An Investor’s Lament …
Sadly, this past Jan 1st was a bit of an ominous “anniversary” of sorts for my wife Marsha and me.
Two years ago, we committed to getting involved with REI. We had set goals of four deals in 2015, and then twelve deals in 2016. We also set an admittedly lofty goal for us to have done enough deals and generate enough money from those deals to quit my job to focus solely on REI by Dec 31st, 2016. That goal date has just past….and sadly, we have done zero deals, and we are nowhere even remotely close to me being able to quit my job. To the contrary, due the massive debt we have generated from this venture over the last 24 months, my job is now a far greater certainty and necessity than it was at the start of this debacle
That goal date has just past….and sadly, we have done zero deals, and we are nowhere even remotely close to me being able to quit my job. To the contrary, due the massive debt we have generated from this venture over the last 24 months, my job is now a far greater certainty and necessity than it was at the start of this debacle
.This email is very long. I apologize upfront for that, but to get a full understanding and appreciation of what my wife and I have experienced and endured with REI over the last 24 months, you have to know the full history of what has transpired. I suspect that most reading this will not finish it and that is fine. I recognize and respect that everyone’s time is valuable, and some/most of you will not read this email in its entirety.
For quite some time, my wife andI had an interest in REI. Jan 2015 we felt like we were finally at a place in life both mentally and financially to be able to get involved with REI and have a reasonable chance of success. We could not have been more wrong.
Our journey began early Jan 2015 with a 2-hour pitchfest by “Success in RE” (Scott Yancey) for a 3 day weekend “boot camp” where we would “learn everything we needed to to be successful in REI.” The cost of the3-day boot camp was $2,000. The boot camp was essentially another pitch-fest for further coaching and software. The coaching was broken down into 3 levels, silver, gold, and platinum for $25k/$35k/$40k (???). Needless to say, we did not have the money at the time to move forward.
They did sell us a copy of their “proprietary” software (RealePro) for $2,500 as well as starting an LLC with Veil corporate for $600. We had issues with the installation and the software from day 1, and our numerous emails and calls to tech support were never returned or responded to. We did get numerous calls from Trevor Pace trying to sell us a “reduced” coaching package starting at about $12k and being lowered in subsequent calls to $6k.
Mr. Pace could never answer specific questions I posed about specifically what was being offered or included. When asked about our issues with RealPro, we were told he had no support due to not buying into one of their coaching packages. Finally, after about 3 months of harassment from Mr. Pace, we just quit taking his calls. We have heard very little from Success in REI (I believe that they are called Affluence.edu now) other than further invites to their 2-hour introductory meetings, etc. We have declined all of them.
Our next stop was with FortuneBuilders around May 1st. We attended another 3-day boot camp for a much more affordable $200. It was much the same as Success in RE as the3-day was really just a very polished pitchfest for further coaching packages. However, they appeared much more ethical than Success in RE, and we were able to beg/borrow/steal the required $25k to join. We did that by taking a loan out against my 401k ($12k), applied for and approved for 2 new CC ($2500and $3500 limits) and by taking $7000 of the $10k that we had in savings. FortuneBuilders is very good with their education, but as we have figured out over the last 24 months, there is a vast distinction/disparity between education and implementation. This is not a problem with FB solely but with most of the programs that we have looked at or researched. We are still “working” with FB to the small degree that we can.
One of the shortcomings of Fortune Builders believed was their coaches not being familiar with our market (South Florida), and we never felt like we were getting direction/advice/answers that were specific/applicable to the unique challenges of this market. Based on a tip from another local RE Investor we had met at one of several REIA meetings that we were attending, we checked into a website for Laura Al-Amery. She is“local” to us (about an hour south), so we assumed she would be much more knowledgeable about our market and hopefully be able to provide much more tangible and actionable advice/direction on what we were doing wrong or could do differently to start getting some real results.
Based on a tip from another local RE Investor we had met at one of several REIA meetings that we were attending, we checked into a website for Laura Al-Amery. She is“local” to us (about an hour south), so we assumed she would be much more knowledgeable about our market and hopefully be able to provide much more tangible and actionable advice/direction on what we were doing wrong or could do differently to start getting some real results.
We bought into her “coaching” for $2,000. This gave us access to a very condensed version of Success in RE and FBtype REI basics (online only, which we completed) as well as a 1-hour face to face meeting with her to discuss where we were and what we needed to do different order to move forward. Sadly, she offered very little advice or direction on what we could do except to increase your direct mailings. She has been good about responding to emails in a timely manner regarding questions/problems/challenges that we were having, but the response was always the same, “It’s a numbers game; you have to increase your marketing and number of direct mail pieces in order to get legitimate leads and possible deal”. Not much else beyond that has ever been offered, specifically how to afford $2k-$10k/month marketing costs with zero deals made and zero deals coming in. We literally just received an email from her today stating out year long membership has expired but that we could continue for a nominal $47/month.
