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Are FortuneBuilders’ House Flipping Seminars a Scam?

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[Editor's Note: This article was refreshed on October 2, 2015. See the end of article for general change history.]

The other day I overheard a conversation between two people about flipping houses. One person had went to a seminar over the weekend to learn to flip houses. I cringed, but bit my tongue and didn't say anything.

I've been hearing commercials on the local radio for these seminars for a couple of months now. One of the stars of "Flip This House!", Than Merrill, was pitching the seminar saying something to the effect that he needs a few business partners in the area. The company running the seminars is called FortuneBuilders. Medford, Oregon's KTVL News 10 covers a few snippets of the commercial here:

Radio Ad:

"Do you want to learn how to make a ton of money flipping houses right here in Medford? My team and I are looking for a handful of people in the Medford area who want to learn how to consistently make a lot of money, per deal, in your spare time, without using any of your own money... Medford is a perfect market for my system.

KTVL News 10:

"It almost sounds too good to be true... kind of like a scam."

Did that wording make your Spidey-sense tingle like it did mine?

Are Flipping House Seminars a Scam

Are Flipping House Seminars a Scam?

It definitely sounded like a scam to me as I heard the same pitch in Rhode Island, thousands of miles away. It make you wonder if there are a lot of "perfect markets."

As my friend likes to say, "We have 'The Google!'"

Using "The Google", I found that there was a warning about FortuneBuilder seminars on Cleveland.com a couple of years ago. Than Merrill's seminars have gotten a review of NBC12 News Investigation that found, "Some of the advice we heard ranged from the questionable - to the absurd." You kind find the warnings about the seminars in Michigan as well. Even in Washington state where you'd have to be more or less a registered contractor to flip a house, the advertising continued.

Indeed it seems like FortuneBuilders has found a lot of "perfect markets."

Getting back to the conversation that I had overheard. The person was obviously excited about what she learned this weekend. She explained to her friend how that seminar was free, but that this next one was going to cost $1200 to get into all the details. As that Cleveland.com article says, "The Cincinnati Better Business Bureau, which sent staffers to one of Merrill's seminars downstate two weeks ago, said organizers told the crowd that its three-day real estate investment course costs $1,200 but those signed up that day could get it for $200."

A tremendous price difference like that raises another huge red flag for me. Is the value of the course $200 or $1200? I understand early bird pricing with seminars, but it usually 1/6th the price to act now or 6x more to think about it and research the FortuneBuilders overnight. I've seen a difference of a hundred dollars for the first few days... but this level is extreme. It reminds me of when a RainSoft salesman offered thousands of dollars in free soap if I signed that day.

I have to give FortuneBuilders a little credit for learning from how drug dealers work. Get them in for free and hook them with a combination of an extreme urgency deal and use the sunk costs to push the next thing.

The "Business" of Flipping Houses

I can see how people get sucked in. I love watching house flipping shows on television. I get sucked into Flipping Vegas. I find it entertaining when Scott goes ape-poop crazy if there's an extra $300 expense. Or when one of his contractors asks for an extra scoop of porridge only to receive 30 lashings (this may not have actually happened). Then he drives off in one of his million dollar sports cars at the end of the show. He might be the nuttiest-nut on television.

I also love watching Flipping Boston. I feel like I grew up with Peter and Dave, just as Boston as Boston can be. I tell my DVR to record every episode. I particularly like these shows for background noise while I do work. I don't have to follow it like an episode of 24.

Here's the thing about these shows: they are entertainment. Have you noticed that they never lose money on a house? I must have seen 200 of these shows in my life and I can't recall ever seeing them end up in the red. They seem to make at least $50,000 for about 5-6 weeks of work... EVERY TIME. It's easy to see how someone could watch these shows and think, "I can make a half million a year doing this."

And when you hear a too-good-to-be-true-sounding radio pitch from FortuneBuilders, you almost wonder how anyone escapes it.

What the Flip This House viewers might not realize is that the people in the shows are professionals and have been doing this for years. It's their full-time job, not something they do on the weekend to make a little extra cash. It isn't done in their spare time as the radio suggests. In many cases they are contractors and designers themselves which allow them to cut major costs of hiring contractors and designers. With the shows themselves, I often wonder if they get a break on some labor and materials as a kickback for having them featured in the show. All of these things are impossible to duplicate for the average amateur. Even a professional isn't going to a break on labor or materials for advertising a brand on television.

FortuneBuilders Criticized by Yahoo Finance

In November 2014, Yahoo Finance criticized their marketing techniques. It called them out for not being transparent that they are trying to lure people into the $34,000 program. It also questioned them for telling people to put that money on credit cards with double digit interest.

The response was that people were "investing in themselves" with a comparison being made to college. That drew more criticism as these seminars aren't accredited and there's no transparency into where the money is going like colleges and universities.

If you want to use the same logic, why not pay me $34,000 to teach you how to blog. Hey it's investing in yourself, right?

FortuneBuilders Isn't Alone. See: Armando Montelongo

Years ago, I meant to write how Armando Montelongo was doing a similar thing using Flip This House to sell his teaching kit. Unfortunately, I never got the article off the cutting room floor.

Fortunately, Forbes did... and their article was a lot more scolding than mine would have been. With an "F" from the Better Business Bureau, he's raking in $50 million selling house flipping kits. The Forbes article is a great read at how dangerous the advice can be in flipping houses (such as taking on a large amount of high-interest debt). That seems to be a theme with seminars costing tens of thousands of dollars. Robert Kiyosaki's seminars were caught doing the same thing.

FortuneBuilders Conclusion

I don't want to discourage people from being entrepreneurs and I certainly don't want to discourage them from getting education. This seems close to some of the MLMs that I cover, where the people making the money aren't the ones digging for gold... they are the ones selling the shovels and pick axes. And like with the MLMs, extremely few people seem to ever find a speck of gold.

The ones that do are trumpeted as examples of success. Consumers aren't given the full picture. If they were, people might not buy the shovels and pick axes.

My advice as usual. Stay away from high-cost, unaccredited, seminars that rarely seem to work. As Mark Cuban says: "I don't broadcast my great deals. I keep them all to myself. The 2nd thing to remember is that if the person selling the deal was so smart, they would be rich beyond rich rather than trolling the streets looking to turn you into a sucker. There are no shortcuts."

In short, if Than Merrill really found a perfect market, he would not be likely to be telling people about it. He'd hire a group of managers and contractors in the area to take advantage of the situation.

Refreshes

This article has undergone what I call refreshing. Sometimes, I get more information from readers in the comments or I'll read another article on the topic. I feel like incorporating this information into the article improves the reader experience. I tend to class them as minor and major refreshes.

January 1, 2015 Refresh (Minor)

- Added information from Yahoo Finance review.

October 2, 2015 Refresh (Major)

- Changed Title from Flip This House to FortuneBuilders. When I was starting my research, I went off the name Than Merrill who I knew from Flip This House. I don't recall the commercial saying anything about FortuneBuilders and my initial research into this was from Armando Montelongo also from Flip This House. Montelongo has his own $25,000 house flipping seminars. Armed with more information, it isn't fair for me to categorize this as being related to Flip This House as the show's producers may not be connected. However, it is worth noting the connection.

- Added Medford, Oregon's KTVL News 10's coverage

- Added Conclusion

Last updated on October 4, 2015.

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92 Responses to “Are FortuneBuilders’ House Flipping Seminars a Scam?”

  1. Kathy says:

    Yeah, these shows all follow the same format. They find a run down house that only needs cosmetic fixes. Then after sledgehammering some walls they find major electrical or plumbing issues that increase the cost. The flipper goes crazy and forlornly looks into the camera and says that he can’t lose money, this is their entire life savings etc. Then the house is complete and they get same crazy amount for the neighborhood. It looks to me like they always overdo the house for where it is located. Having done a few rentals to sell, I can tell you the improvements don’t bring in huge $$ if it isn’t in the right neighborhood.

  2. At the hotel I work at, we have these all the time. I do the billing for these events, and let me tell you, they rake in tons of money! With the Armando Montelongo ones, most people crowd to them hoping that he’ll be there, but he never is.

  3. Cathie says:

    I actually have seen one or two where the house never sold. For me, the stress and the work involved seems like way more than I’d want to take on, no matter the outcome. And my husband is quick to point out that in the final calculations, there is usually something major that they haven’t figured in, skewing the “profit.”

  4. EG says:

    Thank you for doing an honest assessment of seminars and programs like this so people do not get scammed.

    It is nice to know that there are still honest people who take the time to warn others of dubious people and their schemes. It is a great help. Thank you!

  5. Marshall G says:

    I find it interesting that you consider yourself qualified to pose an opinion on something that you obviously don’t know anything about. You haven’t attended any of the conferences. So this article should hold little value at all to any reader.

