About Than Merrill

Than Merrill is a real estate investor and author who oversees CT Homes LLC and is the founder of FortuneBuilders, a high-priced program that teaches students everything they need to know about making real estate investment a career. He’s also a star of the HGTV series “Flip This House”.

Than’s website is ThanMerrill.com, a resource where you can learn more about him and his various business ventures (more on that in a few minutes).

Than is pretty well-known in the real-estate investment world – his company conducts seminars across the United States. In that sense, Merrill’s programs are similar to other real estate investors we’ve reviewed, including Nick Vertucci, Peter Souhleris and Dave Seymor, Tarek El Moussa and Armando Montelongo.

However, understanding a businessperson goes beyond just their business or businesses. It’s important to know things like:

  • How did they get into real estate?
  • How legitimate is their expertise?
  • What businesses or programs do they offer?

To get answers to these questions we did some research and also interviewed Than.

Who is Than Merrill?

Than was born in Fresno, Calif., and attended college at Yale University. Than was a strong safety for Yale’s football team.

Than went on to play two seasons in the NFL: one with the Chicago Bears and one with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He also played two seasons in Amsterdam and Barcelona with NFL Europe.

Than’s football career ended when he suffered a knee injury in 2003.

At that point, Than realized he was “just as passionate about real estate as he was about football,” his website says.

Than told us that, around the time he transitioned from football to real estate, he read a book called “The E-Myth: Why Most Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It” by Michael E. Gerber.

“The book was about designing franchise-like systems that can be replicated and utilized,” Than said.

In the context of real estate, this meant creating systems of purchasing, contracting and managing properties that could be replicated and given to others to do the same thing.

That replication of Than’s system didn’t come until later in his career. He launched his real-estate investment venture in the early 2000’s with colleagues Paul Esajian and Konrad Sopielnikow.

They named their business CT Homes LLC, a moniker that they still use today.

Over the next few years Than and his partners learned the ups and downs of real estate. They made mistakes and scored success.

Eventually, Than was able to create a systems-focused approach to the way his company handled investment properties and other areas of real estate.

Inspired by Gerber’s E-Myth book, Than launched FortuneBuilders, his avenue for sharing the systems and methodologies that brought him success at CT Homes LLC.

“My business partner and I have been in the trenches for 14 years. We took a very systematic approach to developing a business,” Than said. “Today our real estate business has 15 people working our office and 30 or more projects at one time.”

Than Merrill’s Expertise and Experience

One of the questions you should always have about a particular business personality or reality-TV star is, “How legit are they?”

FortuneBuilders in Inc.’s Top 5000

As we’ll talk about in a few minutes, FortuneBuilders is one of the companies that Than started. FortuneBuilders made two appearances in the Inc. 5000, a list of the 5,000 fastest growing companies in the United States.

In 2010, FortuneBuilders was #62 on the list. In 2011, it was #104 and in 2012 it maintained its top-500 standing at #457.

Revenue-wise, FortuneBuilders has done pretty well based on Inc.com’s rankings.

CT Real Estate, LLC

We’ll cover this business in a few minutes, but we want to take a moment here to note that FortuneBuilders isn’t Than’s only business. He also founded CT Real Estate LLC, a San Diego-based company involved in many different aspects of real estate.

Here are a few of their specialties:

  • Foreclosure avoidance
  • Solving title issues
  • First-time homebuyer programs
  • Credit repair
  • Vacant properties
  • Bank-owned properties

As Than told us, he’s been in the business and bought/sold many properties. So, based on these facts and our own research, we believe that Than Merrill is a legitimate real estate expert.

Than Merrill’s Books and Businesses

Than has either written or helped with several real estate books and has launched several real estate companies.

Than’s Books

Based on what we found at Amazon.com, Than has one book he wrote himself and a book he wrote with Michael Gerber.

Than’s title is “The Real Estate Wholesaling Bible: The Fastest, Easiest Way to Get Started in Real Estate Investing.”

According to the book’s description on its Amazon page, it will help you “learn how to make money wholesaling real estate without having to swing a hammer or deal with tenants.”