Our next stop was $1,300 to ReggieBrooks who made his pitchfest at one of the local REIA meetings that we used to attend. Again, he spoke of some specifics that seemed applicable to what we think are unique challenges of our specific market. We thought it was worth risking the $1300. Since that meeting and sale, we have not heard another word from Mr. Brooks or any from his staff. Not even the “thank you” call that was promised in the pitchfest. Several emails and phone calls to Mr. Brooks regarding the curriculum have never been returned.
Next up was Mr. Kent Clothier. We watched a webinar touting his REWWsoftware. With what we believed our main problem being generating legitimate leads, that aspect of his program appealed to us. We bought the program for $1,500. We generated three (3) 100 lead lists of “high equity, out of state, absentee owners” and mailed 3 touch letter campaign to all 300 “leads,” 900 letters total. This generated 4 phone calls, all which we not interested in selling, much less being motivated. In defense ofMr. Clothier and his program, he did agree to refund us back half of the $1,500 even though we were well past the 30-day guarantee window that he offers. He seems to be one of the very few ethical REI “gurus” that we have come across in the venture.
Or next adventure was without question the most reprehensible of everything we have experienced thus far. With everything we have done (time/money/effort/marketing) having not generated any legitimate leads or deals, we shifted gears and started looking at many other potential revenue-generating strategies.
The CC debt that we have accumulated from these wasted ventures was really starting to weigh heavy. As a result, we looked into a tax arbitrage program offered by Mr. Stacy Kellems. We researched it as best we could and decided to purchase his program for the advertised $1,000. However, on my CC Billi saw that we were charged twice for it. I “spoke” to (emailed, as they do offer telephone support, which really should have been a huge red flag for us!) Hilary Reddy (Mr. Kellems wife I believe) about the charge and asked for the 2nd unapproved charge it to be credited back. We were told we had purchased an “upgrade” to the program, which we did not. We did not know of or approve of any “upgrade.” This went back and forth several times and got very heated. Based on not getting the credit, I told her just to give us our full refund on the entire program as we were still well within the 30-day “unconditional” guarantee window that Mr.Kellems offered. This, of course, was denied as well.
In full transparency, I did file a claim with my bank to investigate the charge. Four months later, my bank came back and credited my account for the 2nd unauthorized $1,000 credit card charge only. I am still out the initial $1,000 charge that I actually did agree to and therefore did not file a claim against that with my bank. But I have not and will not access the program or anyone associated with him. In my view, Mr. Kellems is nothing more than a lying, scamming, petty criminal.
A close second to Mr. Kellems is Mr. Preston Ely and his “Instant Gurus” software/program. Look it up sometime if you can find it…..it’s not always on the market. Basically, it teaches anyone how to be a REI “guru” without ever having closed any deals or having any REI experience. Truly distressing and appalling…….
The following sums up what we have done over the last 24 months.
- We have Spent well over $40k,
- invested 1500+ hours,
- mailed over 3000 direct mail pieces,
- placed 200 bandit signs,
- made 150+ offers,
- cold called 300+ FSBOs,
- attended 50+ local REIA meetings,
- attended numerous seminars, boot camps, webinars (more than I can count),
- looked at 100+ properties,
- spoke to 50+ RE agents and REO agents,
- posted 100’s of ads on CL,
- created an LLC, and created S-corp ($1200 + $800 to renew this past year),
- spent/wasted money on RealePro, FlipComp, LendCred,
- and emailed and/or spoke to over the phone everyone on this email list.
In spite of all of this, we still have not closed a single deal. Not even come close to closing a deal or come close to getting a property under contract. We have not made a single dollar, and not re-couped any of the money “invested” in this venture outside of the few that have agreed to refund our money.
The following is what I would call, in David Letterman fashion, the “top 10 (ok, so just 7) fundamental truths about REI”. These are based on generated from our experience over the last 24 months:
– REI is not easy. I know. Thanks for understating the obvious, right? Yes, we are not so naïve to everything that would be. To the contrary, we knew it wasn’t, but we grossly underestimated just exactly how difficult it is.
– REI requires a TON of time. Marsha and I were collectively putting between 45-60 hours per week for the first 9-12 months of this venture. We scaled that back, mainly for sanity reasons to 30-40 per week for another 6 months. We really have not done much the last 6 months, as we simply don’t see the point any longer. If 45-60 for 9-12 months yielded zero ROI, 10-20 right now isn’t going to get any different result.
– REI requires a TON of money. In spite of all the claims that this can be done with little to no money down, it does require substantial amounts of money, for marketing in particular. Somewhere between $2k-10k per month. Direct mail, bandit signs, websites, LLC’s, S-corps, accountants, etc.(and of course “gurus”!) all cost money and CANNOT be done for “little or no money down.” I have yet found a private lender willing to fund my direct mail campaigns.
– You must secure the help of a mentor. Perhaps I should not say “must” as some may have been able to attain some level of success without one. But I suspect very few. Also, by “mentor” I mean a TRUE mentor. More on that later.
