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 have been a FortuneBuilders student now for a number of years and been to a lot of their events. I have met Than as well and many of the staff and really believe these guys and their company have the utmost integrity. Everything they teach is up to date and cutting edge. I had the chance to go to the Rehab bootcamp in San Diego and that event was one of their best. We went out and looked at four of their deals and they walked through every aspect of the deal

    so we could learn.

    I am happy to say since going to their events I have bought a few rentals and done a few rehabs so what they teaches definitely works. It isn't a get rich quick business by any means and it takes hard work, but if your willing to do it you can do very well. I am a testament to that.

    I also have love working with JD Esajian who is one of the coaches at

    FortuneBuilders. He helped me tremendously and can't speak highly enough

    about him.

    Mike Williams
  • Jonathan, Isn’t new technology Grand:

    Using your tracing software you were able to find out my unlisted phone number and call me. Isn’t that special, just 3 days ago I sent the “not much help support-desk” an email that told them to take me OFF their email list and not to contact me ever again…since you nor them would, could or were willing to produce the presentation slides that you promised us (and I have asked a few others that attended and they didn’t get all the slides either, what we got was barely nothing) …when you repeatedly told us not to take notes…that you would send us the slides. Under promise and over deliver???

    So since you were able to trace my post and get my unlisted phone number, I’m sure you have my name and phone number and mailing address also, so do one of two things, send me the ALL the slides you promised or the refund of $200. It’s that simple. The only person I will speak to over the phone is Than Merrill and I’d love to have a chat with him…but apparently that’s not going to happen. Not good customer service Than.

    Next time, before you have someone spend $200 bucks, you might tell them how much your program is so they can decide if they want to proceed. I think that was a real rip off…Because IF I had known the cost UP FRONT for the program was $20,000-70,000, 14% to loan THEIR “students” buy money…which you would think since they were already being paid $20,000-70,000K for coaching, they wouldn’t gouge their students for the use of their money, I WOULD NOT HAVE SPENT THE $200.

    I didn’t bash your personal story I criticized the reason you shared it, it’s an old sales trick to get people emotional so they will spend money. I don’t agree with those tactics and I’ve never used them. I think you are better than that and stated so Jonathan, and some day if you learn how to sell your product by delivering some REAL MEAT in the presentation, you won’t need to use that tactic and people (that have $20-70K) will sign up because of the evidence of proof you provide showing that it works, not because they were emotional.

    I don’t doubt Than’s, Paul’s or your successes or your automated mailing software but I didn’t hear anything about the additional cost of that automated program, I looked it up on the FB resources page, it’s about $300+ per month for a medium version and more for the full version. Is that an additional cost to the already expensive coaching this company offers? The details were not discussed at the seminar…oops, did you forgot to tell us about that little extra hidden cost.

    My doubts about the company’s ability to deliver on promises are made based on the FACT that we DID NOT get the promised slides. And IF I did misunderstand (I didn’t but let’s say I did) what slides we were going to get, it is because you repeatedly stated that you DID not want us to take notes, you wanted us to look up at you, you wanted out attention on you and you said it several times all three days, you would be sending us the slides.

    The few slides we did get didn’t even begin to cover a fraction of the material you covered.

    I did not attack your personal business efficiency, I’m sure you are very efficient in your own business or you wouldn’t be where you are today. I’ve researched you and you are successful. But what you are trying to sell with a few pictures of people you SAY are successful doesn’t prove anything.

    Boring: only because you didn’t have any REAL MEAT (evidence of proof) in your presentation of students successes, only photos with blurbs, no local examples of the real estate market in Sacramento when I know you could have used the MLS you belong to and pulled information from all throughout California, same as the MLS in Sacramento.

    You had videos of “other seminar attendees”, why didn’t you have LIVE videos of the now rich and happy students with contact info so they could be called to verify what you are trying to sell us. Haven’t you heard the old saying: “Telling is Selling.” Provide evidence of proof and the product will sell itself.

    The revival style selling hype, repeat this, raise your hand for that…dude that got old after the first two times.

    Hey Jonathan, I have a picture of me standing next to a check made out to me with 7 figures on it, and I’ll only charge you $20,000-70,000K to teach you how I made that…so sign here and press hard, there are three copies, and make your check payable to my corporation. Spending 9 hours three days in a row telling you why you should give me $20-70k to coach you to make that same 7 figure income isn’t going to convince you is it?

