Real Estate Investment Seminars—Look Before You Leap!

houseA promotional ad has been running on Amarillo local television inviting participants to attend a real estate investment seminar. I received a “personal” invitation in the mail several weeks ago with the wording, “A private event invitation, free conference, (for me and a guest)—limited seating, closed to the public, private income property event, complimentary refreshments served.” The invitation included a reference to a “Drew Levin and Danny Perkins” stars of the HGTV’s Renovate to Rent, reality TV program. The invitation also included information that a free laptop would be given to the first 50 people, with an asterisk that further explained the free giveaway. The invitation also included other free items including a freeMP3 player. I called a friend and we decided to spend a Saturday afternoon attending the seminar.

Over the weekend the conference took place at a local hotel off I-40 West. Upon arriving we were given name badges, a promotional “Alumni Showcase Event Guide” showing how others have succeeded using the program. We were also given a form to fill out to disclose income, any 401(k) assets, and other contact information. We were then invited into a conference room to be seated on chairs with a note pad, ball point pen, a chocolate bar and a bag of candy. The conference then began, and for the next 90 minutes the presenter attempted to “sell us” on how to make money in real estate using their program which included a range of “investment” options including fix and flip, tax deeds, foreclosures, development, tax liens, buy and hold, reo (real estate owned) short sales, auctions, rentals, and other “investment” vehicles.

The presentation, of course, included the usual “mind games” to induce interest and participation, including explaining that most people do not invest in real estate because of lack of time, lack of money, and fear. The program had a solution for each inadequacy. The presentation included a guest from Ft. Worth who explained that she had flipped 21 properties in a year and purchased one rental. Her “testimonial” was a question and answer response from the presenter to ease participant concerns. After 90 minutes we were asked to stand up, at which time the presenter indicated that the usual price of $1997 for the program was reduced to $199 and $49 for a follow-up three day seminar, (in Lubbock) for participant and guest. This offer was limited to 21 people who had to rush to the back corner and sign up. Plenty of folks flocked to the rear to sign up for the offer. My guest and I left and met several other people on the parking lot wondering what we thought about the presentation, and why we didn’t sign up.

This column is not intended to dissuade anyone from pursuing any investment opportunity. I have attended similar events of the multi-level marketing variety and the presentations are all cut from the same fabric. They are run by high energy, scripted, presenters who know which profit-motive buttons to push. The individuals sponsoring these seminars have done their homework and understand the psychology of human behavior when it comes to wanting to improve their financial situation. The real estate investment folks are following a format used by other promoters of just about anything. They razzle and dazzle with lots of information, selling the sizzle and not the steak. Their frequent “go-to” modus operandi is that no rational person could possibly turn down a good opportunity to make money or at least improve their current financial lot. And so it was with the event that came to Amarillo.

When I returned home I did a Google search of “Visionary Events,” the folks that came to Amarillo. What I immediately found was a Better Business Bureau website from Cincinnati Ohio, at this website: reality-they-mostly-just empty-your-wallet.” For anyone wanting more information about what others have said about these real estate investment seminars I invite you to visit that website and spend some time reading how these people operate. What you will notice from most of the reviews is something called “up-selling.” The “up-sell” occurs when you are hooked into investing more and more money gradually. For instance, the first Amarillo seminar was free. The follow-up seminar to get more information at a 3-day workshop (in Lubbock) was reduced from $1997 to $199. According to the BBB blog, the next “up-sell” will be an investment “opportunity” ranging from $10,000 to $50,000 depending on the level of your interest and the depth of your pocketbook. And, after further investments, the level of success becomes less and less obvious. One reviewer said that the promoters of these events have a disclaimer saying that most people who invest do not make any money—period.

If you will look at the BBB blog, even though it is dated 2012, you will see that these people have invented and reinvented themselves using a variety of names. Still, they manage to move across the country, and Canada, selling these seminars and dreams of becoming a millionaire in real estate. They are now moving across Texas. As I said earlier, I am not one to toss a wet blanket on anyone’s dreams, nor am I a doubter and nay-sayer. The point of this column is the offer those who may have attended the Amarillo seminar to investigate further before raiding their 401(k), or pulling equity from their homes to invest in real estate. Is there money to be made in real estate? Of course! But look before you leap.

P. S. After completing this column my phone rang and the caller asked if I had signed up for the follow-up real estate seminar—in Lubbock. I said “no.” She asked if I was still interested. I said, “no.” Again, look before you leap.

Copyright 2016 – L. Arthalia Cravin. All rights Reserved. No part of this commentary may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission from the author.

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