Undercover: Than Merrill’s Fortune Builders

The following is my opinion and observations about a free seminar I attended put on by Fortune Builders.  It is based on my own hurried note taking as recording and picture taking were not permitted.  I do not believe that this program operates in violation of any law.

I walked into the large conference room and saw that it was completely empty aside from three lonely rows of chairs.  Dave Matthews played on a loop as a timed slideshow flashed feel-good quotes on a projection screen.  One of the slides listed the core values of Fortune Builders, the “education” wing of Than Merrill’s real estate empire.

  1. Ethics and Integrity (Do the right thing)
  2. Inspire (Motivate and help others achieve their goals)
  3. Educate (Believe and commit to personal development and growth)
  4. Lead (Take action & follow through)
  5. Crush It (Enjoy every moment and do it with passion)

Ignoring the fact that “Crush it” is not a value (I suppose someone felt that five was the right number of core values, and this was added as an afterthought), it’s curious that Ethics and Integrity is foremost among the values listed, as so little integrity was on display.  Rather, I was about to sit through a two hour slow-burn sales pitch that used misdirection, omission, and psychological tricks to place the audience in a receptive frame of mind, and ultimately, to extract $197 from a group of people who can ill-afford to spend it.

Who is Than Merrill?

Than Merrill is a Yale grad, a real estate investor, and a star of television network A&E’s “Flip This House.”  His Wikipedia page is squeaky clean, but there’s some evidence in the article history that attempts to portray controversial aspects of his business model have been suppressed.

Mr. Merrill may be a great guy, but if his aspirations were really to educate as many people as possible, then making the courses affordable to his target audience would be step number one.  There is literally no ethical justification for the prices charged by this organization for their courses.  Their costs relative to their profits on their “Mastery” level courses (when you actually begin to get concrete information) are insultingly disproportionate.

No Friend to Gurus

It’s no secret that I have little regard for exploitative gurus.  Bearing that in mind, when I heard a radio ad for Than Merrill’s “Fortune Builders” program, I relished the opportunity to attend and share my observations.

My primary complaint with Fortune Builders is that they are structured as a series of increasingly-expensive “seminars” which present no actionable information until the highest tier, which often costs tens of thousands of dollars.  While it is possible to take the scraps of provided information in the free or paid courses and use the internet or a library to determine a plan of action, most of the people targeted by the program have limited cash, time, and education.  There’s nothing illegal about repackaging freely-available information for a profit.  There’s not even necessarily anything unethical about it, within reason.  It becomes unconscionable when the price is so outsized that it represents literally years of disposable income for the student.

In effect, Fortune Builders and their competitors build a shadow economy of education, finding deals, funding deals, and mentorship, all at preposterously high prices.  Later in this post, I’ll show you how you could use the same money you would spend on the Fortune Builders course to not only achieve the same level of education, but to complete a purchase of your first cash-flowing property (and in the right market, potentially two of them!).

The Fortune Builders Seminar Itself

At the beginning of the seminar, a young woman appeared at the front of the conference room and asked everyone to turn off their cell phones.  She also insisted that the information we were going to see was proprietary, and that no pictures or recording were permitted.  I couldn’t help but feel that this was to make writing a post like this more difficult.  As a result of these rules, I had to rely on my own rapid note taking.

With that, our speaker, Michael Kasper, was introduced.  Kasper is just the kind of speaker I expected to encounter at this seminar.  He’s good looking, charismatic, and a polished speaker.  Our small group applauded anemically as he strode to the front of the room, but he took it in stride.

How many of the audience had seen “our” episodes of “Flip This House,” asked Kasper.  This was to become a theme.  There were constant callbacks to the television show, references to Merrill by first name (“Than says,” “Than believes,” “Than will teach you”) in what appeared to be an attempt to establish credibility and intimacy.  Mr. Kasper set to establishing his own bona fides.  He’s a family man from the San Diego area, with two children. He has, he claimed, decades of experience in real estate.

Conditioning

“How many of you would like to spend more time with the people you love and care about?”

Everyone raised their hands and murmured their agreement.  The seminar was filled with simple, no-brainer questions to which the answer is obviously yes.  This was important:  Mr. Kasper was using these questions to put the audience in a receptive, “Yes” frame of mind.  It’s a compliance technique called the Foot in the Door.  In short, this is a psychological sales trick that influences you to agree to a large request (in this case, paying $197 for the next level of training) by getting you to agree first to simple requests, then increasingly more complex ones.  In effect, Mr. Kasper has already begun to groom the audience to comply.

“How many of you realize that what we put into our lives is what we get out of our lives?”

Again, obviously, yes.  Kasper continued, explaining who Than Merrill is and that his company consistently flips over 100 homes a year.  Kasper explained that in 2007, CT Homes (Merrill’s original real estate company) “decided to launch a little show called Flip This House.”  This seems implausible, since Merrill wasn’t on the show until the third season (which was indeed in 2007).  This was another troubling pattern in the presentation- minor inaccuracies that inflate the audience’s opinion of the speaker and of Fortune Builders.

Next, we were introduced to the many “education” programs Fortune Builders offers, and a brief mention was made of the “mastery” program.  Not everyone gets in, we were told, and the program requires an interview in order to be accepted.  As an audience member, I’m expected to be worried that I won’t be good enough, and so I become more compliant as a result.

“If you’re going to go to Yale, or Harvard, or an Ivy League school, the qualifications are pretty steep, and those organizations are just like mastery.”

Sorry, Mike, but that’s nonsense.  We’re not talking about the Ivy League here, we’re talking about publicly available information and mentoring that countless people would be happy to offer for free.  Next, we were introduced to the “three day hands on workshop,” which is the next level of training.  We would be hearing a lot about the three day workshop for the next 75 minutes or so.

Kasper cautioned us that the real estate business is not easy.

“Folks, can Real Estate be risky?”

Everyone nodded and answered yes, this time more assertively.  Everyone was getting into the groove of agreeing.  Kasper cautioned that those entering the Real Estate business without a plan can encounter cost overruns, fines, and unexpected costs that can make their profits disappear.  On this, we agree, though I feel that the sense of fear of the unknown is playing to Fortune Builder’s advantage here.  The unknown is scary and expensive, the when audience cannot afford to fail, of course they are more likely to pay for a convenient program which offers to “help.”

“Let’s take a little quiz.  Is there risk involved in Real Estate?”

Yes,” the audience around me said with slightly more confidence than when the same question was asked sixty seconds ago.

“Question #2: Can I lose all of my money?”

Yes,” the audience said firmly.

“Are there people out there, like us, like Than Merill and CT homes, flipping homes and making money?”

Yes!” the audience exclaimed.  Everyone seemed to be getting very confident about how to respond to these questions.

“Are there people losing money?”

Yes, a thousand times yes!  Note how a comparison was drawn between those making money and Fortune Builders, but there was no acknowledgement that some of the Fortune Builders students are surely losing money as well.

Education

Kasper went on the explain that the one thing more valuable than money or gold is education.  This sounds good, but it’s actually false on face.  Education for education’s sake is useless. You can neither eat it nor take shelter beneath it.  What people really need is education that gives them the tools to succeed.  He highly recommended that we all read a book called “The E Myth,” by Michael Gerber.  Apparently the book teaches that there’s a difference between talent and success, and that difference is education.

I disagree with the premise completely.

Moreover, if you actually go look up the book on Amazon, the cover is different than the one shown on the presentation.  There are two more authors.  You guessed it:  Than Merrill and Paul Esajian, the founders of Merrill’s CT homes.  All avenues for potential profit from the audience lead back to Fortune Builders.

Side note: I was even able to find an article by Merrill himself where he takes no credit for the book and tries to steer real estate investors towards it, citing his co-author as the only author.  Based on the pattern emerging, is this a person who merits great credibility?

Systems

Kasper was quick to note that Fortune Builders is a Systems company, likening the experience to the difference between a local taqueria and Chipotle.  Chipotle, he explained, is a multi-billion dollar company because of their systems.  He never defined what a “system” entails, but from reading between the lines, it appears to be a series of spreadsheets, web tools, and checklists that guide you through each element of a real estate deal.

In fairness, these things are important.  To the inexperienced real estate investor, having a checklist and spreadsheet to help with the analysis can be invaluable.  The trouble is, tools to do each and every one of these things are already available for free (or nearly free).  The key, as always, is in connecting the audience with the information.  Fortune Builders capitalizes on their ignorance to reap unreasonable profits.

I’m pretty sure Chipotle wouldn’t be thrilled with the comparison, either.

Lender

Continuing the theme of all income streams flowing to Merrill and Fortune Builders, we were introduced to Grand Coast Capital, which is, as Kasper called it, a “a Private Money Lender who funds the deals of our students.”  He was careful to refer to it by this term, but most real estate investors use a different term:  Hard Money Lender.  Fortune Builders clearly chooses to use a more friendly term because of potential negative connotations.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with Hard Money Lenders (HMLs), but it’s important that an investor understand that HMLs should be avoided whenever possible, as they tend to charge very high interest rates due to the expected low lifetime of the loan.

The Trap Springs

We were only twenty minutes into the presentation, but at this time, Kasper was ready to spring the trap.  Bemoaning our lack of time, he “invited” us to the upcoming three day seminar.  He kept prefacing sentences with “because it’s the last day of the week.” We were led to believe that we were getting a special deal of some sort.

Kasper played an inspiring video of a convention-center sized group of people over rousing music.  People explained how their lives have been changed.  They’re motivated.  They can do this!  Their real estate careers have taken off!

Invigorating.  Inspiring.  Motivating.  These words were repeated over and over.

As the video ended, there was a palpable sense of excitement in the room.  I could literally hear excited breathing somewhere to my left.  According to Kasper, there are two ways to register for the training.  Online, the course costs $1197.

The room deflated.  How could anyone afford so much?

“Would anyone like a discount today?”

Around the room, drooping heads rose. “Yes,” responded everyone excitedly.  Kasper beamed back at us with a twinkle in his eye.  For everyone in the room, the tuition will be “almost free,” or $197.

It was over.  The trap had sprung.  It would be insane not to sign up!  It’s almost free, my friend Mike said so!  He continued: It’s not about the cost, it’s about the investment of your time.  Those who are unwilling to spend three days with “our” team aren’t very serious about investing anyway.

Here, Kasper used a negative manipulation.  If I were desperate, and poor, I’d be highly motivated and serious about changing that.  To suggest otherwise compels me to prove him wrong.  I’ll show you how serious I am about investing!  I’ll spend $197 and that’ll show you!

“Why does Than Merrill charge so little for these classes?” Kasper asked.  “Well, it’s because Grand Coast Capital is a funding company.  Fortune Builders doesn’t need to charge thousands like these other companies do.”

This is nonsense.  Fortune Builders does charge thousands, just like all the other real estate gurus do.  He’s just turning up the heat slowly.  Even better, our spouses are included in the $197 price.  This is hardly for the benefit of the student, however.  It’s so the moderating factor of the significant other can be removed from the equation.  If you both buy into the fantasy sold by Fortune Builders, then there will be less resistance when you arrive at the final hard sell for the Mastery program.

Kasper directed our attention to the back of the room, where friendly-looking people now had laptops set up.  He was opening registration while he continued to speak.  By the way, there were bags with extra goodies in them on a first-come, first-served basis.  We were never told what was in the bags, merely that they might run out.  Immediately, about half of the room jumped up and rushed to the back.

Frankly, the rest of the presentation was relatively devoid of content.  By the end of the seminar, 80% (or more) of the room had registered for the three day workshop.  Kasper rehashed the importance of “systems,” and emphasized that it’s still possible to make money, even in the most competitive markets.  He spent about ten minutes discussing the various “free” items we would receive upon payment for the three day seminar.

The seminar concluded with what I thought was the most galling element at all.  Kasper briefly addressed those who would struggle to pay the tuition for the three day course.  He said:

“There are folks for whom $197 is a big stretch.  Those are the people who need it most!”

Of course, Fortune Builders offers a payment program for those without $197 to their name.  I cannot adequately explain how difficult it was in that moment to keep from jumping up and sharing all of my thoughts on the seminar, especially while in the presence of people lining up to pay this organization money.  Instead, I held my tongue and continued to fill in my notes, unable to watch what was going on around me.