    You stated: “As far as giving out all the slides I do believe you misunderstood. I said I would be giving some of the slides in a few of the presentations, but not every single slide. People do not feel the need to take notes if you give out every single slide. I believe it would be a disservice as the trainer to not engage people. You definitely have a right to disagree with this, but this is what I have found to be true.”

    We are going to have to agree to disagree with each other on this. You repeatedly stated that we would get the slides, you DID NOTE WANT us to take notes; you wanted our attention on you. Now I know why you have the “no recording rule”, if we could have recorded you I could have counted up how many times in each of your presentations that you told us you would send the slides, not to worry about taking notes.

    My time is too valuable to play ping pong with you about this so I’ll just caulk it up to my own stupidity for believing you would follow through on your “under promise, over deliver” and call it a day.

    FYI: I have paid good money for professional coaching and marketing programs to a company where the owner himself flew in on his private jet that he owned free and clear to give his seminar and his program was affordable and worth every penny…and in a room of over 500 people he didn’t spend half a day on rules, he encouraged people to record, video and take notes of him. Big difference! He didn’t have anything to hide.

    After you gave us all those ridiculous rules (except to turn off cell phones) when the majority of the room was filled with people over 50 I became suspicious. There is usually a reason someone doesn’t want to be recorded…and the excuse you gave was also weak.

    You run a large business and you know the copyright laws, so don’t use something that has copyright laws and let people record you, it’s not that difficult to do. Or with all the money you and your company are making, buy the rights to use it.

    Maybe I also misunderstood your extravagant open house where you had the title and loan people pick up the tab for the cost, but if you ask DRE (here in California) that can get you and them in some deep, deep trouble.

    At $200 bucks a pop for approximately 150 people that paid you and your company made $30,000+ minus the expense of the room, you got paid some BIG Bucks for those three days, as you said; your time is worth a lot of money…so is mine.

    So unless you want to pay me $1000 per hour for my expert advice on how to really get your product sold and how to put on a seminar, without all the revival type hype and hand raising, using STRAIT talk that provides evidence of proof (if there is any besides you, Than and JD) that your product/program is worth what your company is selling it for, we are done here.

    Good luck.
    • I want to thank Than Merril for getting me the slides AND refunding my $200.00.

      I had a great conversation with him and he is a sincere person.

      I would venture to say that Than’s program, although not for the seasoned veteran, may very well benefit rookies looking to get into the investment business.

      I do hope that someday he will offer some of the automated programs to seasoned veterans looking to tweak their business without the large outlay it costs for the less experienced, I would be interested in taking a look at that program.

      Best wishes Than.
  • My husband is attending this weekend as a guest. He is under the impression... you work for a specific group of investors looking to buy homes to flip. All you would do is locate the homes for them and they will invest to flip... any insight on this?
    • I have been to this workshop before and they teach you how to locate distressed properties in your local area and then flip them to other investors yourself by either wholesaling or rehabbing the property. They do focus a little on buying and holding property for cash flow as well, but the major focus is on flipping.

      They do not flip the houses for you if that's what you mean. They teach you how to do it yourself as an investor and provide a lot of helpful tools and resources.

      I do know they partner on deals with students as I have since become a coaching student and on some of the weekly calls we do they have walked through case studies of joint venture deals they have partnered on with other students.

      I will say that their Mastery coaching program has helped me tremendously. I was somewhat skeptical because of the price, but since joining I can say it has been worth every penny. I have flipped a handful of properties since joining the program. A great example is two weeks ago I was stuck on how to put together a transaction since the buyer was about to walk and that same day I spoke with one of the coaches and he helped me restructure the deal and it closed nine days later.

      I can't say enough about their coaching. I also have spoken to quite a few other Mastery students whose businesses have taken off because of their coaching. That's my experience.
  • In Response to previous review.

    Hi this is Jonathan Steingraber the speaker at this particular FortuneBuilders event and this response is long because I take great pride in what I do personally. I love this business and I love teaching other people how to get started in this business for them selves. I just read your post and I thank you for your feedback, however I would like to personally address some of your concerns.

    First, I would like to address what you said about my personal story. If you look at my story as a sob story than you missed the point. After my story I get 50+ hugs from people thanking me for sharing my story and how it made a positive impact in their life. The next day I get 5-10 letters and gifts from people thanking me for sharing. After the event, even weeks after I get cards and letters in the mail talking about how this story inspired people to make a positive change in their life. On my facebook page I always get people thanking me as well. I know my story does not relate with everyone and that's what I ask people to take the lessons I've learned and apply them to their own life so they can get something out of it. The Lessons are below.

