About FortuneBuilders

Published on: Mar 3, 2014

FortuneBuilders is a real estate investment (REI) company who claims to use a proven system to reduce risk and maximize profit.

The company sells its courses and systems to individuals who are interested in making a part-time or full-time career out of REI.

FortuneBuilders is led by Than Merrill, a Yale University grad and former NFL safety who started his own real estate company in 2004 after his playing days were over.

He launched FortuneBuilders in 2006 and his company’s conferences attract thousands of people each year, with some choosing to sign up for the company’s “Mastery” program (more on that later).

The concept behind the FortuneBuilders is relatively simple. Find real estate through which you can turn a profit, whether it’s a run-down home in an up-and-coming neighborhood or a desolate commercial property in a booming business district.

But actually pulling off a profit requires an extensive knowledge set that spans real estate, contracting, property law, business management and risk. That’s where FortuneBuilders comes in – they claim to give you these skills.

Make no mistake about it; for those who want to make a full-time career out the FortuneBuilders REI system, you’ll need to invest tens of thousands of dollars (the website gives no specific prices).

Is FortuneBuilders another high-priced deception, or do the principles and systems the company shares actually provide individuals like you the tools you need to run an efficient REI enterprise?

To answer that question, we did some research on the FortuneBuilders website, read some consumer reviews and talked with CEO Than Merrill.

Over the next few minutes, we’ll investigate what the company offers, how you can sign up, what kind of person can succeed in this program and what other consumers are saying about their FortuneBuilders Experience.

What FortuneBuilders Offers: Real Estate Investment Training

At first glance, FortuneBuilders may seem a little mysterious. Their website doesn’t get into specific details about what you’ll learn via their two-hour seminar, weekend event or Mastery coaching and workshops.

To get more information about what you’ll learn, we talked with Than and asked what the main areas of education are within the FortuneBuilders program.

Understanding what the company teaches its students is critical to understanding what the program offers:

  • Real estate appraisal/due diligence: Properly assessing the value of a home
  • Marketing: Finding the right buyer at the right price
  • Escrow: Ins and outs of what happens after an accepted offer
  • Financing: How to secure funding for investment properties
  • Construction management: How to manage a rehab
  • Property management: Running a property you’re renting out
  • Property disposition: Marketing and selling commercial properties
  • Business management: Understanding systems, technology and software
  • People management: Finding and keeping the right people

It’s common to find people, Than says, who only want to learn the basics of one or two of these areas. While you might be able to pull off a flip or two, you’ll be missing vital information, he told us.

In order to get to the point that you can learn the FortuneBuilders system before buying your first property, you’ll have to work through the FortuneBuilders funnel.

The FortuneBuilders Funnel

The funnel works like this: seminar, weekend event and Mastery courses.

Seminars are typically a two-hour event in a city where those interested in real estate investment can come and learn a bit about FortuneBuilders.

At some point during the seminar, the person leading the event will invite attendees to sign up for a three-day weekend event that costs, based on our research of various consumer testimonials, around $200.

The weekend event shares a little bit more about the company and the systems they have in place to help you succeed in REI, but they don’t give away all the secrets.

Just like the two-hour seminar, at some point during the weekend, they’ll ask you to invest a considerable amount of money in joining FortuneBuilders and taking part in their Mastery courses, which cover the details of the nine categories we talked about.

During that time, you’ll basically get a college-level education on the entire real estate investment process. Than says the principles he learned over 14 years in the industry are condensed into the Mastery program.

How FortuneBuilders’ Mastery Education Works

We’ve mentioned the word “system” several times in this review because it’s at the core of the FortuneBuilders business model.

Over the past 14 years, Merrill has nailed down a series of critical software and workflows that make the REI process from appraisal to purchase to renovation to sale.

On top of that, he’s assembled a team of trainers who work with you to understand the FortuneBuilders REI process. These trainers have real-world experience they share with you in one-on-one sessions as you work on real estate deals.

Mastery students also get hands-on training with FortuneBuilders software that works very much like a flight simulation.

For example, Than told us, students will log onto the FortuneBuilders rehab app and be presented with a case-study home FortuneBuilders has purchased and rehabbed according to their system and database of construction materials.