– In spite of how lucrative REI can be, REI education must be even FAR more lucrative. In spite of what we have experienced, we do still know and believe that REI can be lucrative…..under the right circumstances. But the amount of money that can be made and is obviously being made off of REI “education” is mind boggling and is apparently even far more significant than just plain old REI. The sheer number of so-called REI “gurus” out there is overwhelming. There are about 50 people on this email list. There are another 40-50 that I have not looked into much at all and therefore, did not include in this email.
– “Gurus” will ALWAYS get their money. No matter what the so-called “gurus” claim or say about wanting to help students and students first, they will always get their money. In spite of claiming to have concerns/desires for their student’s success, the money has and always does come first. This is not to say that some “gurus” do not genuinely wish for and help prospective students to achieve success as much as they can. But I submit the vast majority count on the vast majority of their students to just “quit” thereby giving the “gurus” free money. I think that hope or outlook is the very cornerstone of the typical REI education business plan.
– No matter how many times you unsubscribe from “guru” email lists, you will never stop getting the emails. In spite of numerous “unsubscribing campaigns” executed by me, I still get 30-50 emails daily from so-called“gurus” about their next “can’t miss” program. This in spite of claims that your information is “never sold.” I will go thru a campaign and won’t hear from one for 2-3 weeks, then all of the sudden, I’ll start getting emails again. Just beyond annoying…..
Marsha and I still believe in REIand its’ potential to provide a steady income, produce passive income and generate wealth. But, only under the right circumstances. We do not believe that we were under the right circumstances 24 months ago and certainly are not now. This, in spite of the many massive claims by so-called “gurus” to the contrary, admonishing us to take “massive action.” Well, we drank the Kool-aid, took massive action, and we are paying for it dearly now. We have been now for about 12 months and will be for another 12-24. All the while 5-6 so-called “gurus” out there have made some significant money off of us, for very little (if anything) in return. We wish we knew that then, as we would have made a much better, much more educated decision regarding getting involved in REI (that would have been an emphatic “no”!).
Our disdain has far more to do with all the so-called “gurus” out there that are profiting off of (in some cases hugely!) so many prospective students and their desires and hard work for a better life. They do this by offering products, software, coaching, programs that simply do not always work and/or are horribly ineffective. And they are very well aware of that, but still over promise, over inflate and over hype potential results all in the name of making a dollar. In my view, this is wrong. Perfectly legal mind you, but completely unethical. Just because something is legal doesn’t mean it is right. And there are other aspects of REI that is ethically questionable as well besides this one. I haven’t even touched on that topic.
We have, for all intents and purposes, put this venture on the back burner for the time being. We are still seeking a TRUE mentor. But that is about it. We have made several offers to successful local investors about mentoring us. We have offered up to 90% of profits for all of our future deals over the next 12-60 months up to an agreed upon maximum amount. Two at least told us they would be interested but with the caveat that I am not working full-time. Their opinion was/is that we have no prayer of any success while trying to do this “part-time” and therefore would be a waste of time for everyone involved. Unfortunately, Marsha and I tend to agree with that assessment.
Right now, quitting my job is completely out of the question. For whatever reason, there has been a recent rash of offers from several of you (12-15) reading this email over the last 6 months, offering the usual coaching/programs/software/etc. I have made the same offer to them, 90% of all profits from all of our deals in the next 12-60 months up to an agreed upon max total. Needless to say, every single one balked at my offer. No surprise there. A couple literally laughed.
Hence, Harsh reality #6. We will be executing another“unsubscribe” crusade and hope that this one will be more effective than the past ones. If by some minor miracle we were to find this person, we would look to revive our business. But for right now, enough is enough. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Marsha and I, short of staying up ever night until 2-3 in the morning and/or literally spending ourselves into bankruptcy……have done everything we possibly could do to find and close a deal. For whatever reason, it just has not happened.Many of you, in your many email campaigns, have tried to admonish us that “life is too short” to not get involved in REI. I don’t take issue with that, but I do submit that opposite at times, is just as true. Life is too short to be this miserable as well, and that is the situation and conclusion that Marsha and I have come with 2017.In full disclosure, there are a couple of you on this email list that I have spoken to (a few at great length) or emailed that I truly believe are civil, legit and empathetic towards our struggle. Not many, but a few. To those few, I offer you my sincere appreciation and gratitude for your time, concern, empathy, and advice. But the vast majority, once you have figured out you were not going to get me to waste another $500/$5000/$50,000, could not get off the phone soon enough. A couple has literally just hung up on me.
Amazing.Most of you probably haven’t even read this far, and that is fine. I know this is very long, and I truly do understand, and I certainly don’t expect or wish for you to respond to this email. For the rest of you that have suffered thru this far, it goes without saying that if you feel compelled to respond with any further advice/ideas/rebuttals/comments/etc., feel free to email back.
Or call that is easier. My cell phone number is always at the end of all my emails. In particular, if you are truly interested in becoming a TRUE mentor to my wife and I and believe that you can help us salvage something out of this disaster.
Our sincere thanks for your time and consideration and we wish each of you a great 2017 and continued success in the coming year.
Jim and Marsha Miller
Seaside Home Solutions, Inc.