The description basically sums up wholesaling – you find a home you think you can sell quickly and, at the same time, you find a seller who wants to buy the home you’ve got your eyes on. The transaction, in theory, is quicker and more risk-free than a flip.

At the time of publishing, “The Real Estate Wholesaling Bible” had an average of 4.4 stars from more than 85 reviews.

Than also helped co-write a real estate version of Gerber’s E-Myth book called, “The E-Myth Real Estate Investor: Why Most Real Estate Investment Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It”.

The book touches on what Than mentioned earlier – creating systems and protocol that lead to a successful real estate investment business.

At the time of publishing, the book had an average of 4.3 stars from more than 50 reviews on Amazon.

Than’s Businesses

As we mentioned earlier, Than’s first business venture was CT Homes LLC. It started on the East Coast and then expanded to San Diego.

Since we’ve already mentioned that business a couple times, we’ll skip ahead to his other businesses: FortuneBuilders and Grand Coast Capital.


FortuneBuilders is the realization of Chad’s many years in the real estate business, he told us. Along the way, he’s come up with systems and software that greatly reduce (although do not eliminate) the risk of wholesaling and rehabbing properties.

Those systems and software are at the core of FortuneBuilders, Than’s “college” of sorts for individuals interested in making a career out of real estate.

While individuals can attend two-hour or weekend-long seminars on real estate investment, they get the most in-depth information, Than told us, when they sign up for FortuneBuilders’ Mastery program.

This program is designed to make you an expert – if you’re willing to put in study time – in nine crucial aspects of real estate investment:

  • Real estate appraisal/due diligence
  • Marketing
  • Escrow
  • Financing
  • Construction management
  • Property management
  • Property disposition
  • Business management
  • People management

“I love investing and I’m an educator; that’s always been my calling,” he said. “My parents were teachers: dad was a university professor and my mom was a dance teacher.”

But, just like a college education, the FortuneBuilders Master isn’t cheap. Based on some reviews we’ve read from Highya.com and real estate investing sites, you can expect to pay in the neighborhood of $15,000-$25,000 to get started.

From there, the education begins. Workshops, software and one-on-one coaching sessions groom you to be an expert in the nine areas we mentioned.

If you want to learn more about FortuneBuilders, head to our review of the program.

Grand Coast Capital Group

While FortuneBuilders is an educational program and CT Homes LLC is an all-purpose real estate company, Grand Coast is strictly an investment firm specializing in specific loans for real-estate investors:

  • Renovation loans: For house flips
  • Bridge loans: For wholesale deals
  • Construction/development loans: For builders and developers
  • Small-balance commercial loans: An alternative to bank and bridge loans

FortuneBuilders Gives

FortuneBuilders Gives is the charitable wing of Merrill’s businesses.

According to the program’s website, FortuneBuilders Gives “provides opportunities for children of all ages and backgrounds to lead active and healthy lifestyles through involvement in sports and activities.”

FortuneBuilders Gives has worked with the Equal Footing Foundation, Habitat for Humanity, the Red Cross and other organizations, its website says.

Future FortuneBuilders

Merrill’s Future FortuneBuilders is a literacy program designed to set kids up for success through a solid education.

“Our goal with FFB is to help our society break from the vicious cycle caused by lack of financial literacy and to provide teens with the financial knowledge and resources necessary to succeed,” the group’s website says.

Our Final Thoughts About Than Merrill

Than Merrill’s portfolio of real estate companies and charitable organizations is pretty impressive and certainly unique among the real estate investment experts we’ve reviewed on this site.

Merrill’s most famous business, FortuneBuilders, was featured in Inc.com’s top-5,000 fastest growing business in the United States three years in a row. Than’s website offers a real-estate seminar that, upon further investigation, funnels you to his FortuneBuilders program.

His original business, CT Homes LLC, has a small staff but, according to Merrill, has around 30 transactions happening at once.

We weren’t able to gather much information about Grand Coast Capital Group, but we do know via at least one source – blogger Frugal Vagabond – that Grand Coast is the group that FortuneBuilders seminar presenters say is the lending group who finances the deals FortuneBuilders students transact.