    Well, I did attend a 3 day summit from furtunebuilders.com. While I found their marketing techniques to be aggressive (unnecessarily as it is a good product) the product and services offered do actually have significant value. If you have any business intelligence at all, you should be able to see the technique for what it is. My estimation is that people who complain and write negative articles about fortunebuilders: 1.) have never gone to the summit 2.) don’t have the money to buy the product, so in their anger about the situation they blame and bash 3.) Are too lazy and/or incompetent to ever run a real estate business. 4.) all of the above.

    I am not buying their product in any case. There are much cheaper options for folks dedicated to a successful real estate investment company. For some people there is good value in the “system” they are selling. YMMV.

  6. Lazy Man says:

    I presented the reader with a multitude of research. There are dozens of reputable local news reports warning of the scam.

    So in order to present my research of many local news reports and help a friend avoid the scam, I have to 1) Waste 3 days at the summit 2) Spend the money for the product 3) Run a real estate business (Wait, I already do that and have written about it in detail) 4) All of the above?

    Sorry, but that’s simply not reasonable. If I wasted my time at the seminar, but didn’t buy you’d complain that I didn’t buy so my opinion is worthless. If I went and bought and didn’t succeed using it, you’d complain that was too lazy and/or incompetent to use the material and my opinion is based in anger and not logic. If I go, and buy it, and succeed, then I can have a valid opinion. However, that scenario restricts all negative views as that set of qualified people, by definition, have success and wouldn’t give a negative review.

    People could say all the same things about someone giving a negative review of an illegal pyramid scheme. I read it all the time.

    The important thing to remember is that these people are professionals and their shows are entertainment. The public expectation from watching the shows is that every house flip makes $50,000 and they make big money 100% of the time.

    As Mark Cuban says, “There are no shortcuts. NONE. With all of this craziness in the stock and financial markets, there will be scams popping up left and right. The less money you have, the more likely someone will come at you with some scheme . The schemes will guarantee returns, use multi level marketing, or be something crazy that is now ‘backed by the US Government’. Please ignore them. Always remember this. If a deal is a great deal, they aren’t going to share it with you.

    I don’t broadcast my great deals. I keep them all to myself. The 2nd thing to remember is that if the person selling the deal was so smart, they would be rich beyond rich rather than trolling the streets looking to turn you into a sucker. There are no shortcuts.”

    It seems that the Flip This House people found that there’s more money, or easier money, selling seminars than flipping houses. Otherwise, they’d do like Cuban says and keep their secrets rather than creating an army of competitors. They’d start small companies in each city where they train their employees to find the best properties do the flip, and get a big cut of the profits.

  7. David says:

    there is no easy way to make money … I don’t care what any one tells you .. Even the people scamming other people work there butt off to scam people .. Another day another dollar …more money more murder

  8. Lazy Man says:

    Well, investing wisely seems to be a fairly easy way. Make your money work for you.

  9. Antony says:

    I’ve been to a few training seminars with some of the gurus like Robert Kiyosaki, Robert Allen, and recently Than Merrill. I have to say that the modules are all the same. First they never show up, they have trainers. Second, the only information they give is the information they offer in their training programs that’s way too expensive. Third, the training program sucks itself. I received great information that could be outdated next year with no support to go out and take action. All I received was a 1800 number and an email address. I really gave up on these gurus. But I have to let you guys know that I did find and investing mentorship training company that I think no one knows about yet. Man these guys are awesome. Its an entire community built around the training. My coaches and mentors actually held my hand with my very first deal. They also have a mastermind group were they go out and do different deals together. Fix and flip isn’t the only strategy they teach. They teach wholesaling, lease/option, tax liens, deeds, and notes, short sales, and even credit repair. The program cost but it is a great investment. You could finance the training which is great. If you guys want me to put you on, email me at [Editor’s Note: This is the place to promote yourself].
    Oh yeah, the company is across the nation.

  10. LB says:

    I don’t trust anyone’s opinion that uses bad grammar…..

  11. Lazy Man says:

    For what it’s worth, I have a college degree in linguistics and computer science. I take grammar seriously.

    However, I have a lot of things that I want to write about and it doesn’t afford me the time to proofread for grammar. Sometimes I change sentence structure while writing and don’t get back to changing the subject to agree with the verb.

    If you want to pay for an editor, your contribution to this site will be appreciated.

    Otherwise, perhaps you should judge the content on the merits of the ideas and arguments presented. Or maybe you want to be helpful and point out what any grammar issues you think you see.

  12. sankey says:

    Re: Anthony says Jan.8th. 2015
    I agree with your comments as I have been to many seminars and all you get for your money is an 800 number and an email address. I would surely like to join a group like the one you mentioned. [Editor’s note: Sorry, Sankey, this isn’t the place to share contact information.]

    Thanks

  13. Sunny says:

    I went to one of his free seminars and then paid the $197 to attend the next one. While I was there I wanted to take a SHOWER. These people are the biggest scam artists in the market today. Shameful. All of them. They pressure you to pay $40K and say your are special. I do not know how Than Merrill can live with himself. What a disgrace.

  14. Antony says:

    So all of the 1% (The Wealthy) of the American population speaks proper English or grammar? Ignorance

  15. ananymous says:

    I would be better off volunteering my time to habitat for humanity. At least I’d be giving back to the community while I’m learning how to build better homes.

  16. Tyler says:

    Did the local news reports tell you that you can receive the entirety of your money back if at any point you feel you are being scammed? They write you a check on the spot for the $197.00 if you feel that you have been taken. Yes, you are essentially hearing a sales pitch, but they will refund you right then and there if need be.

  17. dood says:

    Great info. Thanks. It means a lot to those who see those scumbags on tv and wander if this is true? I have done sales, home improvement and have a business now as well. And one thing holds true from the author is the fact that NO ONE will provide you with a easy system to MAKE MONEY!!! Stupid people, rich did not get rich by sharing.

    I love this idiot commenting on grammar! Go F your self you idiot. Hopefully you dislike my grammar, you chimp.

    Advice to those who are about to enlist for seminar; DONT its a scaaaaaaaaaammmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. Tv does not tell you the whole story, but their ads will? No, you are getting dupped into paying them even more money, while you get a loan to pay off; or at least spend $200 that they enjoy which pays for their new car.

  18. Lazy Man says:

    You can read the newspaper websites yourself… I linked to them.

    I think Enzyte Male Enhancement Pills offered a money back guarantee as well. Often it isn’t quick and easy to get your money back. It’s best not to get in that situation.

    Why not turn the tables and have people pay at the end if they think it is worth it? It would be the same thing as giving everyone who didn’t find value refunds.

  19. Uncle Lar says:

    Armando Montelongo’s road show reminds me of the old black and white movies of carpet-baggers selling ‘miracle cures’ off the tail gate of a bouncy, rattling wagon. “Step right up! I have the solution to all your problems!” Armando’s flipping program is a pyramiding program shrouded in hype. His lawyers have made sure to protect him with all the right documents, and he recruited the right high-dollar salesmen to ‘front’ the sale. Some milking the ‘I’m an underappreciated vet’ angle and ‘I have a considerable education background’ reassurance. Armando Montelongo and his attorneys know the typical psychology and harshness of time limits involved, and they exploit it to the maximum. Before Armando and his revolving door of “mentors” helped me close my first deal, they jumped me TWICE with their “one shot offer” to join their exclusive circle of “we talk directly to Armando” club IF I would pay them another $25,000! …the sales pitches to support the salesmen (male & female.) Lots of them. Goldman-Sacs types and finance washouts chasing the quick buck. Beware: you do not have to go to North Dakota to get to Fargo. Just go to San Antonio or let San Antonio come to you. Armando Montelongo Companies are designed to funnel money to the kingpin….not train and support REI wanttobes. Beware….

  20. Don says:

    For the grammar critic, opinions don’t use bad grammar nor are opinions even aware that they exist.

  21. Alan says:

    I actually think it’s worth going to their free seminar to see what info you can pickup on however their ultimate goal is to pressure you into paying for an extremely expensive education & software system. I personally bypassed their overpriced system…

    [Editor’s Note: “…” indicates that this comment has been truncated to remove a possible competing product. This isn’t the place for a sales pitch.]

  22. willow says:

    After reading the perspective comments I have decided to not attend the seminar in Huntsville Alabama. Thanks for the informative review .

  23. Mizlady10 says:

    Thank you for this article. A month ago I saw an advertisement for Armando Montelongo seminar and almost bought into his sales pitch until he talked about living in a garage, being on food stamps, blah, blah, blah and with his last $50 he became rich. That reminded me of my granddad talking about walking 40 miles through the sleet and snow to work 15 hours a day, blah, blah I knew it was bs.

    But Merrill Than, on other hand, comes off so much more sincere. He has one of those faces people trust and the director of his commercial cast actors that seemed believable and relatable for the most part. And to top it off, on the advertisement they show books and CDs and say they are completely free when you sign up and attend the free seminar.

