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.
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.
6 out 6 people found this review helpful
Not forth coming and honest
I wanted to believe it, but it's a total scam. They wanted $29,000 to $49,000 to be a part of their program.
They suck you in with a one-day free class and make you believe that if you pay $197, you will go to a three-day class and that you will have access to their forms and resources, but in fact, you don't, and you have to buy into the program to use their stuff. It's nothing more than a business school like Devry Institute.
If I had $29,000, I would use it to get my first Real Estate deal. I am upset because they mislead me from the start and should have been honest about what it was. I actually took a day off work which cost me even more money, and I got up every day still at 7 in order to not have a day off go to this event.
It's sad to see these TV stars already making good money and still taking advantage of people.
Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friendView all 1 commentsHide comments
May 15, 2017
Wrong. They said from the get-go what was the second event. There was absolutely no promise of getting access, nor the copies of their documented systems and proprietary tools. In fact, I can't see anyone thinking that the initial $200 was going to provide that. If you did, that's an error on your part, not theirs.
I just went to the 3-day FortuneBuilders Workshop, and there was some powerful stuff mentioned there. The things I took away from all that has nothing to do with real estate specifically. It was more of a mentality changing workshop than anything else. I realized that day that I no longer wanted to work for anyone. So I don't have that issue of taking off one day of work and losing pay. Until I learn that kind of mindset, I am not an entrepreneur. There will be people that go to this and get it, and there are those that don't. Guess where they will be ten years from now? They will still be losing money whenever they take vacation time.
Was that workshop worth it as a "real estate" workshop? No. Was that workshop worth the $200 to learn things that I wouldn't have thought that I needed to know? Yes. It was more like paying for a Robert Kiyosaki seminar or even a Tony Robins seminar.
If you're the type of person that would never think that one of these "motivation" or "mindset gurus" could ever give you some life-changing, mind-blowing concepts that you can start to use and change your life, then this stuff isn't for you.
11 out 12 people found this review helpful
Don't do it
My husband and I went to a free 3-day seminar in Dania Beach, Florida. We didn't join in the seminar because of their price ($24,997), but they called a couple of times after the seminar and kept saying it's fast money and you don't even need to put anything from your pocket. buy, flip, sell, and make money fast.
We ended up purchasing the six months coaching system for the price of $25,000, which we put everything in credit cards on 08/05/2015. I went to a live coaching session and asked them if it would be easier to have a real estate license, and the coach said YES! I paid another $450 to take my license and joined a real estate company that took $60.00 every month from my account (that's with me making money or not). I didn't even know that there were companies that had no monthly charge.
I stayed with the real estate company for a year, in which I only closed one deal from which I got under $700.00. I just told you what happened to us. This is a scam when they tell you that the $24,997.00 will cover a trip to California to see how Than and Merill do their business and get coaches to call you (which, by the way, the coaches aren't in your state, so they don't know the laws), and they call for 15 minutes exactly.
Save yourselves from this pain that we are going through struggling with payments and interest of the credit cards. DO NOT pay them a dime; they aren't worth it. I'm writing this to let other people trust their guts; there isn't a faster and honest way to make money, just with hard work.
Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend
8 out 8 people found this review helpful
Not worth your money
Like others have said, they are good at getting you hyped up and thinking you are really going to learn something. All you get once you part with your money is that you find out that you were a sucker. I went to the three-day seminar, and I had to rent a car because I didn't want to miss it.
Then, afterward, I got a call from one of the pitch guys asking me how much money I have in my bank account. Once I told him he said that they have a program that they offer which I can do online, and well guess what? It so happens that it was a little less than that amount.
I was glad to be able to still get something that helps in getting some training, to at least get me started on making money. But NO, that was not the case. I just wasted so much money making them richer and making me poorer.
Don't do it unless you have money to burn.
Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend
11 out 12 people found this review helpful
Not worth the price, don't let them get you caught up in the hype!
The information can be obtained with the same info from other sources at a much lower price. Don't get caught up in the hype, as they are very good at getting you hooked at the three-day seminar.
They select for the Fortune Builders Mastery program based on how much money you have to invest. I felt a little uncomfortable with the questions on how much credit or money we had in savings for the program. They also encouraged us to get as many credit cards as possible so we can use it on the program. The base price was $15,000 for the lowest program, $25,000 for the next level and $34,000 for the highest level program. The difference in pricing is the length of the coaching available. I did the math, and it came out to about $800 per coaching call.
They make you think that this program is worth much more than these costs, but it is not. They also make you think that you can do this part time and make decent money but you really can't. You really need to do this full time to make a reasonable amount of money. One of the people that I have met that does this has to work 60-80 hours a week to make a decent living, so keep that in mind. They will also push Nevada Corporate Headquarters (NCH) for you to use to incorporate and other services.
Do NOT use them, as they are grossly overpriced as well. Facebook probably gets a big kickback from them.
Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend
53 out 54 people found this review helpful
Scam in Disguise
I just completed the 3 day course today and all I can say is they are serious "Gold Diggers!" All of the information they gave I already read in books or online. They didn't tell me anything new. Then they wanted $35,000 more so I can be one of the "Chosen" few to further my way through their program. Really? When I told them I didn't have that kind of cash laying around, they told me to open as many credit cards as I can and charge it as a "Business Expense!" If I don't have the money now why in the world would I want to go further in debt. They try to make it sound so good but everything they tell you you can find for free. They also teach you how to "Shuffle" your money around so you pay less in taxes. I asked my accountant AND my attorney and both say it's illegal the way they are doing it.
Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend