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Real Estate Investing: Infomercial and Mentoring Scams


Flipping through late-night infomercials recently, I saw two real estate get-rich quick schemes, and I couldn't help but wonder why people still fall for those old scams? Has anyone really talked a seller out of his home for no money down with owner financing lately?

Real estate infomercials do great harm to beginning investors, who waste hundreds of dollars on old information. Worse yet, those beginners soon get discouraged and miss out on the true (and profitable) adventure of real estate investing.

One of the most popular late night infomercial shows tells beginners that it's possible to make a fortune by buying houses with no money down and then renting them out to cover the monthly payments. It's true that you can buy a home for no money down, but the requirements include having good credit, good income, and the home should be owner-occupied.

Rentals don't normally qualify for no money down financing. Institutional lenders aren't supposed to make no money down loans on investment properties, and even if you could buy an investment home with no money down, the monthly payments would generally eat up the rent.

Late-night scammers also claim that investors can get owners to pay the closing costs, including the down payment. But when a lender asks where your down payment will be coming from, saying, "the seller" is not the right answer! Today's sellers are also fairly savvy, and understand that with no money invested in a property, a buyer could easily walk away and leave them with a home that's been ruined by careless tenants.

Another TV program offers a bogus system for buying houses at ridiculous prices, but think about it: has anyone bought a home, free and clear, for $345.00 at a tax sale recently? Hordes of investors flock to the tax sales in the area where I live, bidding up the prices of foreclosure properties far beyond a few cents on the dollar. It just doesn't happen.

Today, another real estate investment scam is popular in Southern California. Here's how it works: a young person we'll call Charles charged $4,000 on his credit card to hire a real estate "mentor," after the mentor wined and dined him at a fancy Beverly Hills restaurant.

In exchange for the fee, the mentor instructed Charles to find distressed houses by driving around the area and writing down the addresses of ugly houses in nice neighborhoods. Once Charles had given him the addresses, the mentor obtained the owner's address and sometimes a phone number. Then it was up to Charles to call the owners and talk them into selling their houses for no money down, and carrying the paper, too!

I met Charles when he called me about buying a property that my husband and I had on the market for $1.2 million. When I asked him how such a young man was going to make the payments on $1.2 million home, he told me that he planned to rent the house out for enough to make the payments.

As a real estate investor myself, I tried not to laugh at his naivete, and after talking to Charles and listening to his frustration about trying so hard to follow his mentor's advice, I offered to help him find a property, and I'm happy to say that Charles now owns his own home. But he'll still have to spend years paying off a $4,000 credit card bill.

If you want to make money as a real estate investor, a good first step is to buy your own home, like Charles did. You can do that for no money down if you have good credit, or for a relatively little amount of money down if your credit is poor. Once you've purchased your own home, fix it up and then either sell it or refinance it and use your profits as the down payment on an investment property.

Don't pay hundreds of dollars for out-dated methods that may have worked in the middle of last century! They're a waste of your time and money. Real estate investing is truly a great way to make a fortune, but you must stick to tried-and-true proven strategies, ones that work in today's real estate market.

(c) Copyright 2004, Jeanette J. Fisher. All rights reserved.

Professor Jeanette Fisher, author of Doghouse to Dollhouse for Dollars, Joy to the Home, and other books teaches Real Estate Investing and Design Psychology. For more articles, tips, reports, newsletters, and sales flyer template, see http://www.doghousetodollhousefordollars.com/pages/5/index.htm


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