    I was just going to sign up online and the link to this article popped up when I googled the event. I am grateful I clicked on it. I think it is so disgusting to target an audience that largely struggles already. It sucks because it does sound like something that could make many people’s lives easier without a formal education or any disposable income. Unfortunately, not everyone will read your article and for many, their lives will have another struggle. This article stopped me from making a big mistake. Thanks Lazy Man!

    As for the person critiquing grammar, you are ridiculous. You must have way too much time on your hands if you thought anyone gave a shit about your trust issues. You must not trust yourself, lol…. (You used bad grammar)

  24. DA91 says:

    THank you for all the helpful information. I was going to attend the Than Merrill seminar in Phoenix next week but after reading all the reviews and warnings about this I will pass on it. Thanks for all the honest and helpful info

  25. Matt says:

    Lazy Man, I am confused. If anyone has $25,000 to $40,000, or the ability to produce said figures, to purchase a ‘program’ to buy houses, do you not already have what you need to buy the house. If you buy, sell and profit you learned. With $25-40,000 more in profit. If you buy, sell and do not profit, I guarantee, you still learned, and will probably profit next one. I find it hard to believe, some one could amas $25-40,000, and not be able to reasonably negotiate expenses and do the math on a project. The first time I heard of a similar program ten years ago, I said if it worked, they would be too busy doing it, and not have the time to tell us how to do it. I have all of the tools/equipment/knowledge( and sum guuud gramar) to rebuild/remodel any aspect of any house. I do not have money. If I could come up with $25-40,000, I am spending it on a house. And might have it sold before their $25-40,000 ‘yell-inar’ is finished.

  26. Lazy Man says:

    If this was for people who had significantly more spare cash than $25-40K… enough to buy a house afterwards, they wouldn’t advertise it as free seminar and use it to draw people into increasingly high priced items.

  27. UncleLar1027 says:

    Exactly! Cody Sperber, Nancy Geils, Armando Montelongo, Mr. “REO Rockstar” south Florida are all scamming would be investors instead of doing it themselves. They are one trick ponies, and even guys like Phill Grove ultimately are doing the same thing. They make their money off selling their system. What they are really flipping is your money to their accounts.

  28. Randy says:

    I recently attended a Fortune Builder / Than Merrill 3 day event and learned a fair amount but also endured way too many sales pitches. I did not purchase the big ticket mastery program, but many of those who comment on the program also have not experienced the program. I think to be fair, comments should be restricted to the free pitch and the 3 day event unless someone has first hand info about the actual program. From the few sites I have read reviews, I have heard very little from anyone who has actually put their money down and tried the program. That would be an informed source, and if there were a significant number of comments from participants, then that would be informative.

  29. Lazy Man says:

    Good thoughts Randy, but I’m not sure how many of those people are going to come here to comment.

    My issue is more about the mass radio pitch that I’ve heard in many cities. It’s usually more or less the same, “Your market is ideal for flipping houses… I’m looking for people to join my team…” If that was honestly his goal, then he’d hire people and train them. He wouldn’t try to get them to pay thousands for education and teach them to take his business opportunities (flipping houses) away from him.

    The people with the money to get into his big ticket program (with the cash to buy into and flip houses) have enough money to have his business people call up Than Merrill and say, “Let’s work together” and not have tiered approach of sales pitches.

  30. Laurie Rhodes says:

    I appreciate the comments and advice. When you have a good heart and desire a better life for your family, you can fall easy to a warm pitch especially from some of the ones that had the extra money to invest and did well. It gives you the confidence to believe you can do it too. I believe if you have a strong mind and can avoid the sales pitch at the end you could learn something. My problem is you are trading time for potential money, and if you are not one of those lucky ones that already were thinking of investing and had the money to do that, you potentially could be short money for the time you spent to attend the seminar.
    So thanks for the info. I have decided not to do this, I want to have my own business, and so I have been taking time on the weekends to talk with other business owners in the community I patronize that I have an interest in. I ask them the good, the bad and the ugly truths about how they got to be where they are. These folks are where we already spend our money, they are truly willing to give FREE advice to help give you an idea of where to start and how much money it will cost. Yes you are trading time for but for info on your daily evening or weekend errand. I get much out of this and take note to where they failed, that is the key. Take note to that and it will help when making a decision in what direction you may go. Most people when they interview for a job list all their achievements and success. Who wouldn’t, but it is when you can admit where you failed in your lifetime is when you begin to really grow!
    Now, to the grammer critic, yes I can clearly understand that grammer errors, and I am sure I have them here really bother some with extensive education and passion for it being correct. My problem and it seemed a few had these comments, was I agree, when giving an opinion, and especially if you are wound up or being expressively passionate, people tend to use run on’s etc. Like me, but most people reading these blogs and commentary, are interested in the opinion, and don’t give a “shit” about how the words look! That’s a whole other blog!

    Good luck all, I will not be attending the seminar, I will continue to gather information and spend more time researching before making a decision in what direction to go and grow!

  31. Jim says:

    Thanks. Sometimes the obvious needs a little research before it’s confirmed to be obvious. (This is where I would write numerous cliches and possibly kill enough grammar and spelling to cause an uproar!) I won’t be attending any seminars or pitching my own “get rich quick and do it using correct grammar” business.

  32. robkillgo says:

    as a truck driver i here radio stations all over the county. i chuckle each time i am traveling through a city and here another seminar commercial from the same guy i just recently went to hear in my home state of texas! (and no, they are never actually there themselves) yes, they all try to get you there to sell you more information after the seminar. no, i have not spent any money after any seminar. yes, all the gurus are putting out the same radio ads. yes, i have attended some of the seminars. i figured i would get all the free info i can at each one. only thing is… i already know what they are telling me for free. lol hope this helps.
    yes, i was a natural english ace in school. no, i dont care while writing this. my point is made with proper english or not. hehe

  33. Nadia says:

    I am sitting in a seminar right here in Austin, Texas in a room full of mostly unaware peoplpeople, and I feel slightly responsible. As an architecture student, I went into this professionally, thinking the knowledge would expand my expertise in the field, but I haven’t learned anything yet. Bunch of fluff to take up time and space, and engage the crowd. Speaker just said, “I would rather have SOME profit, rather than NO profit.” “If you snooze, you lose.” Gotta take advantage of that deal quickly! …throught our company of course. Through which you will only earn a portion of the profit. Then I left.

  34. wyzz says:

    wow. they are having one of these seminars today, I was looking into it and the commentary here makes me glad I am not attenting; I once got suckered into an MLM (I was very young, and it didn’t make sense, but they assured me it was mathematically sound, legal, etc. Needless to say, it was not. My mathematical proof that it could not work was discounted by them on the grounds that I was using only numbers, not experience. I do not watch TV, and have only heard of the show, so I thought that it may have had merit: I am glad I read your article. (I am likely to read more of your posts, and just to keep the grammar police alert, I accidently slipped in a few mistooks ;)

  35. […] end. I don't think I've ever seen them lose money. (Side Note: This unfortunately leads to those shady house flipping seminars that you hear on the radio.) Reality check: Flipping houses is difficult and requires a lot of specialized knowledge, […]

  36. G says:

    I joined the Mastery program, and even the Inner Circle package after that. Its not a scam, its an education. Over the past year I spent roughly 600 hours getting trained by them. That includes TEN separate 3-day live events, each on a different aspect of real estate investing (marketing, wholesaling, rehabbing, raising capital, short sales, REOs, creating your website and social media presence, sales and negotiating techniques, mindset, and passive income rental properties). They also have an ever growing database of probably 500+ 90-minute webinars that you can take on demand. You get access to all of the systems and strategies that they’ve developed over the past 10+ years, which they continue to refine. Their real estate business is still kicking ass. The owners moved from Connecticut to San Diego about six years ago. When they did they closed down their CT office, and started a San Diego office from scratch. Six years later that San Diego office now does about 150 rehabs per year. Its roughly a 10-person office, which functions without any of the original owners doing any of the day-to-day work. I know because I spent this past Friday through Sunday IN their actual office, learning how they operate. They’re very good at systematizing things. Test, implement, evaluate, refine. Read the E-Myth. They started as technicians, progressed to managers, and ended up as true entrepreneurs. Now they can go on vacation for weeks or months at a time, and collect a large check from their real estate business. My education package included access to ALL of the proven systems and marketing materials they used to get there, plus 24 coaching calls with other successful investors who have already gone through the program and now have a full-time investing businesses of their own. In my market alone I personally know of five other students who went through the program a few years before me and now do real estate full time, making way more money in less time than they did in their previous lives (corporate, healthcare, military, engineer, and even a lawyer). I’m in the process of transitioning myself. My Inner Circle package also included them creating my website for me, incorporating my business for me, a corporate compliance coach, a business credit coach. You also get access to a private community on Facebook with 10K+ other student investors from all over the country. Its an extremely supportive and active community. Even after your coaching calls run out, you can still post any real estate question to the group, and expect to get a ton of great advice and feedback (often from those same coaches). Students often partner with the coaches in real life deals. If this lengthy post doesn’t convince you that FortuneBuilders is legit, go to FBwins.com and sese for yourself. That is where students get to upload deals or “wins” of their own, all of which get verified. I’ve posted some of my own, and I personally know maybe 30+ other folks shown, from meeting them at live events. You could also check out RealEstateIgnite.com, which shows footage from last year’s biggest training event in Vegas. Those bodies you see filtering into the giant exhibition space and networking in the halls are other Mastery students like me. Again, the Mastery program is just an education. A great one. An invigorating one. However, they don’t guarantee results because its up to YOU to implement what they teach you. If you’re lazy then this program is NOT for you. If you like to make excuses then this program is NOT for you. However, if you’re willing to put in the work to learn from them and implement their proven systems, then this program could be the catalyst that changes your life for the better. Truly, I’m 100% satisfied.