I walked slowly back to my car, and as I sat in the driver’s seat before starting the engine, I considered what was next for all of the people who had just signed up.  I thought of Fortune Builders giving this same presentation in major cities around the country, every weekend, and equivalent presentations being given by countless real estate gurus. I thought of $197 multiplying, over and over and over again.  I thought of all the people who would be attending the three day courses, only to find that you can’t learn the entire real estate business in three days. I thought about all of those people being “accepted” into “advanced” programs costing tens of thousands of dollars.  I thought about the impact it would have on their lives, their marriages, and their children.

I thought about how, during my preparation for the seminar, I came upon this Yelp review for Fortune Builders:

I went to the Fortune Builders meeting, What they say is possible just not very probable.  I am a older women, physically handicapped, the disease I have affects me mentally as well. I survive on a very small SS check. FB has everyone fill out an application, its really just to get your information. To tell them what you have as far as money, credit availability. If you do not have the money, they inform you where you might get credit.  I was one of them who followed them.  I got 3 new credit cards and they maxed them out for me. I do not know how I will pay them back or even more for my medicine or Dr. visits or groceries. They get your money and forget about you unless there is some new software to sell you.

I gripped the steering wheel so tightly that my hands hurt.

I took a deep, deep breath– and then I drove away.

What To Do Instead

For me, it’s not enough to simply identify the problem.  It’s important to find solutions, too.  I want to emphasize to anyone reading this page that you can take the same money you would have spent on this “education,” and turn it into the same level of expertise, and you may very well be the owner of a real estate asset at the end.  With that in mind, I’ll be working on a post to help get you started in real estate, whether you are an aspiring flipper or you want to generate semi-passive income for retirement.  I’ll come back and add a link here when I’m done.

In short, though, sites like Bigger Pockets have forums full of the same kind of information being marked up and re-sold here.  It has file sections with checklists and rehab guides.  It has a huge number of podcasts that teach you nearly every conceivable real estate topic.

This site tries to help, too, in evaluating rental property and planning for property management.  Maybe that will give you a little to start with.

Standing Against a Tidal Wave

In the end, in a best-case scenario, my opinion of Than Merrill and Fortune Builders will manage to reach a tiny fraction of the vulnerable people who can ill afford to be taken advantage of, and who this kind of “system” preys upon.  Somewhere out there, someone is paying $197 for a three day sales pitch. Somewhere out there, someone is paying between twenty and thirty-five thousand dollars for information and systems that are available for free on the internet.

It just doesn’t have to be you.

138 thoughts on “Undercover: Than Merrill’s Fortune Builders

  1. Fervent Finance

    Ugh I bet you want to take back the time you wasted there! I guess the one benefit is that someone who was considering something like this read your post beforehand and learned it wouldn’t be wise to drop cash on this. All those groups are scams and build up big expectations, to just charge poor people for crap “lessons”. This stuff should be illegal.

    1. The Vagabond Post author

      I totally agree, this stuff should be illegal. I knew what to expect, I went purely to have the first hand experience to be able to write this cautionary post. I wanted to see who attended these things, what was said to them, in what way it was or wasn’t unethical, etc. It was, to be completely honest, exactly what I expected it to be, except worse.

      1. Gabriela

        Who are you? I am very grateful I could read you! Very smart article! I am happy I followed my instincts. Man I learned a lot of new words in English, your vocabulary it’s awesome! Please email me once you have the link ready about investing in real state without the FB. Thank you!

    2. Billy partin

      I am actually sitting in the $197 seminar right now. what a disappointment. Just to find out for just 25k more i can leanr what I need. what a waste of my time and my friends money. This is a $200 sales pitch, and there are like 150 people in here right now. $15 thousand they made on a 3 day sales pitch.

      1. Tamisha Ross

        I actually attended one also and if I had the 30k I honestly would have paid it. I feel like a fool….my husband and I really expected to learn during the workshop but instead I left feeling inadequate because I couldnt afford to move on to the mastery program.

        1. The Vagabond Post author

          Hi Tamisha! I am sad and irritated to hear that they laid on the feelings of inadequacy. I’m also very glad you avoided giving them any more of your money! That’s money that is much, much better spent on an actual tangible investment!

          1. Rae

            Lucky you, we maxed out our cards then still couldn’t afford we owe $600 after paying $1,397 I was doing payments here & there my husband said to get that $600 paid & dive in…. I’ve just finished a 2-hour seminar something said research this lady Grace Lever scam scam scam popped up everywhere. Like I am glad I found this because I won’t keep getting scammed but I could’ve used that money. I thought good investment 🙁

    3. Not A Sucker

      I attended the three day class $197 with a friend and I did get my $100 bucks out of it because it gave me a lot of ideas and ways to research so I’m fine with that. It was amazing to me though the psychology they used to persuade people how easy it is to make your millions. If it was that easy then everyone would be doing it! The biggest surprise was the cost ranged from 30,000 up to 50,000 for the Mastery program!. What??!! So I said I was interested just to hear the pitch. They used the psychology on me that maybe I would be good enough and only select people could apply. They said they only hand select people that they know will succeed because their reputation was on the line. So that made me feel very special…See how the psychology works here.. Then they went through the numbers I put down for assets including my retirement fund and how I could use that to pay their 50 grand!. Better yet, I could take out loans from new credit cards and such to pay them off at a mere $500 for basically the rest of my life! All the while not telling me anything of the details of how they were going to “Coach” me on making my millions. The words they use to persuade me what a great candidate I made and how someone with a 6th grade education can become a millionaire was unbelievable. There’s so much on the internet now that can teach you the same thing they do without ruining your credit and shattering your retirement fund.

      1. J.J

        I took in all the info I needed at the 3 day course and will follow it up with my won research and implementation. It was an outstanding info packed 3 day course I was writing down the salient pts. and subjects I need to cover the entire time. Learned a LOT! I knew I wasn’t going to go for the mastery program don’t have that kind of cash lying around. Matery is all about mentoring, coaching & consulting. Seeing as how you actually can recover the money spent as educational expense or business loss I don’t get what all the whining is about. Why feel like a fool? Go out there and flip or wholesale 2 properties and you will recoup your money. Now if you know you are just lazy and afraid then don’t invest in it. But a scared or lazy person will get the mentoring & coaching they need to take action. They will hold their hand through the process and they will have membership in a network of fellow students who can help them as well. What’st the problem? Nobody holds a gun to your head. Yest the prices are steep but your are paying for someone’s time and expertise and they can value it as they like. Warren Buffet charges 3.3 million dollars for people to consult with him at lunch. That’s the price at which he values his time and some people make the choice to meet his price. So….that’s business.

        1. The Vagabond Post author

          Let’s start with a bit of context. “Warren Buffett charges 3.3 million dollars for people to consult with him at lunch.” No, he doesn’t. This is the kind of thing that they tell you at, say, a three-day sales pitch… to talk you into paying ridiculous money for a questionable product. In fact, the only time a lunch with Warren Buffett has ever cost that much was when it was for charity. “Lunch with Warren” isn’t something that you can just pay for, and it’s certainly not “the price at which he values his time.” Making this kind of factually inaccurate argument implies that you’ve either bought into the sales pitch, or don’t care whether the assumptions that underlie your beliefs are actually true.

          In fact, good ol’ Than Merrill is a big Warren Buffett fan and that fact is mentioned frequently in the three-day FB seminar. Hmm.

          Now, let’s pick off some other assorted arguments here.

          • Mastery is all about mentoring, coaching & consulting. Cool. That’s why both the article and many of the comments mention the fact that you can get mentoring of superior quality at a local real estate meetup, on BiggerPockets, and through networking. There is no guarantee whatsoever that FB “Mentors” are even successful real estate investors.
          • Seeing as how you actually can recover the money spent as educational expense or business loss I don’t get what all the whining is about. Why feel like a fool? Go out there and flip or wholesale 2 properties and you will recoup your money. Or, you could take that same money and buy a property outright, or finance 4-5 of them, learning far more by doing than you ever will from a real estate guru.
          • What’s the problem? Nobody holds a gun to your head. Yes the prices are steep but your are paying for someone’s time and expertise and they can value it as they like. This argument does not do anything to prove that FortuneBuilders, or any other “learn to flip” program has any value over networking on a site like Biggerpockets, which provides a network of greater size, more expertise, and superior experience… for the grand total of free. “I didn’t force you to do it” doesn’t not automatically make something a good decision. In fact, it’s sounds like the kind of thing you’d say to defend convincing someone to make a poor decision.

          This whole comment reads like my experience at the FB sales pitch– appeal to people’s fear of missing out, and imply (both subtly and explicitly) that if you have doubts or concerns, that you are lazy or afraid. Of course, they know that the natural response is to bristle at the implication– “I’m not lazy! I’ll show you how not lazy I am by signing up right now!” It’s an effective but hollow argument.

          Have a good afternoon, Than.

          1. Sharon

            I love your response, Have a Good afternoon, Than, Thank you! My thoughts exactly ! Also thank you very much for sharing your thoughts & experience regarding this Scam

          2. Chris Leight

            That is one of the best counterarguments, FrugalVagabond, that I’ve read in a long time. Your critical thinking and argumentation skills are very sharp. Thank you for the article.

          3. ReynaO

            Thanks for posting this information and it’s been great to read all the comments to prevent people from paying for the so called mentoring. As a Realtor and rental owner it’s sad too see people taking advantage of people by charging such an exaggerated amount. I knew in the first few minutes if tyevseminar they would try to sell you something else, they kept mentioning Memtor over and over. I told my nephew to listen to them and how they bring up Mentor & they would try to get people to purchase coaching or mentoring program. I figured they would charge a couple of thousand dollars for online and group phone sessions … I’m amazed that they are charging over $20K for their Mentoring program. I told my nephew paying someone 5 to 10% of the net profit on a deal that they coach and mentor you on is a better deal. I think this otherway you know that the mentor or coach will help you & walk you through the process to guarantee that you will make a profit so they can get paid.

        2. Scott Steffek

          J.J.
          You asked…”What’s the problem?”. There’s a lot of problems. Think about this…..If these counselors or whatever you want to call them, are so well versed in real estate, WHY are they teaching others? Do you really think they’re making more money teaching than they could make doing real estate? If they’re so good at RE, they would be out flipping houses left and right. They’d have their own company with employees and would be making a ton of money. But they’re not doing that, are they? Did you ever ask yourself why not? Maybe it’s because they don’t know enough about it, to be successful. Do you see Mark Cuban or Warren Buffet running their own business that coaches others? Of course not. Why would they teach others when they can go out there and do it themselves and make millions? I really think they brainwashed you in that 3 day seminar. I really do. Just think about what I said. Why does Than Merrill even hold these seminars? His website can’t even get his lies straight. His “Home” page says he has 20-30 active projects going at one time. Click on “About”. That page says he has 20-40 going at one time. Sorry, but no one has 30-40 projects going at one time. Let’s be real about this. That means you have 30-40 rehab crews. That means you have 30-40 foreman running the crews. Does that sound realistic to you? I find it interesting too, that his website doesn’t give addresses of the properties he’s flipped. Why not? Maybe it’s because he’s afraid that people like me might look up the public records and find out the truth. Don’t be snowballed by these guys. I’d love to talk to you 6 months from now and see what Than Merrill and his “boys” have done for your real estate career. Do yourself and your pocket book a favor. Go on to Bigger Pockets and learn the business for free. Join a real estate club in your area and meet people doing the business. Talk to them. Ask questions. I would bet that you won’t find one person in any real estate club that would endorse FB. If that doesn’t convince you he’s a scam, nothing will. Best of luck to you.

          1. Felizbella

            Amen to that! I talked to them yesterday and I asked how did you come up with the valuation of 50k for the Master program? He said: oh no the program cost $250k! – I laughed! – then he told me how to get the 50k getting 6 new credit cards and also use my savings that are at the bank doing nothing for me? So, I replied: Ok so I need to get 6 credit cards and empty my bank account to give you 50k? Mmmmhhhh I don’t think so! I will continue my business by myself! Good luck to all!

    4. orca17

      Exactly where I am. An ad for one of these “scaminars” ran on my local ABC station this morning. I suspected that this was another one of these programs that steers people toward increasingly expensive “courses” that benefit only those selling them. I’ll pass.

  2. Mark Remlinger - Loan Professional

    I just recently had ANOTHER client talk to me about this after it was maybe too late (not Than Merrill but one of his SoCal competitors). I am going to help him try to get his money back, but like you said, this is not considered illegal at this time.

    It started just the same – first the free seminar, then the $1500 3 day seminar/event, then, if you pay for it all now, you can get the whole system for $10,000! They have you sign a contract and give you a 3 DAY money back guarantee. 3 DAYS!!!! You do not even realize that you have been lied to until about maybe the 30th day if not longer.

    One of the biggest lies I believe is that they tell you that you do not need any money or credit to close these transactions and this is simply not true. Here is a decent example: If you want to purchase a house that has a well and a septic tank, you would want to have these inspected before you purchase, right? Who is going to pay for these inspections, the seller? No the answer is you the buyer.

    Obviously I could go on and on about these people. Here is my promise to you people out there that are considering one of the programs. Run away as fast as you can and please call me. I will help you for free.

    1. The Vagabond Post author

      Mark, thanks so much for this comment. It’s really insightful. From all the reading I’ve done, each of these gurus is more or less interchangeable. I couldn’t agree more: people are sold a flipping fantasy with only passing reference to the possible downsides, unexpected costs, or local market realities. Decent credit, and adequate capital to weather vacancies, capital repairs, and other costs of real estate investment are must-haves.

      From having corresponded with a few people who fell victim to these kinds of schemes, even getting a refund within the promised window is made incredibly difficult. I sincerely wish your client luck in getting his money back.

      1. Felizbella

        You guys are awesome putting all this info available to us! As I said in my last comment FB told me how to get 6 new credit cards and take my savings to be able to pay the 50k! Imagine if other people do that??? I am happy God provided me with some neurons that are still working on my behalf!

    2. Cheryl

      I am one of the fools who paid the $197 and the 3day seminar is this weekend, although I have to work on Friday. I appreciate your article. I am interested in learning how to do all of this but didn’t really have the $197, let alone the $10,000 to $20,000. Thanks for the heads up. I think I’ll just skip the seminar and let go of the $197. Better than losing even more money!

      1. Mark

        You’re not a fool Cheryl, just looking to learn like the rest of us. You’re smart enough to look deeper and not waste your money with these con men.
        You can call and get your money back and you should. In fact, the first thing they say on day one of the three day sales pitch is if it’s not for you, walk to the back of the room and ask for a refund.

        1. Maxine

          Thank you so much! After reading this comment, I immediately called FortuneBuilders. I thought it was too late to request a refund since the three day workshop was this coming Friday. They customer service person just asked me a few questions and sent me an email for my electronic signature to refund my card. I’d been having second thoughts since I attended the two hour session. Something told me they were going to ask for more money. So I started researching the internet ( something I should have done first!) and came across your article. You really saved me on this one!!! Thanks a million!

        2. Antuan

          Well I’m definitely the fool I was taken for the 197 and 7500 for a Fortune Builders starter program I was so pissed that I couldn’t give away more money at the 3 day that I agreed to give up a smaller amount when they called me several days later with this option that I thought was going to be a turning point for me…..It was a turning point alright just not the turn I needed

      2. Joshua

        Cheryl
        I went to the 3 day because someone else bought the tickets and I got to go for free. the 3 day is good, it opened my eyes to why I don’t have money. so if you already bought the ticket I would go….however do NOT, NOT, NOT, EVER, NEVER, EVER, give them another penny EVER NEVER not another penny NEVER.

        the person I went with paid another $4000! for they’re entry level!! “Jump Start” program even though we told him not to buy it. the person who bought it (my step dad) has spent about 5 hours on it, I have spent about 20+ hours on the course. and 90% of the information that he paid $4000 for I got from a 8$ book I bought off of amazon.

        its a online course you get to listen in on “webinars” and ask questions and that can be helpful, but its really just an extremely over priced R.E.I.A the other parts are your “jump start curriculum” and those are videos, (70% of witch are very poorly done) more webinars and some, how to put this, WELL NO SHIT power point interactive, games?

        I would say 80% of the “Tools” they offer you (for an extra price) is microsoft excell and quick books. they tell you some stuff at the 3 day that they then tell you the opposite in the $4000 course like the stuff about being a real estate agent and mls.

        in total the 3 day course (if you already paid for it or maybe even worth paying for) was good im going into real estate and it gave me some ideas (not all good ideas mind you) and you are kinda paying them to watch live advertising for they’re company, but overall some good info. but once more DO NOT EVER!!! EVER!!!! give them another penny and DO NOT do anything with your credit cards. the price has gone up for the full “MASTERY” course btw. the lowest level is $29,997 the next level is $34,997 and the top level is. ready?.. $49,997 O and by the way all those packages are for 1 to 2 years of the programs WTF?

        I will be doing 2 things. 1 I will be trying to get my step dads money back. if anyone knows what I should do. info would be helpful.
        and 2 once i finish this $4000 course i will be doing a full and in depth review maybe like a youtube video or something because typing just this took me 45 minuets ha ha.

        1. KateC

          This was very helpful for me, as I’m considering the mastery program. The online courses you’re referring to, did they give you complete access to their online education library? Also, did you find their checklists and systems helpful or of any worth?

        2. Jeffrey Hicks

          I just attended the 2hr seminar and was considering paying the $197 for the 3day seminar. The guy said I can pay the $197 at their next seminar today since I did not pay last night.

          Is the 3day seminar worth the $197?

          1. The Vagabond Post author

            You should probably read the other comments here, but the consensus is that the 3 day course is just a paid infomercial for the Mastery course, where they will aggressively try to get you to pay $10,000-$30,000+ for their education program, all for content that you can find in a library or on BiggerPockets.

          2. Jeffrey Hicks

            Yeah, I just read all the other comments. I am thankful for this thread of comments. I felt bad that I didn’t have the $197 on me last night, but I am glad that I didn’t. I have no experience in real estate and want to get involved with the business. I am glad that I don’t need to pay that $197 to get more sales pitches and not useful information that I am looking for to get involved.

          3. The Vagabond Post author

            Exactly, save your money and put it toward your first deal! Bigger pockets really is a spectacular, free resource. You can learn so much of what you need to know there, and ultimately you learn a ton by just pulling the trigger on your first deal and working through it.

          4. Solita Designs

            Ditto. Read the reactions. My conscience stopped me from forking out the last installment. But again, I don’t have the extra cash or credit.This isn’t an ‘investment’ or a “new career.” But a gamble. You can learn alot, its commented, but the overt promises are something else fantastical. Yup…the speaker at my Intro also mentioned God, prayer, yada.

      1. The Vagabond Post author

        Kristy, perhaps direct your brother to this page? He may benefit from seeing all the people who have experience with this group, as well as having access to the many, many free sources of the information he’s preparing to pay tens of thousands for.

    3. Eric Gore

      Hello Mark,
      I recently attended the Merill
      3 day seminar. I learned a great deal in between them trying to sell me on the mastery program. I did not sign up , thank goodness.
      I am a GC and have been working in construction for 20 years.
      I would like to learn the real estate side very much.
      If you could mentor me on the loan processes, I would be most grateful.
      Thank you
      Eric Gore

    4. nate jones

      hello i been reading all the reviews .i was on my way as we speak to go pay for the 3 day class.i really wanted to get into selling houses.im glad i did not pay them yet.so my qustion is what is the best way to get into selling and buying houses?for someone with no knowldege

      1. Scott G Steffek

        Lizie and Nate,
        $50,000?????? I about fell over when I saw that. Then that poor women who’s trying to scrape up $25k, just makes my blood boil. My God, I sell turn key (ready to go houses, with tenants in them), for less than $50k. And no, they’re not in the ghetto.
        Here’s how you can help yourself. #1. Go to Bigger Pockets.com. That’s probably the best site for beginners. Ask questions, read the forums, listen to the podcasts. Get yourself immersed in the site. The wealth of knowledge on the site is high. People are willing to help others and give others advice. #2. Start attending REIA meetings in your area. These are meetings designed to help others. It’s also a great way to meet other investors, newbies, wholesalers and buyers. Just be careful. All some of them want to do is sell you something.
        This business is tough, but you don’t need a ton of money to get started. Like I’ve always said, if flipping was easy, then why is Merrill pushing useless seminars? Best of luck to you all.

      1. The Vagabond Post author

        You probably ought to read the article and comments here– Go to BiggerPockets, listen to every podcast, read everything you can find in the forums, and you will find a massive wealth of information, tools, book recommendations, and other resources that will give you everything you could get from a guru, and much more (including the ability to build relationships with people who are far more experienced than anyone any guru has to offer) for FREE.

    5. Nicole

      I just went to the two days class on Monday August 14. I was excited and ready to check it out some more.
      Since the 2 days class I have been trying to find more information about the system of Fortune Builder.
      My good friend is in the business and been doing it for 3-4 years now and have been very successful .
      Now I ran across this valuable information and I don’t know what to say.
      I do want to go into real estate and planning on going to the 3 days seminar coming up next month.
      I just don’t have 10k,20k,30k to just take a chance.
      Not I’m scared and worry about the whole thing.

      1. Scott G Steffek

        Nicole,
        I’m sort of glad you don’t have $10k or $20k or $30k. You would be throwing it out the window! Don’t let these gurus sucker you into giving them a dime.
        NOTE: I no longer accept people into the program I/m about to tell you and I am in no way soliciting business.
        I used to have a program whereby I had newbies put up money for flips. We found the property, we rehabbed it and we flipped it for them. I asked for 50% of the net profits. BUT, we put the newbies through a rigorous program, every step of the way. They learned more from us in 90 days than they ever would by taking a course. The point of program was to take people who were very serious about flipping and teach them the “real world” of investing. We would not accept you into the program until you answered a 45 question survey and we evaluated your answers. I wasn’t about to waste my time with “wannabes.” We even made them fly out to see the property. Hands on is the only way to go. They were inundated with information and procedures. It wasn’t for the weak hearted. We allowed them 2 properties in the program. After that, they were on their own. However, we did free consultation and would help them analyze other deals. We didn’t leave them hanging.The program was designed to get people up and running quickly. You might be thinking: “You’re just another guru, because you took 50% of the profits.” Well, you’re WAY off. I could have flipped those myself, for a lot less headache and made 100% profit. That’s why they were only allowed 2 properties and that’s it. We wanted to help the serious people and have them put their money to work….the right way. Of the 7 students, 6 are active investors today and 4 of them have quit their jobs. I learned the business on my own and I had very little help. So I wanted to give back to others. I’m just too busy to bring the program back and there aren’t enough good deals out there right now, to be giving them away. I guess my whole point is, find a mentor. Find someone who will help you. Go to Bigger Pockets and listen to the podcasts. Go search the forums and soak up everything. People help others on that site. It’s been a wealth of information for me and I still use it to this day. Check out other RE sites too. It’ll take you time, lots of time, to do this business full time. But it can be done. Be prepared to work 24-7. But it will happen if you don’t give up. Stay away from the Gurus. If you have some cash, find an honest mentor and partner up with them. There’s quite a few people that will do that. JUST BE CAREFUL. Do your homework on that person or company you’re dealing with. Don’t take their word for anything. Get references, check them out. Due Diligence is a must. There’s too many dishonest people in this business. But there’s also honest people that will help you.
        I use to be in upper management, in corporate America. Doing real estate made those management jobs look like a cake walk. That’s no exaggeration folks. This is the hardest business you’ll ever do. But it’s very rewarding too. I just closed on a deal and pocketed $54,200. That’s not a normal deal for me by any means. But my point is it can be done. If I can do it, you can do it. I’m nobody special! So start learning. Everything the guru’s want you to pay for, is on the internet for free. Best of luck to all of you.

  3. Pingback: Kozlowski is one of many… | Marco Kozlowski – way too good to be true

  4. Art

    Why wouldn’t there be more complaints filed with the Better Business Bureau if their program is so mis-advertised as suggested here?

    1. The Vagabond Post author

      Interesting question, but the Better Business Bureau is itself no friend to the consumer:

      http://business.time.com/2013/03/19/why-the-better-business-bureau-should-give-itself-a-bad-grade/

      The Better Business Bureau will be the first to tell you that they are not a consumer watchdog:

      http://www.bbb.org/blog/2011/10/five-facts-you-didnt-know-about-the-bbb/

      In fact, the BBB is funded and paid for by member businesses, including Fortunebuilders:

      http://www.bbb.org/sdoc/business-reviews/real-estate-consultants/fortunebuilders-inc-in-san-diego-ca-172000368/

      The problem with most numerical or letter internet “ratings” is that it is painfully easy to astroturf and overwhelm negative reviews with positive ones, given adequate resources. Get a one star rating from an individual? No problem. Have five people from your office give you a five star rating.

