Reviews – Legit or Scam?

Fortune is an online education website that teaches its members the ins and outs of real estate investing.  Run by Than Merrill, Paul Esajian, and JD Esajian of A&E’s “Flip This House,” FortuneBuilders claims to have courses available to people of all levels of real estate investment experience.

Though this may seem like an odd time to become involved with real estate investment, fans of the show “Flip This House” understand that the concept behind Merrill’s investment theory is buying homes cheaply and finding ways to quickly and affordably fix them up for a solid profit return on your investment.

How Does FortuneBuilders Work?

Fortune Builders functions completely as an educational company.  Working with professionals in every aspect of the real estate industry, their course curriculum covers a wide range of real estate related topics, including but not limited to what to look for when buying an investment property, what remodeling projects offer good investment returns, how to deal with the tax implications of quickly buying and selling property, and how to successfully market and sell your property when the time comes.

Having recently been written up in Inc. magazine, FortuneBuilders is growing quickly.  Perhaps one of the best reasons why is the wide variety of ways they handle their classes.  You can take an in person seminar from one of the three owners or many faculty members referred to as a 4 Day Bootcamp seminar, which is a type of crash course to being successful in the real estate industry.

In addition to that, Merrill himself offers a brand new webinar each week on a topic relevant to investing in today’s volatile real estate market.  They also offer eBooks and online classes, in addition to a selection of DVD series on a variety of topics.

Finally, they offer the FortuneBuilders Mastery Implementation Coaching Program to a select group of members at a time. This series includes in-depth training from a variety of professionals who have been and continue to be successful in the real estate industry.

Is FortuneBuilders Right For You?

Fortune Builders claims to work with people of all different levels of experience, but what they aren’t clear about on their web page is what sort of resources you must have at your disposal to begin a career in real estate investing.

A quick glance of their DVD training series will be enough to stop many people, as the DVD training courses are priced at $1,197.00 each.  A further investigation shows that investing in many of their coaching programs often requires investments of thousands of dollars.

Though prices in the housing market as low as they’ve been in years, you’ll still need the time and money to purchase, fix up, and a market a home.  As these figures vary widely from region to region and project to project, Fortune Builders wisely makes no promises as to what is required from you for potential success.  But it does seem fairly clear that being serious about switching to a career in real estate investing will certainly require some significant investment capital.

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Customer Responses, Reviews, or Complaints

Average Rating for " Fortune Builders " is 0 out of 5 based on reviews.
  • I gave the rating of one star because zero is not available! To anyone who has the knowledge on how to get a refund PLEASE HELP ME. At the beginning, when they're still trying to get your money, they were nice and easy to get in touch with. After that everything goes down the drain! Customer service support and or unavailable and finally when you had the chance to speak to a customer service rep they will tell you that that they will email the person in charge and will return your phone call. And naturally, they never returned any of my phone call. Also, if you happen to speak to a JOHN KING, hang up! HE IS RUDE! I am a Navy veteran and for JOHN KING to call me a coward and nervous, when he has never seen real life combat was uncalled for. But that's ok, I wore the uniform to protect his free speech and so that he could insult me over the phone. PLEASE HELP ME GET A REFUND!!!
    • Than's reply speaks volumes for his company. Hats off to Than. I joined the mastery program yesterday and felt good when doing it, however, after reading the reviews I am more nervous than ever but will move forward. I would love to hear from others that have joined and are having success. I am green to the business and am both excited and nervous.
    • This is Than Merrill, one of the owners, and I will be the first to take blame and fix a problem if a customer has an issue. The customer above did call in for a return the day after purchasing and the return was processed, today, a few days after he called in. I have fixed the issue as our customer service rep did not close out the ticket.

      More importantly after speaking with the customer I pulled and listened to the customer service call as he felt John had been rude. I personally have family members who have served in the military so this upset me when I heard it. In all fairness to John I wanted to listen to the call first before addressing him.

      On the call John never used the word “coward." John did say he felt the customer was being overly nervous about starting a new real estate business.