  37. Lazy Man says:

    G,

    I’ve done a little more research since I wrote the article and multiple reputable sources are saying stay away. Here is one. Here is another.

    Some of the reputable forums point out that the people selling these courses pay people to post positive reviews in the forums. You appear to be one of those people with a name of simply “G” and the email address you used that says straight out that you are “third party marketing.”

    You can’t simply explain something away by saying that it is up to the person to apply the coaching. I could charge you $50,000 to learn my blogging tricks and techniques. They aren’t nearly worth $50,000. I could also also claim that if you aren’t able to turn them into millions, it is because you didn’t implement my proven system. That line of logic is clearly such BS.

  38. Yvonne Wilson says:

    I actually signed up for the free seminar and I want to check it out. There may be some snippets of valuable info I could glean…also, it trains me to spot BS no matter what form it comes in. I’LL post later on what happens at this little seminar…

  39. G says:

    Lazy Man,

    I used an alias email for my previous post because I wasn’t sure who would be able to see it, and with all previous posts from others on this thread sounding negative, I didn’t want to be inundated with emails. Your claim that I may be paid by FortuneBuilders to post positive reviews got me to change my mind though. So, I’m now posting with my actual company email. I’ve also identified my website. I don’t work for them, and I’ve never been paid by them to do anything. I didn’t click your new links about people saying to “stay away”, because I’m already a very happy customer. However, I’m doubtful that those reviewers actually joined the full Mastery program, put in the 15 hours per week that they tell us to expect, or actually IMPLEMENTED the proven systems. And to your comment about whether or not an education is worth $50k, would you have the same reservations about college tuition? I have two engineering degrees from a prestigious Institute on the east coast, and $50k wouldn’t even cover their freshman year expenses to attend right now. Including my Masters degree, the retail value of my college education was north of $300k. Within five years of working as an engineer in the private sector, I was making $100k per year. However, my quality of life stunk because I was routinely working 50-60 hours per week, and pulling 1-2 all-nighters per month. High school guidance counselors fail to mention that part of the equation. If you spent that $50k on one year of college, you wouldn’t have a degree, nor any real marketable skills. If you spend that same amount of money and time on the FortuneBuilders Mastery program, you end up with an immediately applicable education in real estate investing, business, and entrepreneurship. You also get a business entity setup for you (S-corp or LLC), and they build your website for you. I know a couple from Hawaii whose very first deal netted them a $100k profit. Granted that’s bigger than the normal $30k to $50k profit I normally see in my market, but one deal in one year can still payback your entire education. That’s a 100% ROI, with the sky being the limit after that. Not sure where else you can find that potential in pretty much any market in the country with any educational background (or lack thereof). Again, I’m NOT and employee of theirs, and I’m NOT being paid to write this review. I’m just a 100% satisfied customer, who gets irritated when people talk negatively about something they’ve never actually tried. I’m not saying it’s a good fit for you personally, but the negative tone of the blog and echoing comments that followed probably caused other people to avoid something that could have changed their life for the better.

  40. Lazy Man says:

    Don’t equate an accredited college education that is recognized everywhere with an unaccredited class. If you read my article and watched the link in the update, you’d know that professional journalists took them task for that line of thinking.

    That’s why I ended the article saying that I too can teach you to blog to $34,000. That’s a bargain compared to nearly $200,000 in 4-years of college tuition, right? Everybody give me your money and lets be bloggers! If you implement my system you’ll be rich too. (Side Note: Not everyone will implement my blogging system. They are losers who don’t want money and are too lazy to work for it.) Don’t you see what’s wrong with your logic here?

    Setting up a business entity is not a lot of money and a website is even a good deal cheaper. It’s like saying, they give you a free mint if you buy a $100 steak dinner. That may be nice, but it doesn’t help if they are serving McDonalds hamburgers. I’m not saying they are doing that, but their marketing techniques of not being upfront at the beginning with the pricing suggests to me that they are are.

    You can payback much more than your original investment with the lottery. The question is whether it really happens. Hey, I know someone who won $500 on a scratch ticket once, so I guess that’s like your Hawaiian couple, right? I’ve followed a good amount of amateur house flippers and they lose money or at best work really hard to make very little money. It’s not like the television shows when every deal is a $100k profit.

    I don’t know how you anyone can talk positively about this. Again, watch the Yahoo clip that I highlighted as they brought up many of the same points. When you hear the same cookie cutter commercial on the radio from multiple states around the US it should be obvious to everyone. It seems clear this place just goes on tours saying (paraphrased), “[Your city] is perfect for our system. We are trying to grow our team in [your area] and we want you to come to our free workshop.” It’s been awhile since I heard the pitch and I can’t remember if there are income claims made or not. It was just really scammy sounding that everywhere seems to be a perfect place to flip houses, and luring people in under the impression that they were getting the education for free. As many here have mentioned, it’s mostly a sales pitch to pay more money to come back and learn more. In my opinion, any way you slice it, it stinks.

    They deserve to be called out for it. If they want to charge that kind of money, they should get accredited just like colleges and universities.

    When you check with true real estate investment sites, numerous people with longstanding reputations that you can verify say stay away.

    (Thanks for including your website. I’ll try to check it out when my vacation is over.)

  41. Stephen says:

    Simply stating something positive about Fortune Builders does not mean it’s a paid review.

  42. Lazy Man says:

    Yes, but when I see others say the organization uses paid reviews and they already appear to have sketchy business practices, they lose the benefit the doubt. If they want to fix those practices, get accredited, and do all that, maybe I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt.

  43. TL says:

    Lazy Man,

    I’ve read your review and your rebuttal to lots of the reviews. It seems that your style of commentary leads that only your way can be the correct way. I thought you wrote a very detailed review of the company but it seems like once someone said anything positive (which could be their actual experience) you completely shun them. Why is that? I am asking as someone who is interested in getting the information and has an open mind (as well as an undergraduate degree and an MBA so I am not just a blind consumer). I see so many people who say “I didn’t do it…dodged a bullet” but they are usually the “tire-kicker” type of person. I’ve then also seen the reviews (from “G” particularly) that say that he/she tried the product and it worked. You only praise the people who didn’t try the product and vehemently deny those who say that it may have worked.

    I’m not trying to attack you at all. Like I said you wrote a very detailed article about your opinion. But isn’t it rational to believe that some people (though expensive) have been able to see success with the fortune builders tools?

  44. Lazy Man says:

    Thanks for the comment TL.

    I think I do a good amount of research and it helps me form a strong opinion. I start with an open mind, but opinions form when you get the information. There’s enough consumer watchdogs telling people to beware that it should be all you need to know. The radio commercial screamed “SCAM!” to me. They were worded like Than Merrill is looking for someone to “join the team”, but in that scenario, he’d simply just hire qualified people. If he couldn’t do that, he’d hire and train them to be qualified. If there really was a good opportunity, that’s the route he’d choose… he has the money. Instead he’s selling the class at expensive prices (as you say), and taking on zero risk. He’s pushing that risk on the people paying to take the classes. It doesn’t match with the message in the radio commercials that there’s so much opportunity here. (Plus the commercials are similar in many markets, so the opportunity is everywhere.)

    It is true that some people have left good reviews here. Most of the time they are anonymous and unverified. I wrote this article over a year ago and the typical way people find it is by going to Google and searching for “Flip This House Scam” or something of that nature. If someone has had a legitimate good experience why are they spending their time searching for that? They don’t need to research anything online because they’ve already supposedly had a great experience with it, right? It makes me think that what others wrote about them placing false reviews online is true.

    Is it possible that someone had success with FortuneBuilders? Sure. It’s possible to have success in buying a lottery ticket too. It’s not an investment though. So now we are talking about the success rate of people, which I haven’t seen reliably published and audited. Who wants to spend $25,000 for a 1 in a million chance? Not me. What I’ve seen on the BiggerPockets forums is that you can get the same information for a lot less money. So why not just be successful taking that route and save thousands of dollars?

