The Better Business Bureau is warning people about some real estate flipping seminars offered this week in Vancouver.
According to Evan Kelly, the BBB has received 157 complaints — both in the United States and Canada — about what consumers describe as "misleading and manipulative marketing practices" at seminars run by the Utah company Success Path Education.
Success Path Education disputes the warning, saying the total number of complaints represents less than one per cent of people who attended the seminars.
"This warning comes out of the United States. BBB's there have heard many stories from frustrated clients who paid thousands of dollars on promises of real estate secrets and tricks, only to come away disappointed," said BBB spokesman Evan Kelly.
Tarek and Christina El Moussa lead the seminars on house flipping at Success Path Education. (Photo: Success Path Education)
While the first seminar is free, according to many complaints on the BBB website, the promised gifts like MP3 players and educational DVDs never materialize and little real information is offered.
Instead participants are pressured to sign up for a longer seminar for about $2,000.
At the three-day program participants are then coached on how to get their credit limit raised, and then invited to sign up for more intensive mentoring packages costing from $10,000 to more than $40,000.
"Of course you can go to the seminar and take that for what is is worth, but you are really just being pulled into the up-sell," says Evans.
"We just want consumers in B.C. to go into these with open eyes and do their research before spending any money."
He also warns that there have been many complaints from people who have had trouble getting refunds from the company.
Company responds to concerns
But the company behind the seminars says the complaints represent "significantly" less than one per cent of the 200,000 people who have taken their seminars.
"Many of our customers see and hear real estate and think it's going to be easy money. The truth is, it takes a lot of work to be successful in real restate," said spokesman Shane Andrus.
"If you were to ask all 150 of those people that complained how much work they put into it, you would find it's very few that actually tried."
Sold stickers on real estate signs along Beach Drive in the greater Victoria Municipality of Oak Bay on March 5, 2016. (Canadian Press/Don Denton)
He also disputes concerns about attendees not getting promised gifts, saying sometimes they run out, but the company later mails the items to those who miss out.
The company also claims it has a high satisfaction rate.
"Depending on the package, the mentoring can be very, very involved. It can be basically hand-holding to get them to their first deal."
Nevertheless the BBB's Evan Kelly said his concerns still stand.
"We go on the volume of complaints. If we recognize a pattern then we are concerned," he said. "One hundred and fifty complaints is a lot."
The BBB said the company also operates under several other names including:
- Premier Mentoring Inc.
- Advanced Financial Training.
- Advanced Real Estate Education.
- Zurixx LLC.
- Real Estate Addict.
- Top Trader.