      The point remains that you don’t need to spend a dime to develop the same level of real estate “expertise” sold by Fortune Builders and others for tens of thousands of dollars. All you need is a library card and an internet connection. All of the companies and systems in each real estate guru’s ecosystem exist only to funnel more profit back to the guru. They get you with their obscene “education” pricing, then by referring you to a lender that they control, and in some cases by accepting referral and affiliate payments for items and services needed throughout your “flip.” Heck, they’ll even let you finance the classes directly… through a finance company owned by them.

    2. The Vagabond Post author

      Here are some more “fun” experiences folks have had with this outfit, including helping the student take on high-interest debt to finance the class…

      http://fortunebuilders.pissedconsumer.com/fortune-builders-demolished-my-dreams-20140930540381.html

      … the near impossibility of canceling…

      http://fortunebuilders.pissedconsumer.com/fortunebuilder-is-a-scam-20160401821665.html

      … and the high-pressure sales tactics of the three day event…

      http://fortunebuilders.pissedconsumer.com/what-you-need-to-know-about-fortune-builders-20160229800059.html

        1. The Vagabond Post author

          Hi Susie, I was able to open all three links just now. Possible momentary glitch, or maybe they will work for you from a different internet connection?

    3. Denise

      A company has to subscribe to and pay to be a member of the Better Business Bureau before complaints can be registered Art.

  5. Cici

    Wow, I was just looking up how legit is Than Merrill “Mastery” training. I’m a single mom of 3, am doing research in real estate biz before diving in. A month ago we saw and add about a workshop for Real Estate and so we paid it. Yesterday was our last day of the workshop for Fortune Builders and it was exactly how Vagabond described. For this crowd was Cole A. Hatter a spokesperson, entrepenuer, ect.. He got into talking about real estate, rehabbing homes, wholesaling, 401k, and much more. I personally knew this all had a catch and of course the he started to talk about Mastery and only selected qualificants we get in. The price was tooooo much, and there was no way we could do that purchase, with the coach saying “You could make that up by selling one or two home”. My mind was at war thinking how can I do this, and if it was all true. TRUE OR NOT, I believe they are just targeting audience with money and credit. I too wanted to get up as the coach said about “Mastery is looking for people with the highest caliber”, explaining the “high caliber” not to offend the audience, making it clear that he is there for the ones that can’t afford. Till the very end he stressed that “Mastery has no competition, the competition becomes the clients” and so much emphasizing how tough will be for a new real estate investor to collect all the information, “what it takes weeks and months for Mastery students will be only three clicks away”. Again like The Vagabond said, We also paid $197. for this workshop and all the information was certainly given in scraps. I was pained for all three days sitting down and wondering if all the information giving was true or not, which I’m currently expanding my search on all this information that was given. The Vagabond, Thank you for your information!!! Is been of much help

    1. The Vagabond Post author

      Cici, I am so relieved that you decided to look deeper before getting any further with these characters. I hope that you’ll head over to BiggerPockets and just start absorbing the forums over there for free. Any question you have you can ask there (or anywhere here, and I’ll do my best) and get dozens of very well-educated responses. There’s no reason at all to get into bed with any of the gurus! Use the money you would have spent on their questionable programs to buy your first property!

  6. David

    This guy like all the others that have preceded him always know the same old bait works on fools regardless of how many idiots have been scammed by these types. All these type TV shows are designed to make money for the hosts. You can looked at flipping houses, rehab this, property brothers, fixer upper and on and on. It’s all fantasy. The hosts are hired to entertain and that’s what they are paid to do. Period ! If you can’t get it done your show will get the ax. But hey, you can go on and sell groups of idiots your get rich quick scheme. There’s always new fish in the pond to be caught.

  7. Cliff Van Beek

    Than Merrill is just an arrogant piece of crap. Pro football star? Never heard of him. Each show started with that info. Stopped watching after 1/2 dozen shows. All these types of seminars prey on the people who can least afford it. The “get rich quick” schemes.

  8. Ron B

    Wow! I actually attended the 3 day workshop and from the very beginning, I could tell they were simply selling something! The Vagabond is completely right on this! They talked about the Mastery program and they are charging $20K-$50K for that crap! From what I observed, if you have the available cash or credit, you will be accepted into the program. During the workshop, my thoughts were “this is a bunch of crap!” and I was right! Stay away from this! Thanks The Vagabond!

    1. The Vagabond Post author

      Ron, thank you! Your first-hand experience with this will help people. I’m sorry that you wasted a few hundred bucks, but I’m grateful that they didn’t get you for any more than that. It could have been a very expensive lesson!

      1. Mark Remlinger

        Vagabond – You know I am a shoe in on a comment on this issue. I am a real estate professional (mortgages) with over 16 years experience and I can tell you all that not one of these courses are legitimate. Name one, any of you out there, where you are charged $25k plus for information you can get from either of us for free. Total rip off. Stay away. Call me any time. Look there are no magic beans. If it sounds too good it is. I have several clients that have all lost lots of money with many of these programs. There are good deals to be had out there, but hard work will increase your chances for a good opportunity, not these bs seminars.

  9. C-Bebop

    I unfortunately paid $197 for a three day seminar. I attended the free class at a very vulnerable time in my life (I had just gotten out of the military and was having a hard time finding a job in my rural hometown) and saw the $197 as a good investment.

    During the first day (from 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.) I noticed their thinly veiled sales pitch where they preached acting fast on opportunities, going into “good” debt, and how their help was needed to prevent financial disaster. They asked me where I worked before asking my name and became dismissive when I said that I was an unemployed vet (I’m currently applying to colleges to use my GI Bill). After the first day they gave us applications for the Mastery Program, I was angry that the application asked me exactly how much I earned and how much I had in assets
    Who does business like that?! I didn’t have to give that much information when I applied for a car loan!

    I didn’t go to day 2 because I couldn’t handle another day of 95% sales pitch and 5% common sense real estate advice that was probably free online. I feel like an idiot and I encourage everyone to learn from my mistakes.

  10. Humble Housewife

    Thank you for your review! You’ve provided me with much needed ammunition. My husband was laid off nearly 3 months ago and decided to “invest” in the 3 day seminar recently offered in our area since he finally had the time. By the end of it, he’d come home raving like a madman!!! I was convinced that was brainwashed and completely out of his mind.

    Let me start by saying that I think that my husband is a very smart guy. He has two BS degrees and usually makes a comfortable living for our family. However, when it comes to finance and business, his knowledge is woefully inadequate. As such, I find that he is highly susceptible to ALL sales tactics. This usually isn’t a problem because once his check is deposited I have it automatically allocated to bills, investing and savings. If he chooses to buy something foolish with what’s left, so be it.

    I did not attend the seminar with him because I have two small children to care for and three consecutive days of babysitters seemed unnecessary. Also, the thought of spending what would amount to 35+ hours in a drawn out sales pitch was not appealing.

    Fast forward to Sunday night after the seminar had concluded. He waltzes in, obviously invigorated, and announces that he doesn’t want me to return to work when the kids are older and that once his business gets started all of our money problem will be gone! At this point I roll my eyes as I’ve already read between the lines and say “You better not have bought, signed or committed to anything!” The quick answer was “No.” So at this point I was able to relax and mentally prepare myself for the impending intervention. I’ll spare you all the prose but highlights include the following gems. I’m going to spend $20,000 on the mastery course. It’s a great deal because they already have systems in place to grantee success. I promise you, we will have all the money back plus more by the end of the year. In the seminar, they taught us how to structure our business and have the necessary legal documents in place to protect our assets and help us make even more money! I called a few lawyers and web designers, the cost to get everything that I need drawn up will legitimately cost around $20,000! Why would I go out on my own and try to figure things out when I can just spend the same amount of money on the mastery program and they will give me the forms and help with setting up my website and offer personalized support and review potential deals and access to these lists of properties. I applied to the mastery program, if accepted, I’m going for it. I’ll max out all of our credit cards if I have to and get more credit cards to pay the minimums until we turn a profit. They told me you would think that I’m crazy but that’s only because you’re stuck in an old way of thinking that’s keeping you in the rat race. This is how wealthy people operate!

    I mean, WOW! So much to debate, so little time… It was quite obvious to me that everything he was saying was planted by a salesman that spent 3 days from sunup to sundown chipping away at his sensibilities. Also, my husband doesn’t talk like that…. Ever! So it was obviously regurgitated filth. Additionally, he had an answer for everything. My husband never debates me because I always win. But on this, he debated me willingly. I mention negative reviews online, he retorts mentioning all of the positive and reminds me that the only time I review things is when I’m upset with the service. Also, apparently those people just didn’t put in the work. I mention that we have no income right now. Once we spend all or our savings and max out our credit cards on the program, business set up fees and finally obtaining and flipping a house, how are we supposed to live?!?!?!? I don’t have to worry about that because we will be successful and will have made all of it back by the end of the year. Then I say, why don’t you read a few books, get a mentor and take $20,000 buy a house to flip and learn along the way. He then tries to convince me its more costly that way because he’s going to make mistakes without the proven “systems.” As far as I’m concerned, I would rather him try on his own and loose $20,000 rather than handing it over to these people.

    1. The Vagabond Post author

      Oof, Humble Housewife, I sincerely feel for you, doubly so because folks in your situation are *exactly* the target audience of Than and his reptilian fellow gurus. As strongly as I feel about this subject, the best testament is everything that has subsequently come up here in the comments.

      Your husband, a smart and educated guy, can likely be very successful indeed in real estate (given the right market and a little luck– and we all need a little bit of each), but the truth is that that $20K will all go towards freely-available information. Fortunebuilders and other equivalents really caught fire in the aftermath of the Great Financial Crisis, where severely depressed assets were everywhere. You could buy a place almost anywhere at an artificially low price and be virtually certain to make money given adequate patience. Since property values rebounded, those deals are much harder to find, let alone an endless stream of flips (which again comes back to the basic logical fallacy of not wanting to train your own competition).

      I hope that you can encourage him to pause, let everything settle in his head, and do some detailed reading about real estate investment. As an uninvolved third party with literally nothing to gain from encouraging him to do so, I will cross my fingers that he’ll take a few months to just read and read and read– the odds are, for a guy with the drive and education of your husband, he’ll end up with a better knowledge of the fundamentals than he would have had if he had “invested” (serious sarcasm quotes) the $20K in a “Mastery” (seriously serious sarcasm quotes). $20K is what I put down on my buy and hold properties, there’s a whole property lurking in that money!

    2. Lenora

      Hi
      I just finished the 3 day work shop here in Chicago. I was thinking about joining the mastery program based on the same motivation that your husband had. However, I thought I should do more research. How did the program work out for you all?

      Motivated

      1. H. Housewife

        We did not end up purchasing the “Mastery” program after all. Eventually, reasonability prevailed after the fog of the 3 day sales pitch had lifted. This is still something that my husband wants to do so he is reading, researching and talking to people to learn more about the process. As it turns out, we already have people in our lives that are immensely helpful and willing to share their own tips, experiences and connections. We also actually were connected with a friend of a friend that previously purchased the “mastery” program. As it turns out, $30,000 and 6 months later she realized that she did not have the time to fully commit and recoup her investment. As such, she has been looking to sell her materials to get some of her money back.

        1. Scott

          Sorry, but anyone that spends more than a couple hundred bucks on training is a fool. Yes, I said a fool. I’ll teach anyone everything you need to know and split the profits with you on your first deal. AND, you’ll get real life experience. Not to mention 50% of the profit. These people take your money and run. It’s ridiculous. There’s a sucker born every minute.
          If his system is such a big money maker, than explain to me why he has 20 people working for him at one “event”, taking your money? Doesn’t it seem obvious to you that if the system was so great, that they’d be practicing the system too? Come, on wake up!

          1. H. Housewife

            I feel the same way Scott. I did not suffer through the marathon sales pitch and had the exact same question for my husband when he returned. “If what they are selling is so awesome, why are they here and not out there doing it?!?!” His response was some spoon fed garbage about their goal of creating a successful business structure with all the right players in the right places that will allow you to eventually walk away from while still reaping the financial benefits. (I’m paraphrasing here) From what I understand, this explanation was used to justify the presenters presence at these events. Presumably, they are already so successful that they have the time to put on these workshops out of the kindness of their hearts. (Insert unicorns jumping rainbows here)

            What I learned from the friend of a friend that purchased the program is that “Mastery” leads you on a path to lenders, books, and other entities that that Fortune Builders benefit from financially. They have their hand in the cookie jar of everything that they recommend or mention to “Mastery students.”