Based on our conversations with Than, this makes sense. His business is based on systems he’s built over the past few years – having an “in-house” lending group makes things much easier for his FortuneBuilder students.

FortuneBuilder’s two children’s programs are, in our opinion, what set the company apart from other competitors.

Now, the real question here is whether or not Than Merrill is someone you’d trust to go into business with. To answer that, we suggest reading your review of FortuneBuilders, as you probably won’t have a need for CT Homes or Grand Coast.

If you don’t want to take the time to read through our review, don’t worry. We’ll condense it down to a few sentences.

FortuneBuilders’ Mastery program is what you’ll need to enroll in so that you can get a comprehensive education in real estate investment. If you think you can become an expert by attending a weekend seminar, you’ll be disappointed.

The Mastery program comes at a cost, so keep that in mind. Than told us on numerous occasions that those who succeed in the program are people who enjoy routine, are comfortable with risk and are willing to dedicate themselves to daily learning about real estate investment.

Read 63 Than Merrill Customer Reviews and Complaints

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Average Customer Rating: 4.4
Rating Snapshot:
5 star: 50 4 star: 3 3 star: 2 2 star: 3 1 star:  5
Bottom Line: 86% would recommend it to a friend
Showing 1-11 of 63
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  • 203 out 212 people found this review helpful

    This is a BIG FAT SCAM!

    • Charleston, SC,
    • Oct 18, 2016
    • Verified Reviewer

    My boyfriend, his Dad and I went to this event thinking we were actually going to learn something about flipping houses. Unfortunately, they just get you all hyped up and excited about the next step, which will cost you a little under $200.00 each.

    We signed up for a three-day workshop. Then after doing some research, we found out that the next phase would cost each of us thousands of dollars if we really wanted to find out how to flip houses. By the way, no one will see Than.

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend

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  • 66 out 70 people found this review helpful

    Too pricey, much pressure to sign up.

    • Indianapolis, IN,
    • Sep 23, 2017
    • Verified Reviewer

    Well, when I was told the minimum investment for getting into this program was $35K, I was done. I figured if I gave them that much money I was better off on my own. My "counselor" accused me of thinking like a consumer instead of an investor. I just did not want to empty out my 401K and other assets to do this. I do not trust people that much with my SSN and everything, INCLUDING my money.

    After paying for the three-day seminar, I felt like I had enough information, and with a little trial and error, I would be ok. Too much emphasis on money, and BIG pressure to" Do it now!" No thanks!

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend

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  • 52 out 52 people found this review helpful

    Very good program, but...

    • Chicago, IL,
    • Jan 25, 2018
    • Verified Reviewer

    Most of these reviews are on the 1-day or 3-day intro course/seminar. As an actual FortuneBuilders "student," I will attempt to provide some insight into the program as I and my wife have experienced it.

    First off, the free 1-day and not free 3-day courses are introduction devices, and the 3-day is very much an up-sell. They are pushing the full-blown and very expensive Mastery Program which STARTS at $30k, yes $30,000. This is not affordable to the average person wanting to start a real estate investment business and is actually geared towards experience investors wanting to up their game.

    This hard sell and high cost raised a very real red flag with me because I am very skeptical about most things and I was dead set against it. HOWEVER, there are several lower cost options to join FortuneBuilders that they will not tell you about during the hard sell on the 3rd day of the seminar. You have to 1) express interest but balk at the cost and 2) be in the economic demographic that they are looking for.

    After you leave them your contact info and you walk away, you will be contacted days later by one of their salespeople to get you to sign. They will offer you a less expensive option but it will still be in the low five figures, and for us, it was still too much. After we told them it was still too high, we were told that there was a somewhat limited program for TEN TIMES less than the original Mastery Program. We signed up for this one.

    The program DOES offer many very good useful tools, forms, contracts, tips and tricks for every aspect of real estate investing that you need to be successful. There is a very comprehensive curriculum to follow and daily live and recorded seminars in the evening. They also have actual people who you can contact with questions and who will review your deals before making an offer. The limited one is only for a specified number of months (6-9), after which you pay monthly.