The home is presented three-dimensionally to give you a comprehensive project scope. Students go room-by-room and inventory what’s there, what needs to be fixed, what needs to be bought and what, if anything, will stay.

Once all this data is recorded, students can access the FortuneBuilders database to find counters, cabinets, appliances, flooring and other products for the rehab.

At that point, your primary estimate is done and you compare it to the actual estimate that FortuneBuilders created. This comparison gives you a good look at where you can refine your process to maximize profit and provide the home’s future owner with a great house.

“After having gone through these 10 or 15 case studies with us, you’re just going to replicate the construction and décor materials we use in different rooms and apply that to your own product,” Than told us.

FortuneBuilders Workshops

The training they offer goes beyond software, though, and the Mastery program is part of a series of learning opportunities the company offers:

  • Mastery Coaching – Helps you strategically invest in real estate using a team of expert coaches, one-on-one mentoring and support, access to a community of like-minded individuals and much more.
  • Marketing & Wholesaling Bootcamp – A 4-day intensive that can help you set up your company, create a marketing plan, learn how to evaluate deals, build your buyers list and obtain financing.
  • Rehabbing Bootcamp – A 4-day intensive that teaches house locating techniques and how to build a rehab team, an onsite bus tour, how to sell your home and obtain insurance and how to set up your accounting software.​​​​​​​
  • REO & Short-sale Intensive – A 3-day intensive that claims to help you take advantage of the unlimited income potential associated with short sales using marketing techniques, insider secrets and systems that can “double your profits.”​​​​​​​
  • Online Business Bootcamp – An online-only event that focuses on “creating online funnels for your real estate business.” Topics include blogging, affiliate programs, social media marketing, joint ventures and more.​​​​​​​
  • Insiders Summit – A 3-day investor training series hosted by A&E’s “Flip this House” TV stars.​​​​​​​
  • Courses – Includes topics such as Marketing for Deals, Rehabbing and Maximizing Profits, and Wholesaling for Quick Cash.

Now, the Mastery coaching and workshops – the full-fledged leap into FortuneBuilders – don’t come cheap. While their site doesn’t list any prices, one HighYa reviewer indicated he was asked to pay between $15,000 and $34,000 for the FortuneBuilders Mastery program.

Some of these reviews have bemoaned the high price and point to it as a reason that they didn’t enter the Mastery program.

Others who did enter the program say it wasn’t worth the tens of thousands of dollars they invested in it. Still others say it’s worth the money.

These varying opinions made us wonder what type of person can succeed with FortuneBuilders.

What Kind of Person Will Succeed in FortuneBuilders?

Than told us that FortuneBuilders can work for just about anybody because the skills you need in order to succeed in the program can be taught.

However, he made it pretty clear that certain types of people will find it easier to excel in the FortuneBuilders program.

People Who Love Routine

One of the first things Than told us is that former or current members of the military tend to do well in the program because they’re accustomed to a life of routine.

This is key, Than said, because your FortuneBuilders career thrives on a disciplined approach to learning at least an hour a day.

“People with military backgrounds who come in as students are very used to routines and they’re used to being self-disciplined,” Than told us. “You’re running a business. A lot of your success is going to depend on developing those routines.”

People With an Entrepreneurial Mindset

Entrepreneurs, Than said, are people who are more comfortable with risk. Because real estate is risky no matter how experienced you are, you have to be okay with the possibility you might lose money on a deal.

“People with an entrepreneurial mindset who take calculated risks tend to succeed,” Than said. “Some people are just not suited to take on risk. Their probability of success is lower.”

While the probabilities might be lower for those who aren’t used to routine and risk, Than said it’s still possible to teach them these mindsets.

“Any of these traits can be learned; these concepts can be taught,” he said. “But, your probability of success will increase dramatically if you’ve already got those skills.”

Does FortuneBuilders Eliminate Risk?

This is a huge question for consumers because real estate requires investments than hit six digits and the FortuneBuilders program requires tens of thousands of dollars.

Than says that you can never eliminate risk from real estate – it’s a given – but learning how to think like an entrepreneur and being disciplined enough to study REI every day can reduce risk.

