cannot be an impartial and expert educator and also offer assets for sale. The fiduciary duty of the educator is to teach quality due diligence (and help master the art of negotiation) in order to maximize the student’s profit from the acquisition of an asset. The function of the seller is to maximize the selling price of the asset. The two are, by definition, in conflict. If you’re expecting a two-for-one deal, you’re just asking to be had.
WJ Mencarow has over 30 years of experience exposing dishonest teachers in real estate and grades. A former investigator for the United States House of Representatives, he is a real estate investor and notary public. He also hosts a radio talk show and edits a ticket investing newsletter. Email [email protected] or visit www.PaperSourceOnline.com. For more red flags, read John T. Reed’s “Real Estate BS Artist Spotting Checklist” at www.JohnTReed.com