            As i stated earlier, reason prevailed and now my husband is being proactive about learning the process by other means.

          2. Realtor607

            Scott, are you still in the business? I would love to become a student of yours and learn everything as you mentioned. My husband and I just attended the same introductory seminar and paid the $197. After reading all the comments I see it will not be worth attending.

          3. Scott Steffek

            LOL, yes I’m still in business. The reason I posted what I did, was not to solicit business, but I do understand why you contacted me. I posted it, so that people wouldn’t waste their time and money with these ridiculous seminars. I know of a lot of people who swore they’ were going to do whatever it takes to do this business and then in 30 days, they’re gone. They all want the money, but don’t want the work that goes with it. I’d be willing to help you, but we’ll need to talk first. My time is extremely valuable. I don’t mind helping others, as long as they’re willing to help themselves. That’s key! You can reach me at scott@investinrehabs.com. We can go from there. I wish you the best of luck.

          4. The Vagabond Post author

            Note from the owner of this site and author of this article: Your takeaway from this article should be that becoming a “student” at exorbitant rates is the opposite of what you need. I am very, very hesitant to allow people to make connections that may lead to the same kind of exploitation through the back channel, though I will allow Scott’s email to remain here… for now. I may change my mind at a later date if I hear anything I don’t like.

            I want to strongly reinforce to you again that, as I said in this article and as countless others have mentioned here, the information is all out there in the public domain. If you have not gone to places like Bigger Pockets, listened to all of the podcasts, spent a great deal of time in the forums, and then decided that you need a little more help, then you have not exhausted the massive trove of resources that are available to you at no cost. There are people all over Bigger Pockets who would mentor you at no cost, or in exchange for a reasonable stake in successful deals. You are ultimately an adult and can decide where to spend your money– but at least do yourself a favor and evaluate all of your options first.

          5. Scott Steffek

            Let me address the authors statement. He doesn’t know me and I don’t know him. But I understand his concern. Realtor607 reached out to me and I replied. I want to make it very clear, that I am NOT on this site to solicit business. I’ll talk to Realtor607 and we’ll see what happens. But I don’t have the time to mentor several people right now. It’s very time consuming and let me also say this. If I were to mentor, let’s say 4 people. Well, that’s 4 houses that I would have to split the profits on. So, in essence, I’m taking a lot of money out of my pocket. Why? Because I’m going to find the properties to flip and I could have flipped them myself and made 100% profit. Not to mention all of the time it takes to teach people the CORRECT way to invest in real estate. There’s so much involved. I do it for people who have the drive and desire and won’t quit. It takes me less than a week to figure out if a person is truly dedicated to the business or not. If they’re in it just to make a profit on one house, I’m not going to waste my time. I want to help the people who really want this business as their only source of income. People who will do whatever it takes to be successful. I think it’s important to give back. But there also has to be a limit. I hope this clears up any misunderstanding.

  11. aj

    after attending the free seminar i to fell pre of the $197 believing that i would get this extensive training with godly information, two days i was skeptic but relentlessly i went to day three where i had been excepted into the mastery program. taking along my partner we both willing gave financial information acquired loans and even thought about borrowing from our assets to ensure we could pay the 50% which i Knew early on they would cover some part of the payment as they offered for the $197. thankfully before deciding to leave and decline the painful debt we would walk into i came across your review as well as a few more with some red flags the ultimately saved us from becoming victims of the 25k sells pitch.
    Had i did more research i could’ve saved myself three days and $197 for the sample of information given at the training today! i urge every one to please RESEARCH RESEARCH RESEARCH! Thankfully we left without notice and spared ourselves any more sells pitch of creating good debt, as well as making a spare of the moment costly investment we couldnt afford.

    1. The Vagabond Post author

      AJ, you have no idea how gratifying it is to hear that you managed to avoid going into debt to enrich this scam artist. Bravo to you for doing the research, and though it would have been nicer to save the $197, we can all rest assured that it could have been far, far worse!!

  12. Nana Banana

    I signed up for a seminar for today, but decided to do some research first. Thank you for saving me the time and aggravation.

  13. Fernando

    Hello everyone, just this weekend i attended the 3 days “teaching” seminar from Than Merrill in Orlando. I completely agree with all said in this blog, as many of you i paid the $197.00 fee in a foolish attempt to obtain “real” investing “facts”. I must say that the only “fact” that i brought with me in these 2 days (didn’t go the last day, as hundreds of people did too, I bet) is the determination of getting out of the rat race and develop sound strategies to really make your money work for you so I can stop trading time for money as an employee. Also i encourage anyone reading this, DO NOT PAY that $197.00. It’s not worth it, like the blogger said, it’s just a 3 -days sales pitch. I will also say that if you pay attention there are some good “nuggets” of info here and there but that’s it, that’s the most you will get out of it. What i hate the most is that they knowingly make people pay this fee when deep inside they also know that the overwhelming majority don’t have the basic education nor the resources to have these “gurus” to pay them the outrageous fee to be “successful”, it’s really sad how families can get deep into bad debt to follow a method that you can probably get for much less money using other way. My advice, DO NOT PAY like i did so i could tell you this.

  14. Mark

    This has been an educational read through these posts – thanks! I just finished day one of the three day event and had a lot of the same skepticism about it being a sales pitch. Exactly why I began looking online for reviews of FB. No way I’ll drop 20k – or anymore for that matter – but agree there are some nuggets of info that will inspire me to go do my own research and education.
    With the insight here and my own curiosity I may go to day 2 to see how the pitch continues to build while I encourage others to do thier own research and online searches regarding FB before handing over their personal information to these guys.
    It’s odd to watch the team in action to wonder if they truly believe what they are saying and doing or are just hucksters. Are they really being paid that well to run these events? They must be drinking the kool-aid
    I’ll chalk it is as entertainment for the weekend.
    Perhaps I’ll publish a more detailed blow by blow of the event as it concludes and as I count the uses of their key words:
    Proprietary x23 times
    Proven System x17 times
    Financial Freedom x12 times
    Crush it! X9 times
    Appreciate the posts

  15. Scott

    I went to a FB seminar in Oak Lawn, Illinois. I’m experienced in Real Estate and wanted to see what they had to say. About 5 minutes into the “seminar”, they said we were to hold our questions until the end. At that time, all of them would be answered. Guess what? Not one person was allowed to ask a question. Not one. They don’t want you to ask questions! The seminar, in my opinion, was nothing more than a hyped up rah-rah session, designed to get your money. I started laughing under my breath, at the things that were being said. Then when I saw all of these people running to the back of the room to pay their $197, the laughing stopped. I’m stereotyping here, but many of them looked like they didn’t have a “nickel” to spare, let alone $197. How sad that was. I tried to ask a question at the end, but I was shut down. I would bet you that 95% of those people that bought the program will never be in the real estate business. People think this business is easy. I work 60-70 hours a week, every week. I hate to see people like Than Merrill’s group take advantage of others. I’ve worked with “newbies” that were hungry to become successful. I mentor them on a “real life” deal. They learn more from us selling one house, then they could possibly learn from the $10,000 course. It’s intense. But, it gets people into the business. They do a real deal. It’s designed to get people moving quickly. Yet, it still takes people 3 or 4 deals, to go out on their own. That’s how much there is to learn! Go find yourself a mentor. Subscribe to Bigger Pockets. There’s a wealth of information on that site. Advertise for a mentor. I strongly suggest you stay away from these “guru’s”.

    1. The Vagabond Post author

      Great advice from a voice of experience, thanks for adding your comments, Scott! I had just the same perspective on the meeting, down to sinking feeling as everyone rushed to the back to sign up.

  16. Michael Starr

    Am a Florida realtor who recently attended the free 2-hour seminar, yet chose not to pay for the $197 workshop. During their seminar I had a recurring thought, namely, that if anyone can make $10k or $20k or $40k per assigned contract, flip, or rehab with Than’s system, then why the heck aren’t all 5 or 6 of Than’s accomplices not out there doing it? Why, pray tell, would they be working for comparative peanuts camped out in that hotel meeting room with their projectors and credit card swipers? The answer is obvious, it’s because the profits to be made flipping and rehabbing isn’t so easy to come by.

  17. Samantha Williams

    Thank you very much for this post. My husband and I have always been very interested in flipping houses, really everything real estate. Unfortunately, we have, like many others have a lot more bill at the end of our paycheck. So we have never been able to come up with the money to invest in our dream. So we hear this radio advertisement on the radio and then see this infomercial on Than Merrill and his seminar. And we are like omg! We love him! He was one of our favorites on “Flip This House”!So we signed up for the seminar because we were like, Wow! This could be our shot! We can gain so useful knowledge. And even if there is more to sell, (we’ve been suckered into attending timeshare presentations in the past, figured that chances are that on some level this could be compared to that) the infomercial said that we would leave with copies of these different books that are jam packed with information and tools to use to start and build our success. We decided even if it’s just for the books, we will go. Well I just came across your blog here and even though, we are scheduled for the seminar in Joliet, IL in about 1 and 1/2 hrs, we have decided it is not in our best interest to attend. Especially since I see no mention of said books here or in the comments posted by others. So thank you again for saving us from this potentially detrimental catastrophe! Would be interested, however, if you have any websites that I could get some good, accredited, FREE info on how to strategy working towards our dream!

    1. The Vagabond Post author

      Hi Samantha,

      Thanks for your post- as you correctly deduced, you wouldn’t be walking out with any books or other written materials, just with a head full of sales pitches. My #1 real estate recommendation is Bigger Pockets (http://www.biggerpockets.com/). Create a free account, don’t pay for anything, and just 1) listen to all the podcasts and 2) spend a solid couple of months soaking up everything you can in the forum over there. If you want, you can buy the Flipping book they put out– at least it’s credible and is a small, one-time purchase. Good luck!

  18. Pingback: Your Stupid Pyramid Scheme Sucks - The Frugal Vagabond

  19. Daxton

    I attended the free seminar in Oklahoma City. I had the opposite experience, I even spent the $197 for the 3-day weekend. That seminar was very informative, I’m about to close 1 of many deal for $5K net. It’s amazing what you can learn when you listen to what people have to say instead of dissecting sales techniques. You pay for the best mentoring and coaching in the beginning, they teach you how to make money, then you do it on your own. Welcome to America! 🙂

    1. The Vagabond Post author

      Or, as previously mentioned, get the same exact information absolutely free by spending some time at Bigger Pockets and your local library. These hucksters are selling commonly available information at outrageous prices. There is absolutely nothing new or novel.

      But, as you say, this is America. You’re free to waste money. That’s your right and duty as a patriotic American, amirite?

      1. Patrick

        people have been buying snake oil from hucksters for hundreds of years. it’s rooted in greed by both parties. hey dummies, if the “system” is so great why is Than not out on the streets 24/7 doing deals? here’s why: cuz he makes way more money from shills…

        if, during a transaction you don’t know who the mark is, it’s you….

  20. Mel

    I attended the 3 day training seminar and basically it is a 3 day sales pitch. There are some good things they tell you but its all free information for the serious business owner. They just fill your head about how easy it is to you and share all the success stories but nothing is full prove success. They just play a numbers game with people. If they tell 1000 people and 10 people sign up and 1 is successful with there program then there happy. It is just like any other sales pitch. I have learned successful people don’t buy programs to make money, they learn from there experiences.

  21. jean Alexis

    I heard the commercial on Fox Radio in AZ, i went to the free conference, while I was skeptical, I made the mistake by signing up for the 3 days seminar, the commercial said it will be with Than Merrill, he was nowhere to be found at the free conference, at the end of the first day they mention you can claim your money back… me happy… me claim my money the next morning , to bad I could not claim my gas money and my time… she gave me a check that I cash on my way home. Oof! Someone told me once “if you cannot afford A how can you pay 2A…” for what I know, Can you do Master before Bachelor?

  22. shane morn

    i am in the 2nd day of the 3-day seminar right this moment! i agree that the $20k is outrageous but i was actually convinced that it was a good idea to buy the mastery class with every penny i have in my savings account because i was almost guaranteed that i could do whatever i want to do and would become wealthy very quickly. they keep telling us that they hold our hand thru every deal and make sure that everything will go 100% smooth and successful. i am very interested in becoming a rei and was so invested in becoming one i was seriously going to spend the $20k. i am so glad that i read these posts, thank you vagabond! if you have any books or contacts that you can recommend i would be more than happy to share a % of my success of profit from anything that leads to a successful flip. actually, anyone who is educated in the real estate investment , I am looking for a mentor and/or coach that I am more than happy to split the profits from our business endeavors 50/50. my e-mail is royalrefiningllc@gmail.com. i need lists, help with a website, marketing and pml information. thank you all for the info and I look forward to speaking with you soon! i will not be attending the 3rd day and save my rear end from seminar ass!

