Seminars promise real estate success, may result in lost funds

House flipping seminars that promise attendees can get rich quickly by learning a few tricks to take advantage of the real estate market have cost some hopeful investors thousands. They often lure consumers with a free seminar, often promising a meal, a gift or a celebrity spokesperson.

Through the use of commercials, mailers and social media, consumers are drawn to the house flipping seminars with promises of making money with no previous experience necessary. Some programs even promise they will help fund the consumer’s projects.

These images of real estate success rope would-be house flippers into follow-up educational opportunities that can cost tens of thousands of dollars – and rarely lead to such prosperity.

Consumers should use caution when attending these and similar business seminars. Better Business Bureau (BBB) has received numerous complaints from consumers throughout the U.S., saying they have lost money to the companies who put on the seminars, with little hope of getting any return on their investments.

“If you attend a free seminar, you likely will be asked to pay money for continuing education,” said Stephanie Garland, BBB Springfield regional director. “Those continuing education courses are costly, and the chances of you recouping that money through real estate deals is slim.”

The seminars usually are held in hotel banquet rooms. The initial seminars typically last two hours. Attendees are often then asked to sign up for a weekend course. The weekend course can cost a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. At the weekend course, consumers tell BBB they are often pressured to purchase continuing educational materials from the business.

BBB also has received complaints from consumers who are disappointed the celebrity spokesperson did not attend the event. Celebrities rarely attend the seminars. Instead, the celebrity typically has members of his or her “team” conduct the seminar.

Investment scams were deemed the second riskiest scam in 2017, according to BBB’s Scam Tracker Annual Risk Report. Consumers reported a median loss of $2,310 in investment schemes last year.

Ultimately, know that succeeding in business is typically more complicated than attending a single, free seminar, and that any path to success through such seminars often comes with many hidden costs.

“It is not easy to make money in real estate,” Garland said.

Consumers should consider the following tips as they weigh attending any business seminar:

• Research the business and owners carefully before signing a contract, providing any sensitive personal information or paying any money. BBB suggests checking the company’s BBB Business Profile at or by calling 888-996-3887.

• Before paying anything, know what you are getting for your money. If there is anything that concerns you, make certain the document is changed before you sign it. Be wary of any verbal promises that are not in writing.

• Don’t be lured by a promise of a free meal or free gift. Often, the meal may be nothing more than a snack and the gift an inexpensive item that is not worth the two to three hours of wasted time attending the seminar.

• Know exactly how long you have to cancel a contract and seek a refund. If that information is not there, ask for it in writing.

• Ask for references and contact them before entering into an agreement.

• Pay by credit card whenever possible in case you need to challenge the charges.

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