An expensive real-estate seminar isn’t how to get rich

Ashley Milne-Tyte Jun 1, 2016
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Donald Trump at a press conference announcing the real estate seminar Trump University on May 23, 2005 in New York City.  Thos Robinson/Getty Images

An expensive real-estate seminar isn’t how to get rich

Ashley Milne-Tyte Jun 1, 2016
Donald Trump at a press conference announcing the real estate seminar Trump University on May 23, 2005 in New York City.  Thos Robinson/Getty Images
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In testimony from a federal lawsuit, ex-staff members of Trump University said they had to push people who could ill afford it to sign up for expensive real estate classes.

But Trump University was just one of many seminar businesses based on the hard sell. Just turn on your TV or radio and you’ll hear urgent cries of “Sign up – and make a fortune!”

Real estate seminars are held every week in many parts of the country. They dangle the prospect of instant riches – almost. All you have to do is show up, then get jazzed up by the speakers.

“It’s almost like a religious revival,” said Harvey Jacobs, a real estate lawyer in Maryland. He’s been to dozens of seminars. He said after that initial excitement comes the push to lay some money down, and not just on DVDs or personal coaching sessions.

“Believe it or not I was at one recently that was charging $35,000 for their services,” he said.

That was for a weekend where you’d fly to a four-star hotel and meet starry real estate types. Generally he said you’ll pay anywhere from $1,500 to $5,000.

Anthony Sanders teaches real estate finance at George Mason University. He said the seminars can be alluring to people who feel financially stuck. They’ve watched the stock market and the real estate market do well and they want a piece of the action. But that pot of gold could be elusive. About ten years ago he taught one of these seminars. But the company balked when he mentioned risk versus reward…

“I was so depressed after I was speaking because I was trying to be honest,” he said. “They didn’t want honest. They said ‘no, no, don’t tell them about risk – you’ll scare ‘em away.'”

John Glascock is a professor of real estate at the University of Connecticut School of Business. He said he’s worked with professional real estate associations for more than 40 years and met plenty of real estate moguls.

“And I can say to you I’ve not met one successful investor who told me that he or she got their start from one of these seminars,” he said.

He said there are so many cheaper ways to get into real estate. Local associations offer courses where all the costs are up front. You could even begin with no money down at the local library.

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