    So the program itself, even in the more limited form, is actually very good and I would recommend it. You could glean all or most of the information from a bunch of online sources, but you won't get personalized help, and it will take A LOT of time to gather and understand it all. I am giving it 4 stars and not 5 because of the off-putting hard sell for the high dollar program and no mention of the more affordable option until way late in the discussion.

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

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  • 49 out 55 people found this review helpful

    2 hour "free" seminar a total waste of time

    • Cedar Rapids, Iowa,
    • Jul 15, 2018
    • Verified Reviewer

    Pretty much everything that was said during this 2 hour free seminar was stuff that is common knowledge. I couldn't believe the number of people that actually signed up for the 3 day seminar. All they are doing is handing their hard earned money over to these people. The only thing I got out of the free seminar is that everyday I receive at least 300 spam emails now. Wish I never would have signed up for this.

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend

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  • 44 out 48 people found this review helpful

    FortuneBuilders is the opportunity to own a business - not just a real estate course

    I just completed day 2 of the 3-day workshop for Than Merrill's Real Estate Workshop. I am naturally a skeptical person and cynical about these 3-day selling gigs.

    I knew that the attendees would be subjected to an upsell. I was prepared for some money, but when the real costs were revealed, I was stunned! $49,997.00 for the Master's Class. What a crock I thought to myself. These guys must be crazy.

    I went online on 10/27/2017 to do some reviews of the program and found a review from BiggerPockets that explained the same feelings I was having that although this was not a SCAM, it was certainly NOT something that the average person can afford, and I thought yeah, that the FortuneBuilders team was taking advantage of "the little guy."

    I WAS SO WRONG. My mindset was not looking at the whole picture. This program is a franchise. You are actually purchasing a business that is tried and true. What Than Merrill has created is truly a life-changing product. This program is not for the part-time investor, the wannabees of real estate investing. This program teaches you how to replicate a solid thriving business entity.

    The software alone is worth $50K. The marketing projects are already set up and ready to go. This program is slick and as the MC for the program stated. It is the closest thing to a success formula/guarantee in this industry as you will ever get.

    I think he called it the "McDonaldization" of real estate investing. Lee Escobar was our 3-day coach, and he was fabulous. A little pushy and talked too long on some days, but the product is stellar. When BiggerPockets reviewed this product he did not mention that you could take 6 people with you; they train your future employees for you.

    There are 12 months-24 months of hands-on coaching. They have someone to look over your deals for you. The Deal Analyzer, the templates for doing rennovations, the costs sheets and SKU number from Home Depot are already set up for you.

    The Repair Module.

    This program sets you up to run a real business. NO, I did not sign up because I realized that after the $49,997, there would be additional expenses like marketing, paying your employees, etc. Just like a franchise you need operating capital after your purchase the business. This product that FortuneBuilders provides is a new way of doing flips. The FLOPS are just the beginning, they also teach you how to create ongoing income, and passive income.

    You are in fact buying the system and protocols, the SOP of a thriving entity that you just need to copy and paste and go forward. It is a genius concept that I may explore at a later date. In the meantime, I'm buying Than's book on wholesaling to create the capital I need to join FortuneBuilders.

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

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  • 35 out 42 people found this review helpful

    Investment or gamble

    The intro (which I only went to peek into, not invest in yet) was very nicely presented all around. Maybe due to the speaker, I wasn't the only "I really want to do this" buyer. The cost was not $1,179 but $179 if we signed on before leaving the Best Western. A few had left during the event, but many had gone to the tables. I could only afford a down payment, but had a month's grace to balance the remaining $127.00. I did ask the man if more investment was required to go further, into the three-day class. He said no.

    But investment in my own business may come requisite later. I figured I would probably learn even more, but even with the special offer it all stood out a gamble, especially with the presentiment much-hidden explanation, stipulations are lacking. You will not be sold via "get rich quick," but more substantial self-improvement themes. Which have a point, but there is much more to this real estate vocation.

    I can't say this is a "scam," but what you take from it may be dependent on non-volitional factors.