“We’ve bought properties and made mistakes, but the thing that I’ve learned is that an education helps you eliminate 80 to 90 percent of those errors,” Than said. “If you consistently educate yourself, you’ll avoid the major mistakes.”

This is why Than encourages people who are serious about REI to join the Mastery program. You can’t become an efficient REI business owner by giving minimal effort, which leads us to our next question.

Is FortuneBuilders a Get Rich Quick Scheme?

There are dozens, if not hundreds, of real estate “experts” who say their methods of doing things can earn you tens of thousands of dollars in a very short amount of time.

While some of these experts are legit – Than is a good example, as is Nick Vertucci – others are not. One of the key factors in differentiating the two? The promise of quick riches.

“It’s not an overnight process. There’s a lot of risk in real estate, but people try to short-change the process by going to one event or reading one book,” Than said. “The thing I always say is build that educational foundation at first. Don’t jump in there and try to do a deal with a weekend or a couple of books.”

In fact, Than said, his program isn’t interested in people who want to one-off a weekend event just so they can learn a few principles and apply them to the real estate market.

“We want people who want a long-term, sustained business,” Than said. “There’s a lot to learn in regards to systems, protocol and operating procedures. We want serious individuals who realize the work that’s entailed and who want to follow the process.”

If you’re interested in trying out REI as a career, Than says he tells his students to devote at least 15 hours a week to figure out if it’s the right career choice.

We also checked the FortuneBuilders website for any income disclaimers and found a pretty extensive page of information that leads with:

“Any income or earnings statements are estimates of income potential only, and there is no assurance that your earnings will match the figures we present. Your reliance on the figures we present is at your own risk.”

What Others Are Saying About FortuneBuilders

The most revealing series of reviews and ratings of FortuneBuilders comes from the company’s Better Business Bureau page. At the time of publishing, the company had an A+ rating.

However, the BBB indicated it confronted FortuneBuilders in July 2012 about radio ads claiming students could earn between $10,000 and $40,000 per real estate deal in their spare time.

The BBB indicated that FortuneBuilders removed the radio ad in accordance with the BBB’s wishes and added disclaimers to its other radio ads with “Earnings vary based on your effort.”

We also discovered that FortuneBuilders is required to ask for federal documents proving the real estate profits of students who are used in testimonials.

The BBB page also indicates that FortuneBuilders speakers are active real estate professionals and attend weekly conference calls with Than.

We found reviews on other sites as well, one of which is Bigger Pockets, a forum for real estate investors. The reviews on that site are mixed – some think the high price tag is worth it, while others say you can get the same education from books and meetings.

In our opinion, it’s hard to affirm that FortuneBuilders’ material is available in a couple of books and local real estate meetings, particularly because of the one-on-one coaching that takes place as well as the company’s rehab software and workshops.

FortuneBuilders also has a collection of reviews on Yelp with an average rating of, at the time of publishing, 3.3 stars. Positive comments say the workshops and seminars are helpful, while negative comments focused on the events being too salesy.

The company also has 378 reviews on Google Reviews with a 5 out of 5 star rating and 682 reviews on Facebook with a 4.7 out of 5 star rating.

Our Final Thoughts on FortuneBuilders

The FortuneBuilders program is a tricky one because it takes a big investment on the part of the student to get the information, education and experience that will help them, as Than said, reduce 80-90% of mistakes that you’d normally make in real estate investing if you didn’t have a comprehensive education.

Now, that number isn’t set in stone – mistakes are made by even the most experienced investors.

However, the principle of education Than is pushing is a pretty sound one, and, just like any formalized education system, it will cost you time and money.

Is FortuneBuilders Right for You?

If you half-heartedly want to learn about real estate, then, in our opinion, we think you might be best served by reading a few books and joining local real estate groups.

The level of time (at least 15 hours a week to start) and money (at least $15,000 for the Mastery program) is so steep that it’s not worth your time if you aren’t going to commit.

Treat FortuneBuilders like you would if you wanted to start fishing. Buy a rod, reel and some lures and figure out if you actually like it.

