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As (Not) Seen on TV

Celebrity flipping seminars sell more myth than reality

Back Article May 17, 2018 By Ryan Lundquist

It was 2 a.m. and I couldn’t sleep. So I turned on the TV, and saw it: an advertisement for another celebrity home-flipping seminar, this one coming to Sacramento and claiming I would get filthy rich by attending.

Have you seen these infomercials or heard the radio ads? The message is always the same: You can learn the secrets of making money in real estate by following some guru’s advice (this guru usually has his or her own reality TV show). Just attend a free seminar.

I’m not here to throw anyone under the bus, but let’s talk about these seminars and the reality of flipping homes in Sacramento.

The stars won’t be there: This may surprise you, but the reality stars you see on television promising wealth won’t actually attend the seminar. Well, technically they’ll make a video appearance.

My advice? Be really careful when someone promises financial freedom in one breath and in the next asks you to start writing checks. The “glory days” of 2009 are gone.

This is all about your pockets: The initial seminar is usually free and you’ll probably pick up some nuggets of wisdom. But to advance to the next level of flipping, you’ll be invited to pay around $1,000-$2,000 for deeper knowledge. Then the fees keep going up. A local friend attended one of these seminars last year and was asked to pay $5,000 to join an “insider national real estate investor network” (whatever that is). Another friend forked out $11,000 to a celebrity real estate seminar and while she did actually learn some things, she felt scammed because all the “secret knowledge” could have been found online for free.

Buying cheap foreclosures is a myth: We no longer have a market where it’s realistic to buy dirt-cheap properties. Here’s a sobering stat: Just over 80 percent of all sales during the first quarter of 2009 in the Sacramento region were either foreclosures or short sales. That’s not a typo. Most of us remember that as a dark time for the U.S. economy. Yet, it felt like an exotic paradise for home flippers because there were so many low-priced properties on the market.

Fast forward to today and only about 2 percent of all sales so far in 2018 have been foreclosures or short sales. We simply don’t have a market of inexpensive fixers being given away by banks, so it’s not so easy to make a quick buck by buying low and selling high.

Tax sales aren’t the answer: These seminars pedal the idea of buying properties being auctioned off at tax sales, which are when counties sell tax-defaulted properties at public auctions. It sounds like the prime opportunity to get in on the action, but local savvy investors have already flooded that space — especially since the foreclosure market dried up and they had to find other creative ways to buy properties.

It sounds so easy, but it’s not: After attending a celebrity flipping seminar, it might sound really easy to flip a home. But earlier this year, ATTOM Data Solutions published stats showing that home flipping has declined in Sacramento this year despite showing an 11-year high nationally. We’re simply not in a market where it’s easy to pick up a cheap property, do some minor repairs and make heaps of money. In fact, local investors are actually struggling to find good deals in the midst of a housing shortage, which means they often have to do a more substantial remodel, or even add a bathroom or square footage to make the deal work. We also have a labor shortage too, so good luck finding a contractor and crew to get your flip done quickly.

My advice? Be really careful when someone promises financial freedom in one breath and in the next asks you to start writing checks. The “glory days” of 2009 are gone. If you’re hungry to learn more about real estate investing, start scouring free online investor forums or consider joining a local investment club where members are actively doing business in the local market rather than selling you something.

The big truth is home-flipping seminars often give strategies for how to compete in a market that used to exist, rather than the real market today. It would be like going to a business seminar to learn the secrets of fax machine marketing, the importance of Yellow Pages advertising or how to set up an email account. That’s so yesterday.