    Lesson Number 1) Always Be Positive

    Lesson Number 2) Forgive (Yourself and Others)

    Lesson Number 3) As Your Life Changes Your Purpose Changes

    Lesson Number 4) Be Aware of Opportunity

    For some people my story and the lessons have been a huge turning point in their life and I'm proud to share it and continue to keep my promise to my little brother.

    I’d like to address some of your other comments and concerns:

    At the event I don’t spend time talking about all the money our students make because that’s not what people came to the event for. At the event I did tell people that if they want see numerous case studies of our successful coaching students to go to our website if they want more information and they can also check out the testimonial binder that we had at the event.

    In fact, every single week within our coaching program we have a coaching student conduct a “case study webinar” where they walk through one of their recent real estate deals so other people can learn, as every real estate transaction is somewhat unique. We record these case studies and post them on our website. Than specifically told me that if people want more information to point them there.

    Just go to the site below and you will see people from every walk of life and every area of the country having a lot of success in this business utilizing our intensive coaching program.

    People come to my workshop to learn, not to talk about how much money other people are making and that’s why we covered so much content in 3 days.

    If you didn’t learn anything, then I apologize but I also congratulate you because after over 20 years of being in the business you have obviously learned a lot. Most people who attend real estate workshops are relatively new so you have to cover the basics if you want to help them be successful. Most people do not have 20 years experience so you have to start with a lot of the fundamentals and then dive deeper.

    What I do know is that Than and Paul are two of the most successful investors I have ever met who run a very successful real estate business in San Diego. These guys are the real deal. I have seen people who have been in this business for 20+ years come and visit our office and they are blown away by what we do.

    We buy and sell a lot of houses in San Diego every year and we do this business at a very high level. That’s why I choose to work with these guys on deals and why I have my own deals as well.

    In fact, I would be more than happy to take you or anyone else who is skeptical about whether or not you can actually do this business in today’s market on a tour of all of our ongoing real estate projects right here in San Diego.

    At anytime during the year I could personally walk you through from 7 to 15 large rehab deals we are working on, not to mention 10 to 20 smaller wholesale deals. We have an office of 12 people who work within our real estate investment business; anybody would be highly impressed at how efficiently the business is run. Email me anytime if you would like to take this tour: [email protected]

    As far as our coaching is concerned, I would like to address that as well because I started out many years ago as a coaching student and it helped my personal real estate business tremendously.

    Believe me, the coaching program does not just consist of templates and scripts. Maybe I didn’t communicate it that well when I was discussing it, which is my fault.

    In fact, our coaching is a very detailed coaching program with all the tools, coaching, support, and technology that you need to be a successful real estate business owner. Personally, it took my business to the next level so when Than asked me to teach this class I jumped at the chance to do so.

    As far as me being boring. Well, I try not to be, but I guess we can all learn to be more exciting. I do try my best to use Accelerated Learning Techniques so you don’t fall asleep and you can retain the information at this event. The whole idea of answering questions, repeating what I ask, and filling in the blank with words is for increased retention of the content being delivered. We’ve all been to seminars before and it’s hard to stay awake if it’s not entertaining, engaging, and interactive so we make it all three, or at least try to. All weekend long I have students come up to me thanking me for keeping up the energy but I’ll continue to improve on this.

    As far as the rules of the event. Rules are important, especially when we have a couple hundred people in the room, so we spend time on the rules so everyone can get the most out of the event. Because of the rules the event goes smoothly and better networking is accomplished.

    At the end of the event we ask attendees questions about how we are different and what their favorite parts of the events are, and repeatedly we get the response of how much information and golden nuggets were given for a few hundred dollars.

    In regards to your comments on the RESPA laws. I double checked just to make sure. I actually called the real estate commission to verify what we’re teaching. If you look under the Publications tab at and then specifically under the Referral of Customers for Compensation Code 10177.4 you will get the exact letter on this law. Maybe I should be more specific about the professionals sponsoring being present and advertising their services at the same open house luncheon. I thank you for that feedback as well.

    Everything we teach is 100% legal and ethical because that is the only way to run a business long term. Throughout the whole event we promote doing this business with integrity and taking the server approach so I’m sure you appreciate that.