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

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  • 34 out 34 people found this review helpful

    Total rip off

    • Garden Grove, CA,
    • May 4, 2018
    • Verified Reviewer

    Nothing new if you ever took a real estate class, or you did few loans. I spend $200 and 3 days to learn about real estate investors which will finance a deal, or contacts with wholesalers. Don't waste your money or your time. You can google wholesalers and investors in real estate and get more information. In the 3 days, for 1 and 1/2 days, they push their advance learning, which they charge $50,000. You can get a mentor for $5,000 which will teach you 1-on-1 and will get you all the information you need. Any investor in real estate will lend you 70% of the Future Value to buy and rehab a property. Unfortunately, nobody will lend you 100% of the money you need. For the remaining of the money you need, you need to get the seller of the property to come in the deal with you or find an angel to come up with the gap money, the difference between the 70% and the money you need to finish the project.

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend

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  • 33 out 34 people found this review helpful

    Not getting what I paid for

    • Florida,
    • Apr 27, 2018
    • Verified Reviewer

    I bought a weekend course to learn principles for flipping. I got a lot of good information but a lot of time was spent trying to sell a $30000 to $50000 program. So far out of two days, three to five hours spent trying to sell upgrades. I feel cheated on the deal. I feel if you want to sell upgrades to course should be done on their time, not on my time and my dime.

    I don’t think it is an ethical way to do business.

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend

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  • 26 out 38 people found this review helpful

    Amazing information and transformation!

    The Fortune Builder workshop was absolutely AMAZING! There is so much valuable information shared to not just build an incredibly lucrative business but they also provide information on how to structure business entities in addition to ways to utilize the tax code to dramatically increase the amount of our hard-earned money you keep in your pocket that can grow your business even further and faster.

    The presenter was very knowledgeable about every aspect of the business and presented it with confidence, used his own experience to further explain concepts and did so with humor and energy to keep it fun while maintaining a professional atmosphere.

    I have attended other real estate workshops and have bought another program before attending this Fortune Builders. I REALLY wish I had found this one first!

    This workshop provides the core information you need to start or enhance your real estate business and fills in the blanks that other programs omit. It is completely THOROUGH!

    Not only did I gain priceless information to help build my real estate business, but I also experienced a personal transformation that has been helpful on many levels. Since the Fortune Builders workshop, I have looked at everything in my life through an entrepreneur lens.

    Not only do I see my business more clearly, but I evaluate the rate of return on everything in my life from what I spend money on, to how I spend my time to people with whom I have personal relationships.

    I see everything as an entity with systems and have been able to pinpoint where I was wasting time and energy on things that were not moving my business forward.

    This workshop helped ME move forward and has helped me be a better entrepreneur and person. I am so grateful for the experience and you will be too!

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

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  • 26 out 26 people found this review helpful

    Three-day seminar

    • Las Vegas, NV,
    • Jun 24, 2018
    • Verified Reviewer

    Lots of informative information that we already knew. The problem for me was the speaker; he really has nothing to do with Than and his company other than a motivational speaker who works the same real estate deals. Don't get me wrong, he was terrific and what he said makes sense. I was totally captured by his charisma and salesmanship. However, for the amount of money they are asking, I want an owner or member who is flipping, turning, selling, rehabbing at the meeting showing me proof it is being done. Hearsay means nothing to me, show me the proof. For the $50K they should put it in my first flip, sale or rehab. Now that would make me comfortable and ready to rock and roll. When you go to a University, you get scholarships which you start paying after you graduate. We already paid $200 to hear things we already knew.

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend

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  • 25 out 31 people found this review helpful

    $5 is still a scam

    • California,
    • Feb 15, 2018
    • Verified Reviewer

    This $5 neuro-linguistic negotiation makes you think it doesn't cost much, but it is still a scam. After payment and registration, they try to sell you a monthly $97 regular membership and more for the advanced access. They make you watch a 6-minute annoying video, and it says you can't close the page or you'll lose your access. At the end of video, the page got stuck so you can't get to anywhere. I am claiming $5 is annoying, and it's best to not even fall for that!

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend

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