    1. The Vagabond Post author

      Hi Shane,

      The best advice I have for you is to take a step back for a couple of months, go to Bigger Pockets, and listen to every single podcast, and read everything you can in their forums. At most buy a couple of their relatively inexpensive books and read those cover to cover. You will have learned more than you’ll even learn from Than Merrill for under $100. Use your money to buy property, not overpriced education programs!

      Start interacting on the Bigger Pockets forums, too– you’ll have no trouble finding a mentor (and you probably won’t need to split profits with them, either… there are plenty of mentors who just enjoy the experience of helping new real estate investors).

      One small but IMO important thing– websites, marketing, pml– that’s all superfluous stuff that you don’t need and the average successful real estate investor never has. Real success in real estate is quiet. You tap into the current listings in your area of interest, do your analysis, contact sellers (or have your agent do so) and close deals. It’s way better to be “just a guy off the street” than “Shane the Real Estate Guy.” That’s because Real Estate isn’t a get rich quick business– it’s a get rich through hard work (and by taking on other people’s problems and solving them) business.

      Best of luck to you.

      1. Brad

        I also attended the free seminar, and signed up for the 3 day, but glad I found your website! I recently got my real estate license, and am very interested in flipping houses, eventually acquiring rentals. Will be studying biggerpockets.com, and getting involved with local creia.
        A couple questions: for my first flip I am thinking I will take out a first time home owners’ loan. Is this a good idea for a first flip?
        also, as far as the rehab costs, do these have to come out of my pocket, or is there a way to have it included in the loan?
        Thanks so much!

  23. Scott

    To Everyone,
    These seminars are put on by professionals that can sell snow to an Eskimo. It’s obvious, because many of you are taking the bait. This garbage about Than setting you up with a website and blah blah blah for $20k is garbage. I’ve been doing this for years and I don’t even have a website! Well, ok, I have one, but it doesn’t even work! I’m an experienced investor, wholesaler and flipper. You may not like what I’m about to say, but it’s the God’s honest truth. I’ll preface it with this: It doesn’t matter if you buy a guru’s garbage course or you learn it on your own. IF YOU AREN’T WILLING TO WORK 60 HOURS A WEEK, EVERY WEEK FOR AT LEAST THE FIRST YEAR….MAYBE LONGER…..STAY AT YOUR JOB.
    There is no free lunch folks. If you don’t have the drive and desire to bust your as@, day in and day out, and I mean 7 days a week, every week, I’m sorry to tell you, but you will NOT succeed in real estate investing. It’s as simple as that. Oh, one more thing. Don’t kid yourself into thinking you WILL work 60 or 70 hours a week, every week. Either you will or you won’t. If someone were to put the stats together, I would bet the farm that 80% of people, if not more, that go into real estate investing fail within the first year. I would also bet that out of the 20% that do actually make it, probably only 5-10% of them are able to support themselves and their family, on what they make. Just a little “food for thought”. The majority of people going into real estate are chasing that rainbow and you know what happens when you try to find the end of it! I wish everyone the best of luck in whatever it is you do.

  24. JLSims

    Thanks to all who have posted, and especially to Frugal Vagabond for tackling this issue. I finished Day 1 of the 3-day sales pitch. From the beginning, I felt I had paid to attend a pep rally. I must admit, however, that the allure of having their pre-developed systems at hand is strong, and will be for many others in the room. I kept remarking to the woman sitting beside me that there was constant mention of the “back office”, which is basically a database meant to keep track of buyers, sellers, and properties — a system you don’t get access to without forking over a BIG hurt (money….. thousands). Creating a database on my own at home means buying a db server program and an interface that allows form creation. That alone would cost in the vicinity of $5k, but… I am exploring other options. As for the FB folks taking you through the process of creating a website, squarespace and wix can create a site for you and host it for a small, easily manageable fee.
    I have been reading at BiggerPockets for a few months, but their live podcasts are frequently at a time when I have to be at my J.O.B. (just over broke). I’ll keep reading and learning from those folks.
    The biggest challenge I see if the place where I live is only about 175k people and there’s only so many homes in such a small market. One guy that was in the pep rally said he’s had some success in a town nearby, so I will begin focusing my attention there.
    I have already paid for the hotel room for another night, so I may go to the 2nd day, or I may just wander around town here in Louisville for the day. There’s lots of flippers here and this town has greatly improved since my days at Ft. Know back in the late 70s.
    Then, tomorrow, I’ll go to BP and read some more and try to find a local mentor who is an experienced rehabber. Thanks again.

    1. Scott

      JL,
      They’re filling you up with a bunch of garbage! I’ve been doing this business successfully, for 10 years. My back office consists of a few excel spreadsheets and some Word docs. You don’t need to spend a ton of money on back office junk! They want to think that you need all of these tools to become successful. Let me tell you what you need. BUYERS>>>BUYERS>>>BUYERS. Forget the rest. If you don’t have buyers you don’t have a business. Plain and simple. I set up everything on my own. I don ‘t even have a website! Well, I do, but it’s under construction and has been for 3 years! You need drive, desire and persistence to be successful. Go to BP and sign up for the podcasts. They’ll email you a link so you can replay it, if you missed it because of work. Join a real estate club in your area. Talk to people. Search BP for answers. Forget these rip off seminars. I paid $10 for some Ron Le Grand tapes 10 years ago and that’s all I’ve ever invested in training. I have properties in Louisville. If you paid for the seminar, attend it and absorb what you can. After that, run!! Don’t tell me there aren’t any homes in a 175k market. There are and you have to find them. Put up we buy houses signs. Put out ads on Craigslist.
      Here’s my opinion on being successful in this business. Commitment. If you truly want to do this business, you’ll be successful. It takes very hard work, long hours and a: “I refuse to quit” attitude. Good Luck

      1. JLSims

        I got my refund for the 3-day sales pitch and I am already a BiggerPockets member. I signed up on that site months ago and have been a little lazy in doing my reading because of listening to my co-worker, one of FB’s marks, on how much I would benefit from their training. Fortunately, I have run a small business before and have experience with making my own website as well as database creation. The mentoring, if not from a specific person, then from many at BP, is probably not terribly difficult to find. The mentor may ask for a small percentage of my first few deals, but it would never add up to what FortuneTakers wants for their mastery class and I am fine with getting help from an experienced flipper for a little slice of my pie. But, $30-50K???? Not gonna happen!

        As part of the freebies they give you, a deal analyzer form is included. From that, I can build an inquiry form to feed my database and it will be no different from what they claimed to have spent millions of dollars in developing. If they really spent that kind of money on database development, they’re not as smart as they want us to believe. And from the first form, I can modify it to suit other REI needs as well.

        1. Scott

          JL,
          What bothers me about these guru’s, is that want to pay huge bucks to learn how to do a deal. They TAKE your money.

          TFV: Sales pitch removed

          Whatever way you go, I wish you the best of luck!

  25. Steve Johnson

    All of these charlatans are the same. Just the names vary as you hear their too-good-to-be-true radio commercials blathering about how you can make money fast with no credit and no money (and no intelligence?), or that they’re looking for “partners” (suckers?) in the area.

    Their “free seminar” racket is all the same. Whether it’s Armando Scamalongo or Scam Merrill, they all use the same script.

  26. Denise

    I am a real estate paralegal and brought a friend who is a general contractor to Than Merril’s seminar. While we both found it to be very informative and worth the time invested, we were not even close to signing up for the “program” offered. We did though avail ourselves of some of the contacts and information that was later provided who could help us to set up LLC’s to accomplish our goal.

    Beyond that, it was a dog and pony show for sure. Almost all, if not more of the testimonials about the program are from people WORKING the program! I saw almost all of the people in those testimonials as speakers/salespersons at Than Merrill’s 3-day seminar.

    I spent $100 for that 3-day seminar and feel that I did get my money’s worth but ONLY because I already had the knowledge and experience to know it wasn’t as easy or as profitable as the speakers made it out to be.

    It will be a year in February since my business partner and I attended the 3-day seminar. Although we didn’t sign up for the 10-50K program offered throughout the program, we did get some great resources and ideas from the program.

    We did spend a little over 6K setting up various legal entities through a company recommended by Than Merrill’s group though. It was a long and painful process (mostly because the company had just changed over its computer system) but worth it IF you know what you are doing and don’t want your business finances tied to your personal finances (even a lot of self-proclaimed Chicago real estate lawyers don’t know best to accomplish this).

    I think what disappoints me the most about the entire program is that it’s “testimonials” are not honest AND (perhaps most importantly) Than Merrill’s group has not stopped shamelessly targeting Chicago for almost a year now. For a company touting the fact that it is sharing it’s “secret” to wealth, one has to wonder if, it found too many or not enough “suckers” to spend the 50K to avail themselves of no more than 10% of the knowledge/resources being offered. By continuously targeting the same markets, they are driving up prices that (as we all learned in 2006-recent times) can’t be sustained.

  27. Vincent

    I’m a real estate agent & property manager with 26-years experience & my wife a loan officer with same amount of experience. I’ve followed a 1/2 dozen of this “scammers” the last several years & the scenario is almost identical used by all of them. Than Merrill is again peppering the airwaves of the San Francisco bay area currently. For anyone in the business like my wife & I this kind of grey area business should be illegal. The claims of no money needed, no credit needed, they’ll provide investor funds, blah, blah, blah are simply too ridiculous to believe, People are desparate enough to pay money to these snake oil salesmen promising to help make them wealthy. Believe me if it were that easy the thousands of real estate agents & loan brokers in the San Francisco area would ALL BE DOING IT. First of all what they propose cannot be done without tremendous risk, period. WHY should you believe my post? Because my wife & I both have way more experience in this field than Than Merrill or his slippery salespeople.

  28. The Researcher

    I am regular guy and I owned investment property years ago. I was involved with the local
    real estate investment club for several years. I paid about $10 (meal included) to attend monthly real estate investor meetings and I also volunteered to reorganize the clubs library so I learned a lot for FREE.

    Now lets fast forward to November 2016, when I attended a free Than Merrill real estate investment session at a local hotel. At this meeting I paid $197 to attend Than Merrill’s the 3 day session held in Nashville (a hotel downtown) last weekend.

    In my opinion NO ONE SHOULD attend the free seminar which is the primer for the $197 3 day seminar.

    If you interested in Real Estate Investing aka REI join a local REI meetup, contact a realtor and ask for real estate investor referrals, go to Dr. Google or Dr.YouTube and go to BiggerPockets.com (don’t feel compelled to signup for their PRO services).

    Bottom-line do your own homework.

    I paid $197 because I wanted to see the show first hand and its a DOOZY. I knew something wasn’t right when I was informed about the ground rules at the 3 day seminar which included no questions until the end of the seminar, no taking pictures and no recording. The rational was don’t do it because the information is proprietary aka private. WRONG. Everything being discussed can be found online FOR FREE.

    If your interested in seeing the show and don’t mind dropping $197 do me a favor – attend the 3 day seminar alone and leave your cash, credit card, checkbook, and significant other at home.

    Also, do not complete the application that will be given to you on day 1. The application
    is given to assess your ability to pay for the MASTERY Program which costs
    $20K-$30K. YOU COULD USE THIS MONEY AS A DOWN PAYMENT FOR FOR 1st PROPERTY

    If you are new to REI you will learn a lot of new tips and tricks that really work but you don’t need Than Merrill’s company to do it. You will learn about having the right mind set to acquire wealth. You will learn about the importance of marketing, sales, CRM systems, web site must haves, team development, using social media for lead generation (more sales), creative financing, tax loopholes, flipping, rehabbing etc.

    If you choose to attend then do what I did which is attend just in the morning for the first 2 days, skip the final day and don’t complete the application. Several days after the seminar you may receive a phone call from 619-684-9794 asking you if liked the 3 day seminar. The rep. will ask you some more qualifying questions to see if your still interested in REI then proceed to ask you why you did not sign up for the MASTERY Program. After that if you still seem interested they will set up a time to talk with you and your spouse about other ways you can participate in Than Merrill programs (yes there are other money grabbing programs).

    Like I said it’s a real doozy.

    People RUN FOR YOUR LIVES.