    As far as giving out all the slides I do believe you misunderstood. I said I would be giving some of the slides in a few of the presentations, but not every single slide. People do not feel the need to take notes if you give out every single slide. I believe it would be a disservice as the trainer to not engage people. You definitely have a right to disagree with this, but this is what I have found to be true.

    This event changes people’s lives regardless if they are able to move forward with our highest level coaching programs or not. And that is our goal. To create an experience and give people what they need to make a positive change in their life.

    Lastly, we do have many different programs that range from wholesaling, to rehabbing, to office systems training seminars, to business automation tools, to much more intensive one on one coaching programs and mastermind groups. We NEVER offer discounts after the seminar on ANY of our highest level one on one coaching programs. I do know that when people call our office after the event we do have and offer lower level beginner programs which is very different from our higher level programs that you have to apply to be part of. Rest assured you do not get a better deal by holding out as you state. That is simply not the case.

    More importantly, I am sorry the event wasn’t what you expected and as you say was a “waste of your time.” As a company we do not want to have anyone who is unhappy so I am more than happy to refund your $200 no questions asked. All you have to do is email me personally at [email protected] and I will mail it to you right away.

    If it would help and you would like to get more information about a specific presentation I did, just email me and I’ll send you some notes and bullets on it.
    • it is great to be engaging but i think you guys need to give people the powerpoint so they can pay more attention to the speaker instead of trying to play catchup and missing things that the speaker may be saying....
    • I hate to admit it, but a lot of this post is true.
  • I’ve been in real estate for 20 years and I’m a broker. I have been to ALL KINDS of seminars, but this one was the worst. At the initial meet and greet you are told that you will learn a ton for another $200 (and that the company will lend money to their students to buy homes…but at the seminar you learn that their rate is 14% YEEE HAAWWW!!! And that’s after you spend $20-70K for their program).

    So $200 buys you and one other person a ticket to a 3 day revival type selling technique that is so boring you would fall asleep if you weren’t raising your hand every 5 seconds to repeat what the speaker wants to you yell out on his command. I stayed because I wanted to see if there would be something offered that I could use that would help me get my $200 back, but no luck.

    The first half of the day was spent going over rules: no cell phone ringers on, no recorders, no video’s, etc. etc. etc. the rest of the day was spent on why you need this to make money but they wouldn’t tell you how much until towards the end of the second day; but then after they told you, Jonathan spends about an hour telling you a personal family incident that is supposed to get you all teary eyed and concludes it with…and that’s why I’m glad I found this program…to soften the blow of the cost of the program. Jonathan, save it bro. Everyone in the U.S. has a sob story in this day and age, even I do, but we don’t use it to get people emotional so they will spend money.

    I’m not saying that what happened wasn’t tragic, it is and was, but don’t use it to sell your program, it’s beneath you and if the program is really that good, if you would have had live REAL examples that you could have produced (students making money), the program would have sold itself.

    As far as the actual material they offer, it could be effective and very useful but I’m not going to pay $20-40K just for some outlines of letters, an automated mailing/CRM program and someone to coach me to do what I’ve already been doing for 20 years.

    And the young man that was giving the seminar, Jonathan, boasted about utilizing your loan, title and other service people to pay for an elaborate open house they called a “party”…sorry bro, RESPA LAWS are RESPA LAWS and they don’t bend the rules for anyone or any “Party”.

    The most disappointing (but I suspected it was BS from the start) was that as people were frantically taking notes, Jonathan told us several times throughout the presentation that HE WOULD SEND ALL OF US THE SLIDES (he said it several times all three days) and not to worry about taking notes, he wanted us to pay attention to him.

    It was BS for sure, I got 18 slides and a couple of other excel spread sheets with a schedule on them and a video of how to make a hand written form letter…WOOPTY FREAKIN DO…LOL, give me something I didn’t know for the $200 bucks I spent.

    I emailed the company several requests to provide the slides and they replied that they sent all that they had and that was all that Jonathan sent them to send us. I tried to email Merrill directly but they screened it and I got an email back from the same help desk with the same message.

    So as it stands in my mind, although Jonathan continued to taunt that their company “under promises” and “over delivers”, they did not deliver on their promise in the least, could not or flat out refused to deliver the “Promised” sets of slides to us and if they can’t keep that easy of a promise then I’m sure they can’t deliver on the other ones that you pay $20K, 40K or as much as 70K for.