  45. Kevin says:

    I went to their three day seminar this weekend in Sacramento and I too get the idea that it was a scam, my wife and I did the interview and explained to them we know we are not qualified because of the funds but are inspired to follow the lead if they can offer some and we was pretty much dismissed with no further information other than we didn’t qualify…

  46. Dolphin Girl says:

    G/Lazyman,

    I like the discussions between you two. I just got home from the Than Merrill seminar and thought to myself, my life is about to finally change for the better. I work way too many hours for an architecture firm that doesn’t pay overtime and come home feeling like I’ve held my breath all day. I did sign up for the 3 day seminar coming up in January and I plan to be fully dedicated to the world of real estate. With my passion for design, I felt I may have an advantage. I want to have my own business. I want to be my own boss. I want to enjoy life. While purchasing the 3day seminar tickets a guy named Dell mentioned a couple students are now featured on the house flipping shows on HGTV. Has anyone done research to find out if this is true?

  47. G says:

    Dolphin Girl,

    Let me be the first to congratulate you on deciding to attend the three-day seminar. I’m extremely confident that you will learn a ton and consider it both time and money well spent, regardless of whether you choose to pursue further paid education with them. I can already tell that you have the right mindset and motivation though, which is a huge plus.

    You’re also correct about multiple FortuneBuilders Mastery students being featured on TV. Amy Mahjoory with Blue Ink Homes in Chicago was given a four-episode run on House Hunters. I believe that the third episode just aired this past week. I’ve also heard that Jenna Hoover out of Pennsylvania has a show of her own currently under development. I think her brand/company is Jenna Buys Houses.

    To the folks who think that Than Merrill and FortuneBuilders are a scam, I would like to point out that Than just co-authored a new book with Michael Gerber called the E-Myth Real Estate Investor. Michael Gerber has sold millions of books, and his original E-Myth book is considered one of the best small business books of all time. Michael also gave a rare hour-long live talk to Mastery students during this year’s annual Ignite conference in Vegas. That man is already a millionaire many times over, and he wouldn’t sully his reputation or brand by being associated with someone who is a fraud.

    I’ve also attached a link to photos of a property that we just finished renovating this past week in San Diego, which just hit the MLS yesterday. Based on the verbal offers that we received during the last two weeks of construction, we should clear about $35k in profit on this particular deal with none of my own money involved, and none of my own manual labor.

    The systems and strategies that FortuneBuilders teaches do work. All you have to do is learn them and implement them.

    http://ranchophotos.com/1326-finch-st/

    Regards,
    -G

  48. Lazy Man says:

    Once again, I can teach people how to blog and charge $25,000 for it. I’m not going to represent that as a likelihood to making big money as the FortuneBuilder commercials do. I would also not lure people in progressively more expensive classes. My blogging strategies would work too… you just need to implement them. So who wants to be the first to Paypal me $25,000?

    It’s not about the information being bad. It’s that the information is easily obtained for cheap or free and not through deceptive marketing practices.

    Jenna Hoover looks like a model… perhaps that’s why she’s being featured on TV. Amy Mahjoory isn’t bad looking either. It’s quite the coincidence, right?

  49. G says:

    Lazy Man,

    You’re correct that Jenna Hoover and Amy Mahjoory are both attractive females. I also agree with you that its not a coincidence they were offered TV shows before less attractive people. Thats an issue you should take up with the TV industry though, since it has nothing to do with FortuneBuilders. What you’ve failed to acknowledge with your snarky comments is that Jenna and Amy are both hugely successful real estate investors now in their respective markets, doing a dozen or more deals per year. So, based on those MERITS and the extremely quick growth of their businesses, I would say that their TV coverage is warranted. Anyone who’s not so cynical by default would likely agree.

    Let me know when a national TV show decides to start covering your blogging success over multiple full episodes, and I’ll be the first to watch and congratulate you.

    Regards,
    -G

  50. Lazy Man says:

    G,

    You seem to be going off on an irrelevant tangent in hopes of proving something useful. As you say it has nothing to do with FortuneBuilders, yet you brought it up as if was a sign of validation of FortuneBuilders.

    I’m saying that you seem to be falling into the anecdotal fallacy with them.

  51. Dolphin Girl says:

    This is great! G, thank you for the comment earlier. You two have me smiling at work reading these hilarious comments. They are both informative though, and I thank you both for taking the time to respond.

    Lazy Man, isn’t it biased to form opinions about something you haven’t tried for yourself?

    G, what is your website? I didn’t see it in the blog.

    Thanks.

  52. Jonathan says:

    I personally know more than 5 people who have attended these “wealth building” seminars, spending around $25,000 each. I was fortunate and got in for free, as a friend of mine shared his guest ticket with me in exchange for some help with technology.

    What I find interested is that none, I repeat, NONE of my friends have made a single dollar and it’s been over 6 months since the seminars have passed.

    But what is more interested is that there are 2 groups of people:

    A) My friends who did nothing after the seminar, and attempted no deals, and never took action due to fear.

    B) My friends who took action, but lost significant amounts of money on their first couple deals. Most lost between $15,000 and $50,000 on their first deal alone.

    I highly discourage anyone from attending and paying for these seminars, if the price is more than $500-$1000. The information they give is indeed worth up to $1,000 maximum. But it definitely is NOT worth $10,000 or $25,000 or anything more than $1,000. And I’m talking about their advanced 4 day seminars where they supposedly “spill their beans” and tell you how to get rich quick.

    The fact is, they never tell you exactly how to do it, because they don’t know. They are experts at selling INFORMATION, not real estate. Real estate experts don’t host educational seminars. They quietly do real estate deals. You might find them at a local REI or seminar investment club. Or you might find them at one of the low cost, $100 or $1,000 seminars, just to network and hear whats new.

    But you will not find highly successful real estate investors at these expensive seminars. You will only find noobie students as yourself, hoping to get lucky, only to wind up in serious debt at a high interest rate.

    Summary: Buy a book about real estate investing, and read it. It has the same information these expensive seminars do. Don’t give away $25,000 for information. Use that money for your first deal. Be careful using hard money lenders, because they are not forgiving, nor is the bank. Use your common sense. Go network with local investors and become their friends.

    I learned so much more just from being genuine friends with an ACTUAL real estate investor who I met at a local REI event. And he taught me for free! He even took me through his rehab projects from start to finish while it was being done, and showed me everything he was doing. Just because we were friends!

    So with that said, good luck all, and keep your emotions in check. Imagine that you are successful as a real estate investor, and it will come true, even without spending any money educational courses, because you’ll naturally become magnetic to success and draw the people into your life that you need to meet.

  53. Lazy Man says:

    Here’s the definition of biased from Dictionary.com:

    “a particular tendency, trend, inclination, feeling, or opinion, especially one that is preconceived or unreasoned:”

    There’s really no factor of having tried something yourself. It makes sense. You don’t want to make an argument that someone can’t be against domestic violence because they haven’t committed it. If we are presume that this was fraud (and I’m not saying that it is), are you suggesting that only someone who was a victim could speak out against it? I don’t need to jump off a bridge to have an opinion that it isn’t a good idea.

    And if this logic isn’t enough to convince you, are you willing to Paypal me $25,000 for my blogging course ;-).

  54. G says:

    Everyone,

    This will be my last reply to this thread.

    I only brought up Jenna and Amy because Dolphin Girl specifically asked about FortuneBuilders students getting TV coverage, and I’ve personally met both women at various FortuneBuilders training events.

    Those aren’t the only success stories though. Far from it. I personally know many different people from all over the country who joined FortuneBuilders and now do at least one deal per month. In Texas- Jason Bible. In NorCal- Ryan Burk. In Florida- LaDonna Smith. In Denver- Cory Wilks. In NJ- Jonathan Steingraber. In KC- Chad Lower. In Chicago- Amy Mahjoory. In PA- Jenna Hoover. Plus multiple more in my own market of San Diego who I see twice per month at networking events. That covers pretty much the entire map. I could go on and on, but why bother? Lazy Man won’t believe me no matter how long my list is, and I’ve given up on trying to convince him anyway. For me at this point its all about YOU the reader, and making sure that some random blogger doesnt dissuade you from having an open mind about something with a proven track record of improving peoples lives.

    I’ve never disputed that the FortuneBuilders program is expensive. It clearly is. To quote Warren Buffet though, “Price is what you pay, VALUE is what you get.” Yes I paid a lot of money, but I got even more value in return.

    I got an amazing financial EDUCATION. I got a new career that I enjoy and have a real passion for. I got much higher income in fewer hours worked. I got a higher quality of life for my family. I got a better work/life balance. I got rid of working for someone else. I got a viable way to retire early. I got a feasible way to create generational wealth for my son and his future kids, or at least to start that snowball rolling.