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16 Customer Reviews for FortuneBuilders

Average Customer Rating: 3.7
Rating Snapshot:
5 star: 9 4 star: 2 3 star: 0 2 star: 1 1 star:  4
Bottom Line: 69% would recommend it to a friend
Showing 1-11 of 16
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  • A great learning experience and a fun way to learn.

    We went to the three-day workshop with Sean McNichols, and he was a great person with tons of knowledge to share. The amount of knowledge he brought to the table was astonishing and the way he presented it was fun and very clear. To cover the amount of learning in the allotted amount of time is simply amazing. I'm hoping we can put what we learned into play and start making money for a better future. "CRUSH IT."

    Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this to a friend

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  • FortuneBuilders was a great experience

    • Alabama,
    • Jun 23, 2017
    • Verified Reviewer

    My experience with FortuneBuilders was very interesting. In the beginning, I had a sort of "I don't know about this" kind of attitude. I really thought that I was going to feel out of place. Unfortunately, the staff changed all of that for me.

    When Sean Mack started to speak, he really loosened me up and made me feel as though I was already a part of FortuneBuilders. That's pretty amazing if you ask me. I've never been more eager in my life to get started working. It seemed like I was inside of a spiritual motivation class. No complaints at all, really needed that perfect timing.

    I learned a lot of things that I didn't have a clue about. Also, the few questions that I did have, he answered without me saying a word. It was like he read my mind. Katie Bruce and the entire staff are just the greatest. I wish I could be with you all every day, it would really change my life in a good way. I really hope everyone keeps in touch. I enjoyed every one, thanks for everything, and be looking forward to seeing me again. God bless.

    Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this to a friend

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  • Highly recommend attending 3-day workshop

    I recently attended a three-day workshop on real estate investing, taught by Ralph Plumb. I have attended other REI seminars before (hosted by other companies), and this was by far the best one I’ve ever attended.

    This was a real educational experience. Ralph obviously loves to teach, and this is evident by his enthusiasm and his ability to engage the audience with subject matter that he is passionate about. He is extremely knowledgeable and delivers the material in a way that is easy to understand. Trust me, if I can understand it, so can you. I learned so much valuable information about real estate/flipping, money, the economy, taxes, investing and so much more. I now know new ways to save money, create wealth and make money "work for me."

    Other seminars that I have attended concentrate on finding deals, wholesaling, rehabbing, building your team, finding investors, contracts, etc, etc, which is all very important, don’t get me wrong. However, the big difference here is that Ralph explains all that, BUT ALSO, how to invest money and how to protect investments/assets. This skill set is what will truly make you wealthy. Many of the other companies out there seem to hone in on the "real estate" aspect of REI, BUT it’s called real estate INVESTING, and this is where Ralph really excelled and went into great depth to explain, whereas other REI seminars seem to neglect this critical piece of the "accruing wealth" process.

    His integrity, honorable ethical aptitude, and high moral standards are very evident and command respect. This is also a direct reflection on FortuneBuilders and exemplifies the moral foundation upon which this company was built. One of their mottos is "Put People First and Profit Second," which speaks volumes about their work ethic. Something that unfortunately seems to be lacking in society today.

    The cost of this three-day workshop is the best REI money can buy. In a nutshell, this is REI on steroids! Be prepared to take LOTS of notes and pay attention. There is SO much to learn. Just do it! You are investing in yourself, and as Ben Franklin said, "An investment in knowledge pays the best interest." I highly recommend it. If it’s important to you, you’ll find a way; if not, you’ll find an excuse.

    Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this to a friend

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  • FortuneBuilders three-day RE training - Van Nuys, CA

    Upon entering into the workshop, I immediately realized that great care was put into all aspects of the training. From the quality and professionalism provided by all of the well-trained team members to the quality of the training material that was presented, I could see that what was being provided was high level, a cut above the rest and not just what you'd find at a typical real estate training seminar. I knew it was different.

    The presenter: There are just not enough words to express what great a job Cole did in the delivery of his presentation. He was very personable and open about his personal stories and how the program changed his life. He was knowledgeable about the material and delivered it with assurance and confidence. He never cut one corner in the delivery of his presentation, and he was both funny and engaging. He basically had the perfect balance of knowledge, skill set, professionalism, and friendliness - all delivered in an entertaining yet serious way that kept us fully engaged throughout the workshop.