      However, I absolutely agree that John did not represent what my company and I stand for and was rude. Heck, I was nervous when I got into the real estate business many years ago.

      That being said we have a zero tolerance policy for any rudeness of any kind and as of this morning John has been suspended indefinitely.

      Our customers and students success are very important too me and I will be the first to correct a mistake if one occurs. We have been in business a long time and have very successful coaching students around the country. My contact information is below if anyone has a question, a concern, or an issue.

      My Personal Phone: 858-255-1116 Personal Email: [email protected]
    • WOW!!! I actually spoke to Than Merrill this morning and he was very concerned and polite. He took care of my issue right away.
  • My wife told me about the Free Workshop in STL. This is the first I've heard of Than/FB of coming to the Lou. That is how I ended up on this site.

    I've been investing since 1994 I started with Carlton Sheets ( worth the $200 I spent). Then read every book at the library on buying RE No Money Down. Bought, sold, rehabbed 100's of houses and unfortunately I've lost it all after a divorce etc.

    When I'm ready to rebuild my RE empire. Fortune Builders is the way for me.

    Hope to get to see you all in STL.
  • I have not yet attended, but I am excited. I'm not sure why people are so upset that they are charging a fee for teaching you something. I don't know about you, but I have 2 bachelors degrees & a masters... I happen to be a very good student and love to I ended up with a BA in psychology, a BSN & MSN (Nursing). I had to pay thousands of dollars to obtain these degrees, and while I make a nice salary, one year of work is certainly not enough to pay back the tuition I have paid over the years, and BTW, still owe & paying on every month. So if they charge $30k for "tuition" that will yield profit of much more than that in a short amount of time, then it seems appropriate; certainly doesn't sound like a sounds like every university across this country; only maybe this one would actually help you earn enough money to pay all of them back and then some!!! So, after I go, I'll submit my review...Looking forward to it!
    • I can show you how to buy with that $30K and make a profit...I am a licensed can be too!
  • I went to the three day summit in Columbus, Ohio on March 23-25. Jeremy Black was the speaker. First off, let me say, Jeremy did a great job. He would make a good speaker on almost any topic. I guess that is why he is one of the pitch men. As far as the summit, I have mixed feelings. I felt I got $200.00 worth of info. But I was disappointed about a number of things. 1) No, Coffee, Are you serious? You can't afford to have coffee at a three day summit that last 9 hours a day. 2) The price was a shocker. From what was told by Momma Burk about the system, I did NOT feel it was worth the asking price. 3) The technique of buy now, or the price is higher is always a signal for me not to buy. 4) Momma Burk stated that she did not have access to the website because she was not a student. How can you sell something like this if you don't use it yourself? ( I know that her son is a student, but if you are going to want someone to invest 20k-70k, you should use and know the "system" inside and out.) 5) I did not think the features of the system was explained well. I still don't know what the passive club would get you. I wanted to view the website, to see the different programs and how they work. Especially the rehab cost software. 6) Unless a young person was investing with an older person, like a family member, I saw very few that were able to invest. I saw a lot of rejected young people with sad faces. I feel if FB was really interested in helping and giving back, they would help more people afford the system. 7) I kept hearing employees of FB say, "you need to have skin in the game". That is why it cost so much to get the privilege to opt in. Come on, we all have skin in the game. Everyone's future is on the line. People come to these events to get a better life, a more secure retirement and to be able to help family and others they know. HOW MUCH MORE SKIN IN THE GAME DO YOU NEED?. 8) I would have laid down the $25k in a heart beat, if they would have committed to financing at least two deals that they review for their students. If their systems works so well, why aren't they willing to give that guarantee.