    Without FortuneBuilders I personally would NOT have been able to accomplish any of those things in such a short period of time. I would still be stuck at my old desk job for the next 30 years hating life.

    At the end of the day, you the READER of this blog shouldn’t blindly trust anyone- Lazy Man, nor me. You need to think and act for yourself, since it’s your life to live.

    If you’re curious about FortuneBuilders, then you should sign up for their FREE 3-hour seminar and go into it with an open mind. If you like what they have to say, then you should also sign up for their 3-DAY seminar. I think that cost me $199 back when I did it, and I could bring a guest (who I split the the cost with). So, $100 per person for three solid days of financial education that will help you out even if you don’t sign up for the Mastery PROGRAM. If you’re not willing to spend $100 on three days worth of personal development, then I’m not sure why you’re reading this thread at all.

    Best of luck to everyone, regardless of what you decide is best for you personally.

    Regards,
    -G

  55. Lazy Man says:

    So it looks like there’s one person per region that “may” be successful? The commercials make it sound to me like hundreds of people from every area WILL be successful.

    Maybe if you tell me the people who went to the Providence RI one when I wrote the article who are now successful flippers. We can create a list of lottery winners from around the country, that’s not a good argument for “investing” $25,000 in lottery tickets.

    Without FortuneBuilders you certainly would have been able to accomplish all those things. You just would have gotten the information from a different place.

    As people here have mentioned, you don’t get much from the $100 3-day seminar. I agree that isn’t a lot to pay for personal development. However, realize that this is seminar is offered to upsell you to the expensive one.

    I guess I might need to add an $100 teaser blogging class to upsell my $25,000 one.

  56. Alex says:

    I have read most of these posts. I do confess to not knowing much, but i have a few questions for Mr. “Lazy Man” as potentially doing a seminar. What exactly does a “blogger” do, and is this what you do for a living?

  57. Lazy Man says:

    I don’t want to get this off the topic of FortuneBuilders. Here’s a good article on the topic: http://money.usnews.com/money/articles/2009/05/19/how-to-earn-money-as-a-professional-blogger

  58. I’m a general contractor, real estate broker and the organizer of a local investor workshop in Gainesville, Florida. Several members of our group have been part of Fortune Builders and have not achieved the success of several people making comment on this thread have. As of matter of fact, one has lost money on all but 2 deals. We teach our members; local market, cap rates, profit margins and how to evaluate structure and we don’t charge them thousands of dollars.Someone making $100k in Hawaii or $35k in California…. it’s all relative to where you live, cost of handling money and dealing with contractors; what is the real ROI? If anyone want to learn how to invest locally; learn locally. I have attended several of the “Training Seminars” and I’m appalled at the “Hard Sell” tactics and the belittling of those of us who have been investing for years, built businesses and who are not “multi-millionaires. I applaud those who have successfully used the program and have an solid ROI, you would be the 1%, (hand full),who have.

  59. Sabrina says:

    Well im hereing about people quit their jobs just to so this .. So how uall paying off creditc cards .. If you ant makeing no money at all.. Ill keep my job to pay off my card and just mabe to the filping houses but im not going to mess up my card like that and dont have the money for it..

  60. Duped in Pa says:

    This is all a huge scam. And i was scammed my Jenna Hoover when i purchased a money pit from her a few months ago! She slapped lipstick on a pig and now im suffering the consequenses. Not to mention, she has no money. She flip$ these houses and owes it all to investors. Shes broke!

  61. Dolphin Girl says:

    Guess what G and Lazy Man?! I’ve joined Fortune Builders! I attended the 3 day seminar this past weekend and it was one of the greatest events ever! Inspirational, educational, and motivating. I could go on and on, but the point is, I’ve made the first big step towards my goal and when I make it, I’ll be sure to let you know.

  62. Lazy Man says:

    Thanks for the update Dolphin Girl. Sounds like what everyone says after joining Amway or Herbalife. When I sell my $25,000 blogging course, I’ll be sure to make it inspirational and motivating so that people will feel the same way.

    Hope you at least got a 100% money-back guarantee if you don’t make the money back within a year.

  63. Geoff says:

    Lazy, I’m really interested in starting a blog, and I am in financial ruins. Can you teach me your successes? I have just raised my credit limit to $100,000 and this is my last ditch effort to get myself out of this terrible place. I would want 3 courses for $75,000 and a $25,000 website because those numbers are round and my brain is round so therefore it makes sense. Dolphin girl is an inspiration, she is chasing her dreams and she puts money before logic with the faith that the lord and savior will make it all possible. That’s the type of man I want to be with my blog. A dreamer, a wisher, an illogical product pusher! Teach me how to write lazy you are my only hope!

  64. Lazy Man says:

    Geoff, are you familiar with Western Union?

    (This is joke, as I recognize Geoff as a frequent commenter and his comment as sarcasm. Sad that I have to say this, but I do.)

  65. Unca Alby says:

    Just heard on the radio a “guaranteed risk-free” way to make money flipping multi-family homes. The seminar includes free food.

    I’m thinking it ought to be a least worth the free food!

  66. Contractor Girl says:

    My Husband and I just attended one of Thans seminars this past weekend and signed up for the 3 day class for $197 (which includes our hotel room for the weekend, so if nothing more we get away and get some info). We were not aware that at this next event they would be trying to sell us on paying thousands of dollars. So i am glad that i stumbled upon this forum. We already own our a Construction Company and are incorporated but were researching into getting into the fix & flip business as we do many rehab job’s currently and wanted to expand our business. If there were more than just one success post from one of Than’s coaching students on here i may have considered the educational investment, however i am not willing to invest our savings on a one in a million chance.

  67. Lazy Man says:

    Thanks, Contractor Girl. I’d say that being able to do the work yourself puts you in a much better place than most people. You can good information on evaluating homes without paying thousands or tens of thousands.

    I wonder what would happen if you instead tried to negotiate terms that they get 10% of the net profit on the first 3 properties. This way if you are successful, they are successful. My hunch is that they aren’t interested in that kind of deal.

  68. Dolphin Girl says:

    @Contractor Girl what state are you in? I can tell you all about the seminar, it was really an inspirational weekend. I don’t recommend joining any of their Mastery Programs, but definitely go because you will learn A LOT more than you expect. They did offer us a full refund if we felt our money was not worth it, and ultimately it’s your decision to make on what you do not anyone else’s including mine.

  69. Lazy Man says:

    I’m always cautious about “full refunds.” Sometimes they are easy, but most of the time I’ve found them very difficult, with multiple hoops to jump through.

    Anyone who has ever filled out a rebate knows that it is a refund, but it is designed for “breakage” or not allowing you to to redeem it easily.

    Rather than allow them to give you refund if you don’t like it, focus on asking them if they’ll let you get it for free and pay them at the end if you feel it is worth it. If they argue with you, I don’t believe they are focused on your best interests.

  70. Contractor Girl says:

    Dolphin girl, we are going to attend the seminar. We are always up for free info. We are in New York State.

  71. Laura says:

    Hi I just wanted to inform you that they are also doing this in the Denver area. My husband and I went to this and it had all the same information! I’m appalled that an ex sports star (?) would lend his name to such scandal. Anyway, we bought into the 200$ scam which we actually used some of our rent money because we thought it was a good thing, however, as you stated we didn’t get all the information! So we took the kit home and tried to watch the DVD with all the info we needed, needless to say it did not work on any equipment we have. (They actually forewarn you in the seminar that previously people couldn’t get it to work so the changed from DVD to cd or something like that but to not worry…if that didn’t work just go to the website, which doesn’t work either!) my husband called and told them we needed/wanted our money back and it is supposedly in the mail (we’ll see), should be here by this coming Sunday – Wednesday as they said 7-10 days. I’ll let you know. I’m curious to know though, why can’t this kind of stuff be shut down? They try to keep scammers from taking your money over the phone or email but good hard working people who go to these seminars never think that Sorry I didn’t give her the extra credit. If you can have her finish the write up and/or science board for her science fair project, I will give her some credit for that. It was such a huge part of the term…someone would try and scam you face to face! I think Than Merrill should be held accountable with jail or something because some of us are using our last dollars to try and reach the goal of living comfortably.

  72. Dr Rich Roth says:

    I just wanted to provide feedback from my experience. I too went to the initial two hour then three day programs. Each of them provided some great information. I ultimately signed up and became a member of Fortune Builders. Not once did I ever feel pressured nor did I ever feel that any part of it was a scam. At this point I have far more than recovered the tuition cost and am enjoying a change of occupation.

    I spent 24 years in healthcare and as time went on, insurance reimbursements kept dropping, dealing with insurance companies kept getting worse, then the federal government butted in and made things even worse with the “affordable” care act. I was spending far more time in paperwork and getting paid less and less. I’ve always liked the idea of investing in real estate so this seemed like an avenue I would like to help me exit the healthcare arena. Just like any other occupation it requires work. Money is not going to drop into your lap nor are good properties. Many hours are spent researching and viewing properties.