    By the end of the workshop, I was able to identify systems and could also see the value in the training program as well as the university level Mastery Program that was offered. It was top of the line, fully systemized and quality learning material.

    It was also very evident that the level of detail could not have been learned from another training program, but only from personal, hands-on experience.

    Bottom line, everything and everyone on the team was reflective of Mastery level, top performance. They all represented the organization well.

    Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this to a friend

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  • Amazing

    I enjoyed the workshop that Lee conducted this past weekend. It has given me confidence and more insight on what I need to do, to obtain wealth for years to come. I'm already putting things into action. Thanks Lee and FortuneBuilders team! God bless.

    Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this to a friend

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  • Exciting

    • Charleston, SC,
    • Jun 23, 2017
    • Verified Reviewer

    The workshop was a great experience. As each day was over, I couldn't wait to wake up the next day to learn more. The staff was great. It is some of the best real estate education I've ever come across.

    Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this to a friend

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  • Life changing experience

    I went to a three-day event in Rochester, Minnesota. It was the best decision I've ever made. The team was fun and outgoing and pushed you out of your comfort zone. The other guests ranged from knowing nothing about real estate investing to people with thriving businesses, looking for help. Everyone was friendly and shared secrets of their own businesses.

    The seminar itself was very well put together. I walked in there nervous, not knowing what I was doing and left with basic knowledge to start my own business and a full notebook of notes to help me through the whole process. I would highly recommend this to anyone who is serious about meeting long-term goals and graduate/college students with entrepreneur goals.

    Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this to a friend

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  • Life changing 3-day event

    I attended FortuneBuilders three-day event and discovered a new outlook for my life and business. I had been looking for an alternative to the business I am in currently, and FortuneBuilders gave me a peek into real estate investing. I am convinced that FortuneBuilders approach to real estate investing is the right direction for me.

    The event was uplifting and positive. Ralf Plumb, our trainer, was very knowledgeable and delivered a lot of information clearly and concisely.

    Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this to a friend

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  • 1 out 1 people found this review helpful

    Insightful and eye-opening

    Attending this FortuneBuilders event was a very informative experience for me. Learning about money is not something the average person learns about through school. It's usually through self-persued education or learning about it the hard way through life experiences; so to have events like this that cater to those who are dedicated to understanding how to make money work for them is very valuable. The presenter, Lee Escobar, was serious about what he talked about and he wants everyone he professes to, to succeed.

    Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this to a friend

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  • 1 out 1 people found this review helpful

    Mind blowing experience

    Apart from the tons of information revealed by the trainer John Dejulio, the way and manner in which he made such an intensive three-day training fun while retaining knowledge was absolutely amazing. I felt we were one big family with people I have never met. And John is a brainwasher; my mindset about money has changed outrightly for the best! John is a fantastic teacher!

    Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this to a friend

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  • 1 out 3 people found this review helpful

    Workshop was life changing

    • New York,
    • Jun 5, 2017
    • Verified Reviewer

    I first heard about FortuneBuilders because a few investors in my area have been through their coaching program and have been very successful because of it. They recommended I go to the workshop and I am sure glad I did.

    Jon Steingraber taught the class, and it was phenomenal. I have been investing in real estate for a few years, and I learned so much that I didn't know because I have been so busy doing all the work myself.

    The information on rehabbing real estate was of particular interest to me because I am in the middle of rehabbing a property right now. In fact, there were two specific things he shared that are going to save me a lot of money and time, so the information was very timely. I was definitely taking a technician approach to rehabbing this property, and now I am definitely going to look to implement more systems within my business based on what I learn. The systems these guys have are unreal, and you will really appreciate them when you are in the middle of working way too hard on a property like I am currently.

    He also shared numerous strategies about how to invest in real estate using a Solo 401k and Roth IRA that were eye opening and something I am going to utilize right away.

    Jon was very passionate and extremely knowledgeable, and you can tell he really loves teaching. Everyone working the event was friendly and went out of there way to make it an enjoyable three days.

    I would definitely recommend this event to anyone looking to invest in real estate or just looking to learn more. I was inspired, and I know it is going to change my approach to my entire business.

    Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this to a friend

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