    Now, let me state that I CAN NOT say the system is a rip off, I have never been a part of it. But, the tactics of the summit make me wonder.
    • Get a real estate license!
    • I have to agree with you, Tony. Still have one more day to go in my seminar. I do not agree with their tactics, felt very disappointed. The workshop should have been called "Looking for Mastery Students" because they have spent too much time trying to get people to sign up. I knew it was going to be high when they would not say the cost up front. But when the price popped on the scene, it blew me away. In these times with the economy the way that it is, it took a lot of nerve to come in here and ask people for that type of money. I am sure they will offer other products that are less costly tomorrow. I really thought it was a full seminar about real estate investing not recruiting people to pay 25k for their program. Not saying it is not a worthy program because honestly if I had it like that, I would definitely get it, especially for the 2 day hands on with one of them. But with the way things are financially, its a hard pill to swallow.
  • I attended the marketing and rehab seminars back in 2009. I would say it was 50% info and 50% sales pitch in order to get you buy more of their seminar products.

    Also keep in mind especially in Real Estate the devil is in the details. FB intentionally omits the details because the course work is not specific to any one region of the country.

    I have gained much more help from my local REI club. They invite me to attend for free, but I would not waste time with another FB course.

    Myself and several other "graduates" have built successful careers in REI, in spite of (not because of) FB and we all agree education is important but best focused working with accountants, attorneys, and other professionals do not rely on pitching educational products like FB to pay their rent.

    Also very annoying I still get TEXT SPAMS from Than .. SHAMELESS !!
    • Dan, my hubby and I attended but did not buy the programs etc. Would love to talk with you for some starting pointers in our business if you are willing to chat? Would love to skype with you or something we are focusing on flipping and building our business plan now seeking a good CPA and attorney.
  • My husband and I just completed the 3 day weekend in Omaha, NE. After reading the above reviews I had to respond about my experience. To begin with, we feel that we did get our $200 worth on this weekend. Believe me we can easily spend $200 on a weekend just going out to eat, to a show or movie, and not learn a thing. For us it was worth it.

    We did not invest in the mastery program because it did not fit with our goals. There were no promises of slides to be sent later. I took about 50 pages of notes. I confess that I am a compulsive note taker, but have learned NOT to write down things that don't apply to me. Obviously there was a lot that did! We are very near retirement and are not involved in buying or selling real estate. We have one 4 unit apartment building that we have owned for 5 years. We learned a ton about how to better utilize our existing retirement savings. We found out a lot of things we have done wrong and even some we got right. The goal setting exercise was helpful in clarifying what we want and how to get it.

    I wasn't crazy about the revival/AA style of some things either. I just chalked (not caulk) it up to presentation style and got over it.

    We went into this expecting an upsale so it wasn't any surprise to us. We focused instead on what we could get from what we heard at the weekend.

    I don't understand why it is a problem to learn from Jonathan's personal story. Everyone in the room probably had one. We all know people who have experienced tragedy. What helped me was hearing how he came through it and found a way to apply it to my life. I found it sincere and honest and encouraging. If you didn't then fine, but give the guy credit for not giving in to a situation that a lot of people don't and won't overcome.
  • I want to be totally up front, as of this posting I am NOT a Fortune Builders employee, however I am a mastery student since 2010. Here has been my experience.

    I am the biggest critic of all. Prior to signing up for mastery at an event I asked every mastery student there what they thought of the program and how they have been doing. At the time the response was overwhelmingly positive. I then spent several hours googling everything I could find out about Fortune Builders, and it has been mostly positive (if it were all positive I would be more worried). After all that my dad and I decided to go for it. We plunked down a very hefty amount of money, there was no question about that. However what we have learned and the ability to surround ourselves with these types of people would have been worth that kind of money over and over and over.

    There will be sales at the seminars… if someone told you there wasn’t going to be, then that person lied. However there is also a mind numbing amount of information that will help you. Will it be EVERYTHING… NO! If it was, then they wouldn’t be around for very long… it costs money to put on events and they have to recuperate those costs somehow! So just be prepared for that, but also prepare yourself to take copious notes, and learn everything you can.