    While some complain about the cost of a program such as this, I recall how my student loan debt reached about $100,000 to be a doctor. Few would argue the expense at becoming a doctor as it is understood that doctors have the potential to do very well. I think the argument against the expense for a program like this is that fewer people know about the success potential in real estate than they do in healthcare. Healthcare is a relatively safe, known way to go and expect to make a good living. Not everyone should be a doctor and not everyone should be in real estate. There are certain skills that are necessary to be successful in certain occupations and not everyone has those skills or sometimes don’t have the motivation to acquire those skills. Being a Fortune Builders member is not an automatic path to building wealth. Rather it is a vehicle to help guide one towards that end. My suggestion is if one is not comfortable with whatever fees are associated with any program and they don’t feel confident enough with themselves to pursue it then don’t. Many people get college or post-grad education getting saddled with a debt they cannot find a job to help them repay. No program is ever a guarantee of success, not even college. I know plenty of doctors who failed in practice and moved on to other things or went to work for someone else. Education is only as good as one puts it to use.

    As a Fortune Builders member I have been to a number of events and I have personally met Than Merrill and many of his associates. Than is a great guy and in my opinion does care about the success of his members. Once a member, you are always a member and the membership is like family. I know that may sound corny but that is my experience. We all share in our successes but our failures too so we can hopefully benefit each other. We also put questions out there for feedback from other members sometimes to help us make better decisions with a rehab. I have personally heard Than say with respect to making or losing money doing rehab that at some point expect to lose money on a deal as it happens to everyone. It is not a matter of if you will but when you will. If someone asks how successful they can be, Than and associates as well as the rest of us members will tell you it depends on what you put into it just like anything else. I currently have several rehabs in the works as I write this and fully expect to make a profit on each one. Fortune Builders provides the training and resources. It’s how one uses them that will determine their success or failure. If anyone would ask me is it worth it I would tell them absolutely but only if they are willing to use the resources and put them work.

    I hope my thoughts and experiences provide some balance to this discussion. ~ Dr. Rich Roth

  73. Lazy Man says:

    Rich,

    All of what you said would seem to apply to my hypothetical $25,000 blogging course. It’s not accredited like a college (like Fortune Builders). Also Doctors are pretty much guaranteed to make money from their degree… house flippers are not.

    So when you share in your successes you are giving money to other Fortune Builders members? That might be the only good reason to join.

  74. Dave Phillips says:

    Hey Lazy Man
    I’ve been flipping & renting out houses for many years. To make serious money takes big commitment & access to money, which is nearly impossible for the casual part time investor. I received an invitation from Merrill which looks remarkably similar to one that I got from Donald Trump a while back. We now know that Trump University is likely a scam. Merrill says that Chicago is perfect for his techniques. Chicago is a tough place for this business, with one of the strictest building codes. I know investors who have spent 6-12 months just on the permit process on a technical rehab. There’s no quick road to riches as Merrill would have you believe, in Chicago anyway. Good luck to you all & beware.

  75. Monica says:

    Thank you so much for this article… I had just finished reading the Michigan BBB article…
    Originally… I came online to see if I could find out what the seminar AFTER the free one was going to cost… In so glad I did… Now I won’t feel like I missed out on the opportunity of a lifetime when I go to sleep without calling to reserve my seat.. (lol)
    Shame on all of the “fortune flippers”… it’s sad how they take advantage of people…
    Thanks again for the eye opener…
    Blessings
    Monica

  76. Michelle C says:

    wow! It took me a while to read all the comments and I so wish my friend had seen this before her April’s 3 days workshop with Than Merril workshop as advertised but Fortune Builders is the educational arm of the business– well that’s my understanding…. Needless to say my friend took the brave step of enrolling in the Lower level mastery program for $20,000. I was not present at her 3 days workshop but I personally attended another Real estate Workshop Tom Yancy which I paid $199 for and it was inspirational & educational with far better useful information than my friends workshop. Based on my friend’s experience I know she was especially “targeted’ as you get to complete a form at the onset to state your assets and credit worthiness so the “hawks” can target focus their attention, so they can “bate and court” you to enroll in the mastery level. After 30 days into the mastery program my friend has received only 2 coaching calls and they are filled mainly with Up selling for other “needed’ things that you must buy as recommended by the coaches. She is totally frustrated and realized that her cost to value ratio is overpriced, unfair abusive and I am encouraging her to get a full refund and use her Legal Services membership if needed against them. In my opinion their contract is void as they misrepresent “coaching” and does not define it in their contract. Expectation and fulfillment is so far off with them. Do not waste your money with their Mastery program.

  77. Lazy Man says:

    In a follow-up to Michelle C’s comment, I received an email asking to delete her previous comment and that she never thought it would be published (really weird right?), but it’s not my policy to spend my time deleting comments and dealing with personal requests like that.

    I wonder if she got some blow-back from her friend and/or FortuneBuilders for the comment and is now just trying to make it right in a different way.

  78. Betsy says:

    Absolutely the biggest scam giving you false hopes, taking ridiculous amounts of money, and guaranteeing success. You get nothing that they offer you. This should be illegal. I have invested $79K and now all the loans that were offered are credit cards saying I earn $330K a year. They stop getting seed money at $50K. Run as fast as you can. Don’t end up almost bankrupt and losing everything you have earned all your life.

  79. Jean says:

    My husband got sucked into this. It has caused a huge rift in our marriage. It sounded so cheesy and full of BS to me right from the start, after the 2 hr presentation, and then again after the first day of the 3 day weekend, before I heard anything about the mastery program. Complete with motivational speaker type “cheers” and all.

    On the 2nd night of the three day weekend, I overheard him calling to raise credit card limits while I was putting the kids to bed. He was also gathering 401k info, pay stubs, bank info, etc. Huge red flag goes up in my head! I questioned him about it, and at first he said something about just expanding his business credit options. Then goes on to tell me there might be some education for him down the road. Eventually the $35K for the mastery program comes out. I did some quick google research, and went back to ask him to hold off until he researches some more, because it did not sit right with me. Well, he ended up signing up for it the third day because he had to do it then or lose the opportunity. He charged $25k on our joint account!! Mind you, this was just 10 days after we had paid if off in full, and were happy to be almost debt free (small mortgage balance and car payment still). He eventually transferred most of it, minus about $5k, to 4 other cards that were in his name (3 were new ones he opened for the 15-18 months of no interest, assuring me that he will have made enough by then to pay them all off…..)
    What has he gotten for his money so far? Several phone calls, two weekend seminars, some questionable business advice including someone who convinced him to incorporate in Nevada even though he had already incorporated in our home state, he just bought an internet phone line and phone for his non-existent business calls, he bought Quickbook Pro, paid someone for logo design,and more of the same. I’ve read his notes from his calls and they are all generalizations and common sense, no real information. My quick research into the benefits of incorporating in Nevada showed me that there is no benefit to a small business that won’t be doing any business there. Which I could have told him any way since I have a background in accounting and one of my duties was registering the business in other states.

    I don’t know what happened to my husband. I just can’t believe he fell for this. I can’t see how getting advice from coaches he didn’t even know yet from lord only knows where, sounds better than talking to successful realtors we know that actually work in our area! And the fact that they convinced him to spend this much money without even consulting me has me floored, and it’s been 3 months. (He was already in bed when I asked him about it, so he hadn’t planned on telling me.)
    And there have been no signs of him making any “deals” or even looking into it. Now I’m just afraid of where he thinks he is going to get the money to actually invest, because we sure don’t have it sitting around.

  80. Jean, this may not make you feel better, there is a group out of Utah that promises almost the same thing. We had a couple attend our Invest Gainesville, REI group who had spent $75,000.00 for training and coaching. Have your husband ask for a refund and have him join a local REI group of find a mentor if he truly wants to learn how to invest in real estate. If he wants an education, have him take a real estate course, it’s a whole lot cheaper than the “Get Rich Flipping Real Estate” scams.

  81. Nancy says:

    I am ever so grateful I read this blog before plunking down any more money for Fortune Builders. I attended the 3 day seminar in Phoenix , AZ which finished today. I am a total “newbie” in Real Estate , but thought I could pick up some knowledge as I have at other investing 3 day events. The seminar advertises that the teach you how to estimate the cost of repairs. I thought this might be useful regarding buying or flipping a home. The end result of that is that the “coach” sums it up by saying “Go down to Home Depot and get a contractor to walk you through and give you and estimate.

    The first day is taken up by scaring the audience of about 200 people about the inadequacy of most retirement plans, inflation etc, and a primer re compound interest. Some inspirational videos from notable role models such as Arnold Swartzenegger whose mantra was “Break as many rules as you can.”