    Whether you are licensed or not BEWARE of the “neat” marketing ideas Jonathan shared, they can get you in deep poop for sure with the authorities.

    The short portion of the seminar about corporations was so vague it gave me no more information than I already knew being in business all these years myself…”you get taxed according to how and where you set up your corporation” REALLY??? I didn’t need to pay $200 to know that or hear things that could get me in hot water with authorities that might be ok back East but not in California.

    I’ve taught several investors how to invest as my clients without charging them a dime (maybe I should have…LOL) but I did as a courtesy to them for using my real estate services and none of them had to worry about breaking any laws or spending another $40k for the advice.

    The other thing that really seemed odd is that they did not (although the MLS reaches throughout California) provide or have any local Sacramento real estate examples, they did not have any of the “now rich and happy students” come to share their experiences in person. They only had pictures of them and blurb quotes.

    They did have video recordings of others that attended their other seminars that raved about the seminar so why not have live videos of those that have gone through the $20-40K or 70K program??? There sales pitch is real weak if you ask me.

    If I had or for that matter anyone had a program that they are charging $20-70K for, and there WERE successful people that have gone through the program, I would pay for my students to attend and for their time to come to my seminar and share with others.

    Of the people they had come on stage, one was not even signed up in the program I found out later, one had just signed up and the other had been doing it for a year. Jonathan’s business partner was the only one besides Jonathan that has made any real money but from what I gather it has mostly been done back East.

    So when you add these deficiencies in the sales pitch up, to me it’s all BS. If it works great, but I’ll never know because instead of bringing people (students that have used the program and made money with it) to give testimonials, they used revival style hoop la that didn’t show us anything but a bunch of hype. YOUR company needs to show us the MONEY and then we will show you OURS, but you first since you want $20-70k.

    I’m not sure why Than Merrill would let someone give a seminar that didn’t have some real meat in it, but as far as I’m concerned it was a waste of 9 hours 3 days in a row and $200 I could have put to better use.

    Than Merrill, you need to revamp your delivery and show some true life examples in the areas that you want people to spend $20-70K on your program, do that and you can save people 3 days and 9 hour days of hype and just get to the point in one day. Your program will sell itself, IF it really does what it says it does.

    As it is now, you were able to sucker a few people that did buy into it, but if they don’t become successful you won’t have to come to Sacramento again, word will get out and Sacramento although it is the Capitol of the State, is still a close nit town. Bad press travels fast around here.

    For those few that spent the money for the program I do hope someday you can tell the world how rich you are and how well Than Merrill’s coaching and other programs worked for you, I’d love to admit that I’m wrong.

    However, you might want to note that about three days after the seminar, I was contacted and offered another less expensive level of the program for $3-7K. I declined becasue I still think it's a bunch of hype, accept for the automated email and letters (but not for even 3K would I buy it). So instead of you spending a minimum of $20K, if you would have held out, you could have saved about $13K. Now how do you feel about the program? Maybe the company can give you a rebate...RIGHT...LOL.
    • Glad you posted this! I have been in real estate for 15 years and worked with lots of investors! I try to tell people that these types of classes are a scam! I get calls from people that have seen these types of classes advertised on TV.

      Bottom line; all an investor needs is a knowledgeable real estate professional, that they trust, helping them! You can take that $20K-40K investment that you would put into their program and buy your first investment; and already be on your way to making $$ and bypass this system!
  • These guys are professional scammers. Slick speakers talk you out of a couple of hundred to attend a weekend seminar. After the seminar you're told that you enroll in their six month educational program for half price, as long as you pay in full today. Half price is 40,000 dollars. That's right 40,000 for training materials, books, videos and a few hours with a personal coach. Unbelievable.
  • Been in the business over 20 hrs and spending money on this course is a vast waste...there are no shortcuts and there is a reason he name drops on his and name recognition is the reason. They charge thousands of dollars for what you can learn from books..yes, of course the info they give you are vague but as a RE expert myself they appeal to those unaware of the business and the processes..PLEASE save your money...can say people didn't tell you!!!!....this week they will be in San Diego
  • is a dubious outfit. When contacting their customer support, their voice mail always always stated that their agents are too busy, asking for leaving a voice msg. When messages are repeatedly left, there are never return calls. When dialed their direct line published on their webpage,, you are told the number dialed is incorrect.
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