    Now… if you are already actively investing in real estate, have been doing flips, or are a real estate expert already, then Mastery is not likely for you. Can it still take your business to the next level? Absolutely, you just need to be open to the idea. My dad and myself were total noobs to real estate, we had done one deal and botched it pretty badly, so we knew we needed help and we found it. Our first two deals netted us $40,000 in profit. We have done 2 more rehabs plus several wholesale deals since that time and have netted approximately $50,000 more. So clearly whatever they teach.. .works… if you follow it. Oh yea… that was all while working my full time job!

    Is it a lot of money to outlay for knowledge? Not if you need it Will you make more than you spent? Yes! As long as you follow their program and ask lots of questions!
    • Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing your experience as a novice starting the mastery program. I look forward to making my money back that I paid for the course and profits after that.
  • *Consumer Comment

    Report: Hi,

    Disclaimer: I am not in any way connected to Fortune Builders, or Ct Homes or any of their employee or students. In fact, I am not even in real estate business. I am actually, an executive in biotechnology industry and my only connection to this was my spouse wanting to start her own real estate business and my support to her when attending Fortune Builders seminars.

    I may sympathize with above rip-off report but i don't think it paints balanced picture on FB seminar.

    My spouse and I just completed 3 days seminar March 16-18 in Sacramento, CA; my spouse was interviewed and selected to enter mastery program but we did elect not to pursue at this time. Probably, due to not enough information, time or just it was all new to us and we just wanted to let it sleep before we make an informed decision. Perhaps, my spouse would decide to pursue Mastery program later on.

    Here are some of my comments:

    1. 200$ spent was worth every cents - in fact more than, what we have learned during these 3 days could potentially be a money savers for us, for example: just a few tips given at seminar on retirement could be quite beneficial etc. There were many, many other quite useful tips it is my opinion.

    2. Although tiring (seating 8 hours, 3 days in a row), coffee free (talk about cost management) and small not comfortable chairs, meeting were highly professional, motivational, positive and have also thought about life in General with quite a content and references. Great presentation from Ryan Burk and JD! Good job - Consequently, I might be using some ideas for my Team building, as well.

    3. Tuition fees for mastery students although high at first (15-40K) were not transparent prior to the Seminar. I would highly suggest to Than and his Team to consider being more transparent about prices and curriculum just like any University program would be with of course their own touch. They should not be afraid to this, at all. In fact, if my spouse (we) had more time to evaluate the program prior to the seminar, she might have made her decision during if not prior to the seminar, to consider pursuing mastery program. More importantly, it is my opinion that by being transparent that FB would be able to attract higher quality of students, which should be the goal of any quality educational program, anyways.

    All the best to FB, mastery students and all of the rest of seminar participants.

    1,2,3 Crash it!
  • I attended the event in Columbus, Ohio and was very disappointed after being told on the first day that this was not going to be a sales pitch nor would we be ask to go to the back of the room and give someone our credit card. If only that were true. Fortune Builders are on the cutting edge. The cutting edge of how to give you just enough all the while pitching an obscenely priced training/coaching program(s) ($39,997). This Three day event consisted of approximately 50% content and 50% sales pitch. However the content was provided in such a way to make the attendees feel they would need a coach to successfully pull off one of these deals. If you are selected for the Mastery program and shell out the nearly $40k, when it comes to coaching, you only get 12 months. Wow!

    Most of the staff was wonderful, however every group has that one person, and this one simply ruined the event for myself.

    If you are going to attend one of the 2 hour or 3 day events, just be honest with yourself and understand that it is a sales pitch. Nothing if free no matter how it may appear. Fortune Builders is just another traveling seminary group selling motivated people who have or have access to money big dreams for even bigger prices.
    • Very well said because what you said is all true and then some. Most people who go through these programs NEVER get a housing deal, & their mentor/coach just puts them off until their 1 year has expired. DO NOT WASTE YOUR MONEY at these events.
  • This is Than Merrill and I am one of the owners of FortuneBuilders. I take a great deal of pride in both our real estate business and the real estate educational business and the services we provide to investors and our coaching students. I also take any concerns people have very seriously so I feel the need to respond to a few of the anonymous comments below.

    We have thousands of customers and hundreds of coaching students we have helped build very successful real estate businesses over the years.