    The course is mostly media hype and fluff sellling you the “good life” where you can go on vacation in your private jet accruing wealth from your “passive income”. They do display prominent disclaimers saying you can lose all your money and it takes at least 3 years to attain this lifestyle.

    The upsell is incredible. The least expensive course is 19, 500 ranging up to the Inner Circle personal mentoring plan which costs a whopping 50K.
    They interview everyone who fills out an application listing their assets , credit score etc. I will have to say for someone who is supposed to be relatively smart, at once point I was pretty gullible. I did the numbers and figured out I could possible live with investing 19,000 if I withdrew from my IRAs and savings. This was before I knew the cost of their courses.
    When I had my interview, I learned that they did not want money from savings or IRAs (as it might take 7 to 10 business days for the cash to be available!) The “Advisors” said as much. They urged me to call my bank that night and try to get my credit limit increased. They urged me to open up multiple new credit cards and max them out. They assured me this was “good debt” as I was going to pay my “investment” back in a short time with a profitable property flip. When I protested that this would ruin my hard earned excellent credit rating, the “Advisor” assured me that it was better to have 20 credit cards with lots of credit available for deals, than to have a good credit rating. They told me they would talk to me more the next morning and that I should call my bank and apply for new credit cards. The next am no one approached me for further conversations. I read more blogs, and more blogs. Finally came to the ones here where some students that actually PAID for these courses wrote in.

    I told them the program was absolutely not for me and requested a refund of my 197.00. The person gave me a big smile, had me fill out a form stating my reasons and they handed me a preprinted check for cash.
    I hope it is good. I saw grandmothers there saying “I am going to do this for my grandchild.”

    I am so sorry I wasted my time, gas and money to stay at a hotel, but live and learn. I felt I dodged a bullet. I am so grateful for your blogs. Please avoid this company, it is complete hogwash. I learned more from some other students who were contractors and the flipping market in Phoenix is already saturated according to what I learned.

  82. Lazy Man says:

    Yikes, Nancy! That sounds terrible.

    Some parts of it, such as the income imagery, look to me like the stuff that got Herbalife in major trouble with the FTC (recently settled).

    I’ve read about similar flipping companies suggesting that one max out their credit cards. I don’t know if any financial expert believes that maxing out credit cards at the high interest qualifies as “good debt.” Even if made such a move, I’m not sure how you’d buy the houses to flip with poor credit and so much debt at a likely highly interest rate.

  83. Jean says:

    @Terry Thanks for the response. I apologize for rambling. I probably shouldn’t post late at night/early in the morning.
    He doesn’t want to get a refund so that is not in the cards right now. He’s really not listening to reason. Maybe trying to save face by not admitting a mistake.

  84. Josh says:

    I disagree, than Merrill and his company helped me. Playing with real estate can leave you in a position to make or lose a lot of money. Thanks to their guidance I was able to leave my job and now do real estate investing full time. I was able to recoup the cost of their invaluable mentorship after just two deals. I’m sorry but you’re very misguided on this one. Lazy man, I would even be willing to be my net worth is greater than yours thank to their help. Maybe you should change your name to lazy and ignorant.

  85. Lazy Man says:

    I didn’t mean to suggest that there is zero chance that the company can’t help some people. As the saying goes, “even a broken clock is right twice a day”, right?

    I’m a consumer advocate and this is my opinion. I’ve done my best to explain why I hold that opinion. You are free to have another opinion and obviously another experience. I’m choosing to side with the sources that say you can learn the information for free.

    I believe that if it really worked well for a majority of people, they make commission-based deal… something like, “we’ll take 15% of the profits of your first 3 properties.” Why not make a “We don’t make money unless you make money” pitch?

    Sorry anonymous “Josh” commenter, but net worth hasn’t been my goal for years. Maybe you should read Root of Good which balances a high net worth with frugality. Sometimes you get “enough money” that you can focus on things that are more important like family.

    I don’t think your comment shows that my article is ignorant. You didn’t address any specific point that I made in the article. I have this one wrong, please explain more specifically why rather than using an anonymous testimonial that can’t be verified.

  86. Nichole says:

    YIKES! I just went to the 2-hr seminar and am strongly considering the 3-day program. Here’s the thing. I’m smart. Like really smart. No, like, incredibly intelligent! So I’m wondering, with enough research and real-estate courses, can’t I figure this out without investing the 40K upsell, or even the $197? I mean, Than “learned” all of these “techniques” from somewhere, not some seminar, right?

  87. Nichole… Find a local REI group near you and learn first hand from investors within your community. Take a real estate course and hang your license with a referral company… When it comes to REI, take your time and don’t get sucked into some seminar that will drain your credit cards and take away the money you need to rehab your first investment. If you are as “Really Smart” as you say you are, take some advice from experienced investors; don’t spend your money on some seminar coaching BS, invest it.

  88. Unca Alby says:

    Nicole, I will ditto Terry Martin-Back’s comments, and add that, no, Than didn’t “learn” all thse “techniques” somehow. What Than learned, and what he presents on his TV show, is entertainment. He knows how to keep an audience. His business is bringing an audience to advertisers. That’s not always the same thing as RE investing.

    Always remember that: while there is certainly nothing wrong with it, Than Merrill is first and foremost an entertainer.

  89. Alex says:

    I am a newbie to all things real estate and I signed up for the $197 3 day seminar. After day one I leaned a bit about wholesale, marketing, compound interest, and a few other things. The class was from 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and most of it seemed like scare tactics and subtle hints at grabbing opportunity quickly (before you have time to think). I feel that I should have been taught much more information given the amount of time I sat there listening and taking notes.

    When the class came to an end we were given applications for the mastery program which inquires about how much money and assets we have, I was shocked that they would ask such personal questions. I tend not to be driven by emotions so I noticed how cold their demeanor turned when I told them I was an unemployed vet (they asked about my job before they asked about my name, this was before I wore the name badge), they imply that they have the special formula while everyone else is “uneducated” unless they are multi millionaires, they seem to encourage taking crazy risks and demonize being practical.

    If day 2 isn’t better than I’m going to ask for a refund. Thankfully I was smart enough to pretend as if I didn’t have money (I saved a good chunk of money before I left the military and am living at home until I get accepted into college so I can use my GI Bill) so they mostly left me alone.

    Overall it doesn’t seem like a waste of money since I am learning, it may be worth my $197 but there’s no way in hell they have anything worth $20,000 (I’d laugh in their face if they asked me to pay that for coaching). I’ll update my experience.

  90. I just attended 2 of the 3 days in Miami and I have never learned so much in so short of a time. I have read this very long thread. Of course, every suspicion that Lazy Man made also came up for me, like… “why not keep it secret? Why’s it so expensive? Etc.” There is no doubt that they give you TONS of info in the 3 days, possibly even enough to start your own biz. It is VERY detailed and elaborate. It is also definitely NOT focused on flipping. It is primarily about how to amass rental property, as well as lots of legal advice about how to protect yourself, your assets, liability, etc. I too thought they should offer an arrangement where they get a piece of your deals rather than a hefty fee. I wish they did. It seems that what they give you for the large education is a lot of tech. While that tech may not be needed, it sure seems to makes things easier and I would like it. That’s my 2 cents.

  91. Lazy Man says:

    Michael Cooper,

    The website you left was Michael Tronn which seems to be a website with “business development” experience. If you are the owner or affiliated with the company, you should have all the legal advice to protect yourself, assets from liability, etc. So I’m a little suspicious of your review.

    I don’t think 3 days of information is necessarily that bad as long as it isn’t followed up with a pitch of giving them tens of thousands of dollars (even funding it by maxing out credit cards!) to take the next step.

    I believe that before that pitch should be made customers should have to be qualified to invest in hedge funds (I think a requirement of earning 200K a year or a net worth of a million dollars). That’s just being smart before putting a large sum on the line with big risks. Hopefully they covered that in the 3 days, but my guess is that they didn’t.

  92. Finesse says:

    I heard the radio ad and attended the 2 hour seminar, which was very convincing so I decided to pay the $197 to attend the 3 day seminar to learn a little more. The 3 day seminar just wrapped up yesterday.

    There were a lot of good information (taxes, 401k, rehabbing & deal analysis templates, finding contractors, rental properties, emotional stories, etc.), some I already knew by listening to some real estate audio books provided free through a relative-who pointed out that a lot of the other information I didn’t know are in the e-books as well, I just haven’t gotten to them as yet. They offered the Mastery program for $30k, $35k, and $50k. I was interviewed and was told to find out my credit score for a second interview the next day but I was never called again. I already made up my mind that while the seminar was very informative and their templates awesome, it was not worth expensive price tag placed on it. Same information can be found online for free or a small fee. If I had $50k, it will be going towards my first investment. I also did some research online. I read some other reviews that lead me to this site. Funny how I couldn’t find much reviews on students who completed the mastery program and their comments, whether good or bad. I also found biggerpockets.com.

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