How to Separate the ‘Real-Deal’ Educators from Real Estate Investing Gurus and Scammers

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The following was written by guest author Eddie Wilson, President of Affinity Enterprise Group.*

In real estate investing, as in other aspects of life, education is the foundation for success.

But it’s not as simple as randomly picking up a book on the subject, answering the pitch from that late-night TV ad, or choosing the “only mentor you’ll ever need” from the top of Google’s search results.

The growing acceptance of investing in residential real estate as an effective wealth-building strategy has resulted in an explosion of educators in the space. But to date, this corner of the industry has been largely unregulated, which makes it that much more important for an investor to do the same due diligence in evaluating an educational offering as in contemplating a multimillion-dollar deal.

While many individuals are qualified and eager to share their expertise, other self-proclaimed gurus are expert only at taking thousands of dollars from unsuspecting investors in exchange for empty promises of overnight success and riches.

A good place to start your search is with established, respected networks and organizations or your local real estate investors association or meet-up group. There you’ll find many other like-minded investors who are more than willing to share their knowledge and provide referrals to credible learning systems and educators.

And it won’t cost you thousands or tens of thousands of dollars. The price to attend a typical real estate investors’ association meeting is nominal, and you’ll find an even better value in an annual membership, which will provide you with access to a rich cache of source material as well as educational speakers, training and discounts from major-brand vendors.

There are also online sources – Bigger Pockets is the best-known – that offer valuable networking opportunities with other investors who have first-hand knowledge of the strategy you want to pursue. Another is ThinkRealty.com, which goes beyond just the networking and archived information and offers its members buying power, legal advocacy assistance, admission to multiple real estate investor expos and a global conference, plus a subscription to Think Realty Magazine (formerly Personal Real Estate Investor Magazine).

Aside from those who are more than willing to share their advice with you for the price of a cup of coffee, you can connect with more-experienced investors who will take you under their wing, some for a fee and others in return for your efforts toward their deals’ success.

Of course even these resources aren’t without their share of bad actors. So how do you separate the good from the bad?

When evaluating potential mentors or educational program providers, ask yourself these questions:
  • Does he or she “walk the walk,” or simply “talk the talk”? Is this person an investor who is actively practicing the strategy being touted?
  • How long has he or she been in business? What are the results of his or her deals? Independently verify the person’s claims.
  • What do former students or business associates say about this person? Does the program actually work? Check online reviews. Ask for references and call them yourself.
  • What about his or her business practices? Is the program ethical and legal? Check with the Better Business Bureau, look for certifications and review public records.
  • How much does the program cost? Beware of hidden fees, or a bait-and-switch scheme, in which you are drawn to an event for a small fee (or none at all), only to be upsold into a pricey program that’s available “today only.”
  • Do you have recourse if the program does not produce the promised results? Can you get your money back?
Finally, beware of those claiming to offer the key to overnight success. Anyone who’s truly on the up-and-up will tell you that real estate investing is no get-rich-quick undertaking but rather more like a marathon. It takes commitment and dedication—long hours, hard work, plus a realization that this is a life-long process and the learning never stops, no matter how experienced you become.

About the Author
Eddie Wilson is President of Affinity Enterprise Group, parent company of Think Realty, a hub of investor resources for its members, including networking, events, buying power, legal advocacy and a growing archive of valuable information and expert advice. For more information, visit www.ThinkRealty.com.

*Eddie Wilson, Affinity Enterprise Group and Think Realty are not affiliated with Equity Trust Company or its affiliates.  The information provided in this article is for educational purposes only and should not be construed as tax, legal, or investment advice.  Whenever making an investment decision, please consult with legal, tax, and financial professionals.