    I know personally from working directly with our coaching students how many people’s lives we have changed for the better. To get just a small sample of what some of our amazing coaching students are doing read further.

    Below is a link to just some of the weekly case study webinars from coaching students who have completed recent real estate deals. Our coaching students volunteer do do these case studies of their deals. This is why I love coaching because you see people who previously have never done a deal grow to doing multiple real estate deals a month.

    Take a look at just a few students who are in our coaching program who have done this to see what our coaching has helped them achieve. They are investors from all over the country and all walks of life.

    With a growing business we have challenges just like any other business owner. But I will never hide from any mistake and always try and correct it to the best of my abilities.

    Like any business there are people who do business the right way and people who do it the wrong way. In the real estate education and seminar business there are both. However, for anyone who anonymously posts “scam” or that we are not real I personally invite you to come visit our office in San Diego and see all the real estate deals we have going on right now or anytime in the future.

    I will be happy to personally take you or have someone who works for me in our investment business take you on a tour of our current deals. I do not hide and will put out my personal information below for anyone who has a concern or somewhat skeptical.

    My Personal Phone: 858-255-1116

    Personal Email: [email protected]

    It is a lot better to speak directly with me than just jump to incomplete conclusions about us. Also, if you have a major problem with anything, as we do deal with a lot of people, you by all means can speak with me personally.

    People who don’t know much about us can be quick to judge and group us with some of the other real estate seminar or educators out there who they may have been turned off by.

    We are real, we are very successful investors in a relatively flat market, and am proud to say what we teach is up to date and will help you be successful in today’s market. We also have hundreds of coaching students who you can also contact and ask them about their business as well.

    Also, in response to a comment about just providing training materials, books, videos and a few hours with a personal coach.

    This isn’t even close to being accurate as to what we offer in our coaching programs. I personally created our coaching curriculum along with a team of eight programmers, an e-learning specialist and multiple real estate experts both in my business and outside of my business.

    We have everything from real estate coaching systems for wholesaling, rehabbing, rent to own, short sales & pre-foreclosure, REO investing, lending, an business building. We also help investors with legal set up, have a full time attorney and CPA on staff that we pay to help give proper advice to students.

    Not to mention the five different multi-day advanced trainings we do many of which I teach personally. We also offer websites, SEO services, and a complete CRM/Database, leads, and proven marketing materials. We also have beginner and advanced coaching calls and webinars we do 2 x 3 times a week. Many students are still using these 5 years after they have launched their business. There is a mastermind group for coaching alumni and we have even provided financing in some cases for students. Our rates are not cheap on financing since it is our money that we loan and very typical of a hard money lender 14%. That's why we also teach investors how to raise private money that is much cheaper for their rehabs.

    Obviously, I take great pride in what we have built as I consider it my life’s work. Coaching is not an inexpensive e-book, course, or a book. Just like you our time is very valuable. We have invested over a million dollars in building all of these tools, resources, and coaching for real estate investors who are serious.

    Our coaching is definitely not an e-book, or a home study course, this is a “franchise like” business model with programmers, coaches, staff, and a full support staff of very experienced investors.

    Coaching is very time intensive and we are successful at what we do with our coaching students. Our coaching is premium investment and not for everyone by any means. We also have some starter courses, but there is a reason that 98% of our student success stories come from coaching and not just our books or videos.

    I believe in coaching and have had many coaches and mentors in my life throughout the years that have helped me tremendously. It’s just like going to the gym. You can definitely read a book, create your own plan, and go to the gym by yourself.

    Or you can hire an expert trainer/nutritionist who knows what they are doing, with a system and a plan that has proven results, that will definitely get to your goal a heck of a lot faster.

    In business and in real estate it is no different.
    • Than,

      My wife and I attended FB Real Estate Insiders Summit on March 16-18, 2012 in Stockton CA. Although, we did not buy the Mastery program at this time, does not mean we won't buy it later. I would like to take you up on your offer to visit your office in San Diego sometime this year.


      Chuck & Andrea Carlton
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