When I first met Carl walking along Grove Street, he was in a bit of a pickle. A couple of years ago, he’d decided to transition from the corporate world into real estate investing and to do it at a manageable pace. He attended a few seminars and workshops around Jersey City, took some online classes, and visited with local Meetup groups. Before long, he was buying properties and building a portfolio. Then, on a deal that was supposed to be the money-maker that let him quit his job, he lost it all: the money he’d invested, his family’s liquid savings, even part of his retirement. The property was a money pit.
Embarrassed that he’d bitten off more than he could chew, Carl was desperate for a fix that didn’t require he remain at his corporate job forever. He also wanted to learn from his mistakes, and not make any new ones. So finding a real estate investing mentor seemed the next logical step to take, but he didn’t know where to start. We’ve got a few options here in New Jersey, so I I helped him sort through them to choose the one that made the most sense.
Finding Mentors for Investing in New Jersey Real Estate
When it’s time to find a mentor, many investors start their search at Meetup groups, in investment clubs, and as members of real estate investment associations. Some turn to online discussion forums where anyone and everyone can claim investing expertise without proof to back these claims up. The likelihood of finding a legitimate mentor through any of these channels, however, is slim to none. What you might find, instead, is a scam.
So how do you know which mentors truly have the expertise so that you choose the right one to establish a relationship with?
A real estate investing mentor should be a successful real estate investor with in-the-field results to show for it. Ideally, he or she should be actively investing, easily accessible, and as interested in your success as you are. A mentor should also be able to reliably offer advice that’s relevant to your investments, not just real estate investing generally or, worse, be interested in furthering their own investment business ends. With these criteria in mind, let’s take a look at a few top-listed New Jersey-based mentorship programs.
Villa Visions, LLC offers an “Investment/Mentorship” program that takes you through the steps of buying, remodeling, and selling homes by making you an investment partner in one of their projects. They work almost exclusively on flipping houses, focusing their efforts in North Jersey, Bergen County, and Hudson County. You have access to your mentor for a set number of hours for the duration of the project and are welcome to visit other project sites anytime. Though the website details very little about how the program works, you can reach the team by phone and they’re happy to answer questions.
When you do get those details, though, you’re in for a shock. One of the packages provides a two-hour mentoring session each month for eight months at the cost of $10,500. The other three require that you dig deeper into your pockets to invest in their properties. The amount of time you get with a mentor depends on the amount of money you give. A bi-weekly two-hour session will cost you $100K, whereas a monthly session will “only” cost you $70K. For $45K, your sessions shrink to an hour. Of course, when the project ends (and your access to the mentor) you’ll get 10% of the returns–if there are any. With this setup, I suspect they’re the only ones laughing all the way to the bank.
JDL Ventures buys foreclosures, REOs, fixer-uppers, and multi-family units from financially distressed sellers throughout New Jersey for cash. According to the website, as a full-service real estate firm they’re able to market extensively around the state and attract a steady stream of leads. You can join their “Preferred Buyers List” to get access to wholesale-priced properties or register for investing tips via email. They also offer regularly scheduled access to a mentor plus admission to a private workspace where additional training materials are available.
But even when making a cursory cost-benefit analysis, it’s clear that the value of their mentorship programs doesn’t add up. For a monthly fee of $597, you can participate in a once-a-month group call that lasts between one and two hours. For a flat rate of $5,000, your group call is weekly. Both programs are limited to six months. And though these calls are structured to help you maneuver through the process of buying, renovating, and selling a property, it’s you and your fellow students who are expected to guide each other along. Whether you pay in monthly installments or all at once, that’s a lot of money to shell out for the privilege of not talking to a mentor.
The American Real Estate Investors Institute teaches, advises, and coaches real estate investors on how to buy and sell properties for profit. Serving the Delaware Valley tri-state area, the group offers one-on-one mentorship on flipping houses, buying at auctions, and evaluating buy-and-hold opportunities. It is their access to industry “contacts,” however, that they claim can take your investment portfolio to the next level.
Unfortunately, who these contacts are and what they can actually do for you isn’t clear. Neither is the cost of working with a mentor, what’s included in the program, or for how long you’ll have access. The website is vague on these points, and Carl’s calls were never returned. The founder and CEO, Bill Becker, appears to have an extensive history as a motivational speaker and educator, establishing himself as an industry guru. While this is not necessarily a strike against the institute, it might explain why Carl couldn’t get more information (and may speak to how difficult it could be for you as well).
On the surface, these local options seem to come close to fulfilling what you want in a mentor, but there’s certainly no clear winner. An alternative–and the best option I’ve found–is working with a HomeVestors® Development Agent. As a HomeVestors® franchisee, you receive a comprehensive real estate investing education, have access to a full range of proprietary tools and resources to get your business going, and get one-on-one mentoring with your Development Agent whenever, and for generally however long, you need it.
Paying it Forward as a HomeVestors Mentor
In my early days as an independently owned and operated HomeVestors® franchisee, I relied heavily on my Development Agent to help me through the ups and downs of growing a real estate investment business. Now that I’m a seasoned investor and a Development Agent myself, I do the same for other HomeVestors® franchisees. That now includes Carl. I’m happy to report that he is back on his feet again and well on his way to turning his independently owned and operated part-time real estate gig into a well-oiled full-time machine.
Ready to switch gears? Give the HomeVestors® team a call to start a new career.
Each franchise office is independently owned and operated.