    The next time you hear Than Merrill’s ad on the radio remember a guy in Nashville said RUN. This is not what you need in your life – someone blatantly stealing for you.

    I don’t care who your are. I don’t care about where your ancestors come from and who you love at night. Don’t let these folks steal from you – you really deserve better.

    As I close, here’s the action step recap:

    1) go online and do your research about real estate investing,
    2) go to the library if your the type of person that likes books
    3) call a realtor and ask questions (ask if they’ve dealt with investors or can refer you to an investor friendly realtor)
    4) go to BiggerPockets.com its a free real estate investment site (don’t sign up for PRO services unless you want to of course)
    5) listen to podcasts
    6) attend REI meetup groups
    7) read REI blogs

    Well, I hope my post and action steps helps someone.

    Sincerely The Researcher

  29. Dane

    So, I might have missed it, but I’ve not seen one person here comment about their own personal results of success in home rehab. I’m not saying there aren’t, I just didn’t see it. If you developed your own Investment Rehab program through your own study at Pockets, what were your results. How long did it take for your first deal? How much in profits did you make (if any)? How many years have you enjoyed success from what you built?

    I took the 3 day classes and the “company protections” and reinvestment concepts were authentic, sound, and applicable and worth the price of admission just in themselves. I hear many reasons and sighs of relief, but would love to hear and see verifiable success stories on your own website, showing what you’ve built without this seminar. It’s obviously possible, but can anyone claim this?

    1. The Vagabond Post author

      I have written numerous articles on this very blog about evaluating, purchasing, rehabbing, and renting out my rental properties, and regularly report my income on those properties through monthly financial updates which go back to the founding of the blog. All of my learning was done through publicly available resources, the vast majority of which were online. Purchasing a property and making it profitable is, in the end, a matter of simple mathematics, common sense, some knowledge of the market in question, and more than a little bit of luck.

      By and large, the time to profitably flip properties is not right now. During the Great Financial Crisis it was far more difficult to lose money as property prices rebounded annually in the double or even triple digits around the country. Now, property prices have returned to all-time highs and flips which can reasonably be conducted profitably are fewer and farther between. Than and his fellow hucksters arose at a time where market conditions favored the fantasy they were selling, but they continue to play the same one note song– that anyone can buy, rehab, and turn a property, anywhere in the country, and they can do it using other people’s money. That is absolutely farcical. RE “gurus” are running seminars and trainings around the country, including in markets like NYC and SF where buying even the most disheveled property comes at a premium.

      Though I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again– if the real money was being made in flipping properties, then they’d be out there doing it (and not training up competition). Merrill and his ilk have realized that as profitable deals became harder to come by and the margins smaller, that the real money is in the fantasy business.

      Success in real estate is quiet, it’s small, and it’s slow. You identify a deal from the same information that countless other people are poring over, see an angle that they missed, and if you’re lucky, you turn a profit. Some deals go bad and you lose money. Real Estate will almost never make anyone rich fast– and it won’t often make anyone rich ever. Just because I love the asset class doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be realistic about what it is. It’s a business that requires tireless effort and patience over years and years. It requires money– money from your own pocket. It requires some luck, especially as you develop your acumen.

      TL;DR: Now is a bad time to flip. If flipping was the secret to wealth, then they wouldn’t increase competition in a saturated market. Real Estate is hard work that requires skin in the game. Real Estate will not make you rich quickly.

      1. Scott Steffek

        Ok. You want an example of people who have had success on their own? I’m one of them. I started the business by learning and reading and going to REIA meetings. No one helped me. I bought a set of CD’s on Ebay for $20, that Ron LeGrand made. I listened and took notes….a lot of notes! I went to meetings to network with people and to ask a lot of questions. Back when I started, I didn’t know a thing about Bigger Pockets. My point is that I was going to be successful, no matter what. I forced myself to learn. I used the “Nike” philosophy of…”Just Do It.” That’s exactly what I did. I put together a so called rehab crew, sold some houses to investors, rehabbed them and went on my way. The crew was nothing but a bunch of “wannabe” contractors. But, it got me started in the business. I learned from my mistakes and believe me, there were a lot of them! I kept pushing forward. I refused to give up. Now, 10 years later, I have my own rehab crews, my own property manager and two realtors for flipping.
        The Vagabond is correct. Success in this business takes a great deal of time. These guru’s like Merrill make it sound so easy. I was a manager at several very large corporations. I know how to run a business. But, the RE business is by far, the hardest business I’ve EVER run. Nothing can hold a candle to how difficult this business really is. These clowns like Than Merrill telling you about the riches you’ll make, makes me sick. They suck you into believing that you can quit your job and be a millionaire in a year or so. NOT TRUE! I still work about 55 hours a week in my business. I’m successful and happy with where I’m at. I can easily support my family on what I make. I will tell you this. If you’re willing to work 70 hour weeks for well over a year, maybe 2 years… and you’re willing to make peanuts while you build the business and you’re willing to go look at 20 houses and maybe sell one, then this business is for you. If you can’t accept the fact that unscrupulous wholesalers will screw you out of money, contractors will screw you out of money and that you’ll personally lose money, then stay out of the business. Don’t kid yourself. If you aren’t willing to do that, stay in corporate America. It’s where you belong and there’s nothing wrong with that. Not everyone is cut out to be self employed! When everyone was out at the beach or vacationing in the sun, I was working my butt off. When people were relaxing and watching tv or whatever it is they do, I was still working. You HAVE to be willing to do that. I make money at flipping properties and I make money selling properties to my investors and then rehabbing them for them, because they’re out of state. I have personal relationships with my buyers. I think that’s a key component to being successful in this business. I could go on and on. But it took me about 2 years to get a solid team together and build my business, where I could support my family. There’s a tremendous amount of ups and downs in the business. You truly have to be the type of person that can accept that and believe me, it’s not easy and it plays on your mind! I have mentored maybe 15 people. Out of the 15, 3 are still in business. I would estimate that 90% of the people I mentored had no business being in the business! They told me how hard they were willing to work and that ended real quick, after they saw what it took. When people see the reality of the business, they drop out. It’s too much for them. They all want the rewards, but they’re not willing to do the work that comes with it. I have 2 people I’m mentoring right now. I already know that one will not make it and the other probably will. I’ve found that if you’ve reached bottom, you might succeed at this. Sometimes a crisis is a blessing. You’re forced to do something and that’s a good thing. I lost my job and my home because of kidney cancer. No one wanted to hire me because of my age. 55 is too old! So it forced me to do real estate full time. It was the best thing that ever happened to me. I can guarantee you that if I was still in corporate America and didn’t get kidney cancer, I wouldn’t be doing real estate. So, it truly was a blessing in disguise. My cancer is ok and I’m ok. So it all worked out well. So sometimes being down and out, is a huge motivator to succeed at something else. Flipping houses is a great way to make money.The market is very tight right now, but it can be done. You just have to have patients. By the way, starting out as a wholesaler is the toughest way to go. I’m not gonna bother explaining it, as I’ve already gone on too long! Just trust me on this one. So if you want to go into the RE game, you better be prepared for some very rough times ahead. I don;t want to be negative, but I’m a realist. I believe in looking at the truth and calling a spade a spade. So I wish you the best of luck. Remember, read books and then read some more books. Go to REIA meetings. Get an education from BP. I still use BP quite a bit. You can never have enough knowledge! Try to partner up with someone that has experience. Just don’t give up!

        1. andy luick

          Scott is totally dead on right. You get acquire most of this purchased information for free but you’ll only learn to flip houses by doing it…and you’ll likely make a ton of mistakes doing so. Most investors lose their butts and most landlords are out of the business within a couple of years. It’s exactly as he says, if flipping were so profitable for them…they wouldn’t have time for seminars! A lot of the paid seminars really just turn you into a bird-dog for THEM and you paid for the so-called training.

          If you’re a first time investor….look hard for something short term to get your feet wet with OR find a mentor and partner OR sort of the same, find a boots on the ground contractor/partner to split a deal with. To go it alone in today’s market…is suicide. If you’re hellbent of doing something, find a turn-key operator in a city or market that makes sense to you. Just understand that smart money is getting out of real estate in a lot of markets. We will see a crash in the next 24…I honestly thought right after the election but it didn’t happen. Most of us agree that a crash will come and you don’t want to be holding your flip when it does!

      2. Steve J

        As you point out, there are many strategies for RE investing but some of them work only in certain kinds of RE markets. Some of these Gurus may have been successful with their formula at the right time and right market, but they continue to beat the drum long after the conditions have changed. ANYtime you hear their radio or tv ads claim you can make money part-time, with no credit, no risk, other people’s money, no experience, etc. you can be sure you are listening to a huckster.

        And I also believe many of them are frauds. As you said, they make money running their scaminars, NOT doing actual RE investing.

  30. janelle fossett

    Been with County Property Appraiser 25 years, residential Property Appraiser for 16. Few saw fall coming, I questioned appraisals and market values and scratched my head, WTH ???? Some people did great, others lost their asses. Now , the next wave. People get smart and educate, don’t glom on to some snake charmer. Do your own research and people in the know locally, not selling something, and don’t bite off more than you can chew, have patience. We have google and docs everywhere these days, know how to dissect info, not rocket science .And know qualified sales, specially in Florida. Get rich quick usually don’t on their own.

  31. Lizie

    Is it possible that once you sign up for the “Mastery” program they threaten to sue you if you mention anything about it? I cannot find one post from anyone who completed the program. I just came from the 3 day OBVIOUS sales pitch and was floored by how many people did not recognize the manipulation and further floored by the fact that there were people in the room who actually paid $49,997.00!!!! for the next level sales pitch! I would love to hear from one person after completing “Mastery” what they actually gained? The poor woman next to me was going home to figure out how to scrape up 25,000. (Half) and they would finance the other 25K! And god knows at what interest rate! Why all the silence?

  32. Juan Batch

    I have been rehabing homes in new orleans since hurricane katrina back in 2007 or so. Everything said in this blog has been true as far as I can tell. I have more business than I can handle right now doing contractor work.
    I am in day one of the three day class right now. Day two is in 7 hours. Why the hell am I up at 2 oclock in the morning writing this?
    It’s because the ” left side of my brain” which has served me well all of these years, tells me dont go to day two. After reading these blogs I know I can do this business without Fortune Builders. I dont regret paying the $197.00 because it just brought home the fact I can do this without them. Your blogs have been most helpful. Thanks to all of you. And yes. It takes long hours and hard work.

  33. Joe

    I told my dad this was a scam and unfortunately he didn’t want to listen to me. He is now 50 grand in the hole and with nothing to show for it but he still seems optimistic, how can I show someone how bad this is when they have blinding faith in this insanely obvious scam? The sad part is that he was (before this) very fiscally responsible. Someone who come from nothing and built his way up to having a decent living, I just don’t get it and don’t know how to convince him that this is just draining his account. So instead of him having a nest egg for his retirement he will be left penniless.

    1. The Vagabond Post author

      Hi Joe, I am so sorry to hear about your dad. You might start by showing him this comment section– lots of useful information for the scammed, the close-to-scammed, and those who avoided it entirely here. Also some good information on getting a refund if he acts quickly enough, though he’ll have to be 100% committed and will likely be in for a fight.

  34. Joe

    Thank you for responding and for your thoughts on my situation. I’m sorry to bother you with another question but how can he go about getting a refund? Wouldn’t they just tell him since he didn’t complete their courses he wouldn’t see the profit at the end or they would just refuse all together and write him off as a source of income they have tapped dry.

    1. The Vagabond Post author

      It truly depends on the agreement he signed, and I’m not a lawyer so I can’t give you any specific legal ground to stand on– but if it were me in the same position, I would be poring over the sales contract looking for an “out.” Also, if he paid for the course with a credit card, it’s possible that it might be covered under a card’s customer satisfaction/return perk, or it’s possible he could open a dispute with the card issuer. It’s possible that if it’s been a short enough time, the mere threat of a credit card dispute might result in a refund. Just avenues to pursue– but the sooner, the better.

