Free real estate flipping seminar streams people into $50,000 course

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Michael from Idaho won’t tell me his last name. But he will reveal heart-wrenching details of his family’s $500,000 medical debt and how “divine intervention” led him to California real estate guru Nick Vertucci.

I’m at the Nick Vertucci “Fortunes in Flipping” free seminar at the Hilton Vancouver Airport hotel in Richmond. There are about 50 other people gathered in a medium-sized conference room. Most are aged 50 or over. An elderly man aided by a walking device slowly hobbles to his front row seat.

“The nurses told my wife he wouldn’t live,” Michael says quietly, displaying an intensive care unit picture of a tiny, wrinkled baby. The prematurely born baby boy survived, Michael says, but left his uninsured family of six with huge medical bills. Michael said he had gone broke, and the situation was bleak before he found himself at a free real estate seminar. But after Nick Vertucci taught Michael how to flip homes, he said, he paid off the $500,000 medical bill, and “retired” on the riches of his rental income properties within 18 months, at age 49.

A pitchman who identified himself as Michael from Idaho, but would not disclose his last name when asked, told attendees of the Nick Vertucci seminar in Richmond they could learn how to flip homes in the U.S. and ìretire" within three years by following Vertucciís methods. [PNG Merlin Archive] ORG XMIT: POS1607051718317115 [PNG Merlin Archive]

Nick Vertucci wasn’t at the recent seminars in Richmond, but his image was front and centre. PNG

“I was sitting right where you are seven and a half years ago,” Michael says. “We were broke, and my wife pulled out a credit card I didn’t even know we had. Nick Vertucci changed my life.”

As we listen to Michael, we are packed tightly in a semicircle of rows arranged so that he can walk the aisles, reading our name tags, and speaking to us directly. Seminar staff quietly set out new rows of chairs as more attendees arrive.

“I can’t let you move that chair,” a woman staffer says forcefully when I try to shift a seat to gain more elbow room.

Vancouver’s surreal property market is the backdrop for this real estate seminar.

Attendees are hoping to learn the secrets of getting rich quick. But they won’t learn them today. A limited and exclusive number will be able to attend a three-day seminar in mid-July to learn the real secrets, if they pay $599, a discounted fee available today only. By the end of that three-day event students will have been trained how to “paper flip” a home and make a quick $3,000 profit.

“It’s like shooting fish in a barrel,” Michael says. “You need zero money to invest the Nick Vertucci way.”

Nick Vertucci is not here, but his brand name and his “NV Real Estate Academy” is the draw. Vertucci is one of the United States’ better-known get-rich quick-flipping gurus. He previously worked with an even bigger name, Armando Montelongo, star of Flip This House — a U.S. reality TV hit that reached peak popularity before the U.S. housing market crashed in 2008. 

The people at the Richmond seminar were drawn by Vertucci’s Metro Vancouver advertising spree.

“Be my next real estate millionaire,” touted ads for the free seminar. “People in the Vancouver area are making millions flipping houses.” Nick will teach students three surefire steps to making up to $50,000 a month flipping homes, his ads say. Vertucci’s tag line slogan: “Get in, get out, get paid!”

At the June 27 seminar in Richmond, Michael from Idaho quickly explains that while fortunes are being made in Vancouver’s real estate market, it’s not ordinary Canadians reaping the windfall. Sky-high prices are driven by foreign investors trading Vancouver homes for profit, Michael tells us. 

Michael assures us “the U.S. is on sale” though, and Canadians can easily become foreign investors and learn to “paper flip” U.S. homes from the comfort of our home computers.

Before getting into the meat of his pitch, though, Michael yanks on the heartstrings.

He’s a big man wearing a wrinkled grey suit with a blue dress shirt, with a beaded necklace instead of a tie. When he gestures, his chunky silver bracelet, large pinky ring, and silver watch command attention. His voice swings from quiet and vulnerable, generally when he’s telling stories about the dire financial position he used to be in, to loud and confident, when he speaks about his present wealth. But it’s when he speaks about how powerful Vertucci’s investment secrets are that Michael really turns on. His face gets red and his voice booms with a ‘come-and-be-saved’ fervour resembling U.S. evangelical pastors.

“If you have half a brain, when I show you this system you will jump in!” he bellows.

The outline of Vertucci’s “System of Success” according to Michael, is getting access to deeply undervalued or foreclosed-upon U.S. homes in beaten down markets, and financing renovation projects with “OPM” — an abbreviation for other people’s money.

After attending Vertucci’s three-day seminar in Vancouver and completing a “paper flip” on a U.S. home via the Internet, Michael says, students can move on to “traditional flips” in which homes are renovated and quickly sold for profits of $55,000 to $258,000 per deal. And, he says, students will be able to obtain loans to complete these flips without putting up a cent of their own money. They’ll also be able to fund some types of flip with loans from private lenders who don’t require credit or work history information.

“We recommend you start with the paper flip. Why? Because it takes no money, no credit,” Michael says. “So what risk do you have? Zero.

“And then you can move into a traditional flip where you buy low, sell high. That’s why we can show you how to retire in three years or less. That’s why we have such high success. That’s why in the U.S. and Canada now, we have zero complaints. Not from vested students.”

VANCOUVER, BC -- Lawyer Ron Usher shows off some of the questionable ads that have been running in local papers in Vancouver on July 21, 2015. Trax #00038061A

Lawyer Ron Usher says the real intention is to sign people up for the $50,000 course. Wayne Leidenfrost / PROVINCE

Michael’s pitch is hard to believe, according to Ron Usher, a lawyer and member of the review panel which recently tabled a damning report on practices in the B.C. real estate industry.