  35. Nanette

    Today at 12pm i was suppose go to a free seminar but i did a little digging and i read everything everyone had to say about Than Merrill well im not going !!!! I have spend the last 30yrs as a wife snd mother my husband works and i took care of the house and kids . The kids r all grown and i wanted to make my own money but i found out i cant work for someone else i want to be my own boss i wanted to learn how to flip homes and be in real estate but these people busted my bubble . We live check yo check is there any real way to learn and be able to get properties on my own ? Or is there a legit person out there that really help people like me to do this without the scam

    1. The Vagabond Post author

      Hi Nannette,

      First off, good job being thorough and looking before you leap. My advice if you live paycheck to paycheck is to go to BiggerPockets and read and listen like crazy. People with absolutely no startup capital often do something called wholesaling, where the wholesaler (you in this example) finds real estate deals, signs purchase contracts with the owner, then essentially *resells* the purchase contract before closing at a higher price to a buyer, pocketing the difference. Wholesaling is a tough business, and requires you to have access to both appealing properties and motivated buyers. The upside is that you can do it with little or no money. So some people getting started will wholesale until they have enough extra money to make the downpayment on a property, then buy and either flip or use the property for income.

      You can *definitely* find all sort of information about strategies for cash-strapped real estate investors at Bigger Pockets, as well as a lot of free mentoring and help on the forums over there. Once you’ve done some reading and know what you’re looking for, you’ll be able to find books on every topic at your local library.

  36. Scott

    I am recently retired from the military and attended the seminar, luckily I’m very cautious when anyone asks me for money and I try to research everything! I have 3 other friends like myself who are also retired. Who will be investing together. Giving these people $197 would have been nothing but in my mind I asked myself what did I really get from this seminar? And the answer was nothing that I did not already know- I wish there was a way to get all the money spent on these misleading classes and actually pool it together to actually purchase properties. That way you would st least have something tanglesble. And with just writing this I think that’s what my friends and I will do – pool our money and actually buy, I would rather have a little bit of something then all of nothing.

  37. Kimberley McElroy

    I recently noticed that my ex husband is involved with this program and based on his Linkedin – he’s mastery level with an LLC (Also set up through their headquarters). So he bought into this and has a website. One thing I noticed is that the people who have bought into this – His “fortune builders family” all have the same cookie cutter websites… with blogs stolen from Zillow – just different names used to “write” the blog – I don’t even know if that’s legal – but if I were a potential client of his, I’d notice this right off the bat! Has anyone else seen their cult like behavior – or their websites all being the EXACT same?!? Stolen Zillow articles?? I wish I could warn him that he has fallen for yet ANOTHER real estate scam… but he’s a greedy “get rich” kind of guy… and it breaks my heart to see people this naive. I see the “marketing” done for his social media accounts.. and it’s terrible! He gets zero likes and barely any followers… it’s just sad and pathetic – not at all worth the money he’s probably spending. And to think, he probably pulled all of the equity out of his current house or any savings he had left. (Shaking my head).. I just feel bad for him.

  38. Bob Ernst

    Thank goodness I found this site! I’m scheduled to go to the 3-day workshop June 2-4, 2017. After reading the responses on FB training on here and other sites, I’m not going.

    I was going to go with a co-worker who has invested in real estate and wanted to partner with him. Something he said about investors who lend money and their high rates made me look into this company more. I didn’t want to waste his time or mine but it sounds like that’s what I would have done.

    The only downside is I looked at the refund policy… it’s only 14 days. I purchased the course on April 22nd and the clock starts the next day which would have been May 7th. I missed it by 2 days.

    1. Mark

      Try to get your money back anyway. I did go to the seminar last year. The first thing the speaker said on day one is if you don’t think this is for you, head to the door now and we’ll refund your money.

      It’s a three day sales pitch with a few nuggets for the novice. The work the room pretty hard to get into your wallet.

  39. D. Alexander

    First of all, Great read! Secondly, I will be attending the 3 day workshop in June. I really appreciate all of the information provided here! Now that I know what to expect, I’ll apply my “eat the meat and spit out the bones” philosophy. I’m pretty sure I’ll learn some substance that I can apply later. Thanks again for your input. Different perspectives are very useful.

  40. Car Commuter

    Curiosity drove me to check out this post, which I found through an internet search after I’d recently heard a radio commercial for these seminars. Than Merrill’s seminars have been advertising in my area (NY/NJ) for years. Even though I have no interest at all in becoming a “flipper”, their commercials struck me as a particularly galling example of classic manipulative huckster techniques, and it seemed obvious that they were hoping to lure people in by dangling an easy path to wealth.

    Though the ads have been out there for a long time, they emphasized how urgent it was that you sign up right away for the purportedly imminently ending seminars. And, of course, NY and NJ were “purr-fect” markets for their system. I could be part of a handful of dedicated partners ready to jump on this opportunity through their proven system – using other people’s money!

    It caught my ear a short while ago, though, that they had added to the beginning of their ads (before you even realize an ad is starting) one of those super-fast-talking caveats, in a speeded-up distorted voice, like car commercials usually have at the end. The caveat indicates that results are not assured and are based on your efforts. As if there weren’t enough indicators that this was a slick con. I would venture a guess that was not added voluntarily.

    This post fills in the details that I had figured must be the case. I appreciate your efforts to make people aware of them, and I hope all who are pursuing this path take your advice and think critically about all the pitches tossed their way. Good luck to all.

    1. The Vagabond Post author

      Thanks, CC. You are spot on. As you no doubt know, NY and NJ are among the worst kind of markets for flips most of the time. Thanks for the kind words.

  41. Olga

    Great article. I was on a free seminar and got the same impression. They use psychological tricks to make you interested and willing to pay for education. The FB representative was just a motivational speaker. The idea was not to teach us something but to encourage and make believe that we, in fact, can do it. We need a “millionaire mindset”, as he told us. What is it anyway? 🙂 But the truth that there is a big difference between believing that you can do it and be able to do it for real. the worst thing, in my opinion, was that we were encouraged to use 401(k) plan to fund our deals. I think that was very irresponsible. Real estate is not as easy as they say it is. Without the experience, someone may lose all of his savings and be left with nothing. Most of the people on the seminar were in their 40-s and 50-s. If they lose their savings then what will happen with their retirement? Kind of cynical approach in my opinion.

  42. Tom Spallone

    Girlfriend signed me up for this seminar. I knew what it was on the outset but went with her for protection and to be the voice of reason.

    She was actually surprised that they were asking for money for the 3 day class.

    Really?

    The insult to intelligence was both disturbing and amusing at the same time.

    “Who wants to make a lot of money?”

    Really?

    “Who wants to spend more time with family?”

    Frankly, not me. Not if they’re stupid enough to fall for this type of mental manipulation.

    Putting people down who choose to shop and do the renovation work themselves.

    Everyone reading this knows what is needed to make money in real estate.

    It’s been mentioned before but, why would anyone want to “teach” you the “secrets” of flipping property in a down market, thereby creating more competition for you? That’s just bad business. Just on that alone you should shew this bullsh*t to the curb.

    This is the same as these vitamin salesman that highlight your poor health because you’re not taking the crap that they sell.

    EVERYTHING you need to know can be found on YouTube!

    EVERYTHING!!!

    And another thing; if your name is NATHAN, you call yourself Nate, not THAN!!! Ya dope!!!!!

    Maybe if you can take a hit on the football field you would have to resort to being a snake oil salesman!! LOLOL

    What a dope…..

  43. R. Shaw

    Thank God for Google, and thank God I ran across this site. I am soooooo glad I didn’t waste my time. I am scheduled to attend this seminar with Fortune Builders next Saturday. I will gladly be cancelling my slot. I am currently in the process of trying to obtain my PA sales license in Real Estate and thought that I would learn how to invest as well. I figured that it couldn’t hurt knowing both sides of the business. At this point, I cant afford to lose money. $197???? Hell, for $60 more they can enroll in the same course that I’m currently taking to get a licensed. LOL ….. Guess I’ll stick to doing my own research along with researching the new found sites that I learned of on this FREE website! Thanks a MILLION 🙂

  44. Michael

    Hello,
    Thank you for this post I really enjoyed it. I have never attended one of these FB seminars nor do I tend to. I am curious about a couple things…

    1. Vagabond states
    “We would be hearing a lot about the three day workshop for the next 75 minutes or so.”

    Then
    2.We were only twenty minutes into the presentation, but at this time, Kasper was ready
    to spring the trap

    Can you please explain?

    Next I am wondering do you have any monetary affiliation with bigger pockets?

    I am not interested in defending FB in any way shape or form. I am however tired of people coming to the aid of so called distressed people only to steer the money to their own pockets…

    I know BP is a free sight but now just as much money can be maid of advertisement affiliate programs ECT, through a free sight.

    I think if you are making any money from BP you should revise this blog and notify people that you stand to gain directly or indirectly monetarily wise from their traffic.

    1. The Vagabond Post author

      I’m not certain what you’re referring to in your first question. The overall seminar was approximately 75 minutes long, and was a continuous hard sell for the three day workshop. The trap that I refer to is one of the many mentions of the three day workshop. It occurred about 20 minutes into the session. It refers to using a false sense of scarcity or exclusivity by first suggesting that the three-day course costs $1,197, then offering a “special” discounted rate (which is offered to everyone who attends the free seminar, nationwide) of $197.

      With regard to your second question, No, I don’t have any professional, affiliate, or monetary affiliation of any kind with Bigger Pockets. I have simply benefitted from it as a free resource, and educated myself. I have never received, directly or indirectly, any payment from Bigger Pockets. I am not even a paid member of their site.

  45. Michael

    Thank you for clearing that up. I misunderstood the 75 minute sentence, as you were 75 minutes into the presentation.

    I appreciate your transparency in regards to Bigger Pockets. I feel much more comfortable looking into using the sight as resource.

    You may want to consider mentioning that some where within you’re blog post. I believe it will help you’re readers in the future rest assure that you’re assessment of FB is truly unbiased.

    Thanks again for the clarity keep up the good work!

  46. Joe

    I get tickets for this real estate crap all the time, when I open the envelope and see what it is, there’s a very special place I put that stuff…..in the garbage, I don’t have “sucker” stamped on my forehead, besides all they are doing is a get you in there technique…no thanks, they’re not going to gain more wealth by stealing from my pocket…. they’re all crooks

  47. Lisa

    Well thank you for this site. I just went to the 2 hour class and was excited, so spent $297 – yes, it’s gone up or it’s just because Denver is a hot market now.

    After coming home and thinking about it, decided to come on the Internet and did a search and found your site.

    I’ll be calling to get my money back tomorrow. I did get caught up in the hype and then driving home started remembering some things that didn’t quite sit well.

    I recently had a friend ask if I knew anyone who wanted to buy their property for around $650K. It’s worth about $1million but needs a lot of work like a new roof and interior.

    So I asked presenter Woody (looks a lot like the guy Kasper in the photo above) how would someone verify the mortgage amount for the “pre-foreclosure” seller in order to sell a contract to a “cash buyer”.

    I already know how to look up property values and last sale price, etc but don’t know how to verify mortgage balances.

    He said, “You’re thinking like a realtor” (I actually was 30 years ago) like I had committed a great sin!

    I was somewhat embarrassed but decided to ask him more about it when he was done talking.

    He said I was describing a short sale where the bank was already involved and I WOULD need to go through a realtor to negotiate with the bank 🙂 Yup!

    I also wondered why he was doing seminars (sales pitches) if he was making so much money investing in real estate but I didn’t ask because I didn’t want to be perceived as rude.

    Yes, they are deceptive but so glad I found this site. I hope more of the people who signed up will take a while to think about it. Thanks for doing this Vagabond!

    He made it seem too easy to make the money and I stupidly took the bait.

    1. The Vagabond Post author

      How much did you give them, and for which of their “courses?” Check the paperwork you signed, which should outline any recourse you have to obtain a refund. If you are within your rights to ask for one, call Fortunebuilders and demand a refund *immediately*, as most of their return windows are extremely limited. If they refuse to refund you promptly, file a dispute with your credit card company for the charge.

      If you are outside of FortuneBuilder’s “official” refund window, then American Express, Discover, and Mastercard all offer some cards with return assistance/satisfaction guarantees, though that’s not every card they issue. If you charged your course to a credit card, see what protections the issuing bank or credit card company may be able to offer you.

      1. Lisa

        Follow up: Just received the $297 back on Sept 13, 4 days after asking for a refund. I didn’t sign any paperwork; just went to the back of the room and they swiped my credit card for $297.

        Calling on the phone I always got disconnected, but I was able to do this through email. I hope you get your money back Albert.

  48. Steve J

    Than is at it again. Over the last few days I have been hearing commercials from SF Bay Area radio stations proclaiming Than is looking for a few highly-motivated people to join his flipping team. Join his flipping team? Let me guess what that is:

    You have to give him a lot of money, and play the game. In the end you’ll be out the money, and on your own to flip.

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