Usher says he has attended over 10 seminar events in Metro Vancouver from U.S. “travelling show” outfits similar to Vertucci’s. He has attended several Nick Vertucci free seminars, including one of the sessions in Richmond in late June. Usher says the seminars closely follow the same playbook used in U.S. presidential hopeful Donald Trump’s controversial real estate seminar business, right down to the way conference room chairs are arranged. Usher says he has made complaints about U.S. real estate seminars to consumer protection agencies in Ottawa, based on what he believes are misleading practices.

Phil Norris of the Competition Bureau Canada said that in May, the bureau posted consumer warnings on “free” real estate flipping seminars. The warning did not name names, and Norris could not say if any particular companies are under investigation. The bureau warns consumers to not believe “all testimonials,” be “skeptical of get-rich-quick promises,” and understand the risks of “no money down” real estate investment deals, Norris said.

“My main objection is they are not revealing the end game,” Usher said. “The real intention is to sign you up for a $50,000 course.”

Usher obtained and provided to The Sun a NV Real Estate Academy “Advanced Training Enrollment Form” which offers a next stage of training to those students who sign up for the $599 three-day seminars. The “4 day VIP Flipping Bus Tour” and access to other Vertucci training courses is offered for US$49,997. Usher alleges that the whole point of the $599 three-day seminar — for Vertucci and similar U.S. companies — is to assess students’ credit availability through counselling sessions, and then sign them up for “the really big sting.”

Another issue that Usher had with Michael’s presentation in Richmond was the perception Usher got that, through joining Vertucci coaches and fellow students, students would get access to secretive discount properties in the U.S. and easy financing arrangements.

“Part of what is great about joining Nick is getting cheap inventory,” Michael said at the seminar I attended. “You can’t find them yourself or with Realtors. When you try to find a cheap house from a Realtor, it’s like the blind leading the blind! But Nick doesn’t have that problem.”

Nick Vertucci, self described "cash flow" real estate systems guru. (Screengrab from Fortunes in Flipping video from Real Estate Academy Nick Vertucci website) [PNG Merlin Archive]

Nick Vertucci: ‘There is an edge in working with me, if I train you to train the real estate agent in where to look.’ PNG

In an interview from California, Nick Vertucci defended his business, and explained Michael’s pitch.

“There is an edge in working with me, if I train you to train the real estate agent in where to look,” Vertucci said.

Michael would not provide his last name to me at the seminar in Richmond.

But Vertucci identified the pitchman as Michael Syme. Vertucci said that he believed in Michael Syme’s claims of rapidly becoming wealthy by flipping homes and then retiring, and paying off a $500,000 medical debt, by following the Vertucci methods.

“I never said, ‘Mike send me your bills.’ I don’t know when he retired, but I know he owns homes in Hawaii and wherever else it is, because he’s told me that. I can’t say that I’ve looked at his paperwork, but that is what Mike has always told me.”

As for Usher’s claim that the real aim of Vertucci’s seminar is to find students for expensive tours and coaching, Vertucci said he can’t teach students everything in a few days.

“(Usher) may look at it as an upsell or a dupe,” Vertucci said. “But I can’t disclose everything from the beginning. It is a process, not an upsell.”

Asked about his history with Armando Montelongo’s seminar company, Vertucci said he could not discuss details of the lawsuit that the two flipping gurus are contesting. U.S. court documents show that Montelongo sued Vertucci. He alleged that while Vertucci was employed to teach Montelongo’s students about buying and selling “cash flow” rental properties, Vertucci was also involved in a joint venture to sell his own “cash flow” properties to students at Montelongo seminars.

Vertucci said that he did previously sell his own properties to people listening to his real estate radio show, but he could not discuss whether he did the same at Montelongo seminars. 

“I do not sell properties to my students now,” Vertucci said.

Vertucci said that he wants to continue teaching Canadian students to invest in the U.S.

“The seminar business does have a black eye, and they kind of run people through,” Vertucci said. “And I’m trying to change that.”

Vertucci said that if his company receives any complaints from seminar attendees, he makes sure any issues are resolved. There is evidence online that Vertucci has reached out to dissatisfied seminar attendees and resolved complaints.

Vertucci was asked via email to identify whether a U.S. online advertisement from a Michael Syme — in which a pitchman made claims of being a successful eBay auction entrepreneur making about $10,000 a month, using very similar language to the flipping pitch made by Michael in Richmond — was the same person. As of Friday evening, no response had been received.

However, The Sun found archived photos of the online auctioneer that matched photos of the Vertucci pitchman in Richmond. A 2009 online profile for Michael J. Syme of Idaho, Utah and Hawaii, says he “is a popular online auctions expert, educator … (who) started selling on the Internet nearly seven years ago after losing his job. Mr. Syme for years has made his living selling with online auctions, where he has made over $12,000 a month … he now shares his ‘auction success secrets’ with tens of thousands of people around the world.”

Bankruptcy records for Michael J. Syme of Utah show that in 2003 he owed debts to a long list of creditors including the U.S. International Revenue Service and Utah Division of Consumer Protection.

Michael Syme could not be reached for comment after following the Vancouver seminars.

At the end of the free seminar in Richmond on Monday July 27, an attendee who only identified himself to me as Harry T., asked Michael if Vertucci’s system had “any drawbacks.”

“No,” Michael said.

“I’m a bit skeptical, but I signed up for the (three-day) course,” Harry T. said.

scooper@postmedia.com

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