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The real estate B.S. artist detection check list

I am sometimes asked why I created and maintain my real-estate-guru-rating page. Here’s why:

  1. For many years, people have asked my opinion of various other real-estate-investment gurus.
  2. I tried to answer them once-and-for-all by writing an article called "The real estate B.S. artist detection check list" in the 1/90 issue of my newsletter, Real Estate Investor's Monthly. That article was supposed to teach people how to recognize, without any further help from me, which gurus were good and which were bad. However, I found readers still wanted my specific recommendations yay or nay on each guru.
  3. Many have called me a “self-appointed” critic. Not true. I was “appointed” by my readers by way of their many requests.

  4. I also read a book about the Internet which recommended creating pages like my guru-rating page. I have urged all my readers to set up similar consumer-rating pages about every good or bad business they come into contact with, from real-estate gurus to restaurants to dry cleaners. In the not-too-distant future, I predict there will be a standard XML format for doing this. In that sense, I am just a little ahead of my time.
  5. Many of these gurus write or speak on the same subjects as I do. Since what they say about real-estate investment is different than what I say, a person familiar with my material and theirs may wonder, “Why the differences?” People might then draw any of the following conclusions:
    1. The other guru is smarter than John T. Reed and knows about techniques that Reed has never learned.
    2. The other guru found the techniques that are not in Reed’s material before Reed did and Reed does not mention those techniques because he does not want to be accused of plagiarism.
    3. The other guru found the techniques that are not in Reed’s material before Reed did and Reed does not mention those techniques because he has nothing to add to the fabulous analysis done by the other gurus.
  6. All three of these conclusions are incorrect. To prevent investors from drawing incorrect conclusions about differences between my advice on a subject and other people’s advice on that same subject, I must explain the reasons for the differences.

    “...the tragedy begins, not when there is misunderstanding about words, but when silence is not understood.” Henry David Thoreau

  7. “To sin by silence when [we] should protest makes cowards of [us all].” Abraham Lincoln
  8. There is only a small group of public people whose knowledge about real-estate investment is such that they can recognize the errors, omissions, and dangers in the real-estate-investment advice being sold on TV and in many books and seminars. I am one of them. Sadly, the vast majority of those knowledgeable, good people choose not to get involved.

    “If you are among brigands and you are silent, you are a brigand yourself.” Hungarian poem

    “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Edmund Burke

    Who can protest and does not, is an accomplice in the act.” The Talmud: Sabbath, 54b.

    The hottest place in hell must be reserved for those who, in the face of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality.” -Winston Churchill

    “Qui male agit odit lucem.” (“He who behaves badly hates the light.” John 3:20)

    Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

    When the shameless meet the spineless, the shameless win.

    Like me, you could…be unfortunate enough to stumble upon a silent war. The trouble is that once you see it, you can’t unsee it. And once you’ve seen it, keeping quiet, saying nothing, becomes as political an act as speaking out. Either way, you’re accountable.” Arundhati Roy

    “When others do a foolish thing, you should tell them it is a foolish thing. They can still continue to do it, but at least the truth is where it needs to be.” Gray Council leader Dukhat, Babylon 5 episode 75 "Atonement"

    The Center for Moral Courage says, moral courage is exhibited by,

    “A person who is courageous in the face of ethical challenges...does the right thing even if it’s not popular...refuses to stand idly by while others engage in unethical or harmful behavior...

  9. About once a month, I hear from someone who says they will not buy my books because I “tear down” other writers or speakers. They often say or imply that this is unethical or a violation of the rules of business or some such.
  10. This is a Willy Lohmanesque worldview. Commissioned salesmen are, as a group, sleazy. As a result, it is in their interest to encourage a notion that no one should ever criticize a competitor. Some sales group organizations have such prohibitions in their code of ethics. George Bernard Shaw said, “All professions are conspiracies against the laity.” The aversion among groups of “professionals” to criticize their fellow group members is the sort of thing that inspired Shaw to say that.

    In other words, the motivation for promoting the “never criticize a competitor” rule is that the persons who love that rule are themselves sleazy and want immunity from having that fact revealed.

    But professions also all acknowledge a duty to the public in their codes of ethics. The duty to the public conflicts with the rule against criticizing fellow group members when the fellow group member in question is behaving in a way that hurts the public. Note that those prohibitions against criticizing fellow group members never say anything about whether the person being criticized is wrong or deserves to be criticized. The prohibition is a blanket one that would apply to Adolf Hitler or Sadam Hussein were they members of the group.

    The fact that the various codes of ethics prohibitions against criticizing group members make no exception for members who are hurting the public reveals that the provisions regarding a duty to the public are just eyewash and window dressing for public consumption. The professions, like sales, who claim to fulfill a duty to the public are in fact conspiracies against the public and act only in their self interest.

    I refuse to join the conspiracy.

  11. Every day, visitors to my guru-rating pages thank me for creating them, say they saved them a lot of money, and encourage me to “keep up the good work.”
  12. A number of gurus and their followers have accused me of creating and maintaining my guru-rating page, “just to sell books.” Well, Duh!! Of course, I do it, in part, to sell books! Where did I ever say I was Mother Theresa? If there is anyone out there operating a worthwhile financial-advice Web page totally out of the goodness of his heart, I have never heard of him. Furthermore, he or she would not be the kind of person I would look to for financial advice. When I want to learn how to make a profit, I do not seek the advice of persons who are not-for-profit. You shouldn’t either.
  13. However, there is another aspect to the issue of me, my guru-rating Web page, and my profits. I would make more money if I never created this guru-rating Web page. And I would make more money if I took it down, now.

    How so? The vast majority of people in the market for real-estate-investment information were brought into the business by Carleton Sheets or some other TV infomercial guy or best-selling financial author like Robert Kiyosaki. The majority of them love their first guru. He gave them bad advice, but they were too ignorant of real estate at the time to recognize it. They really liked his personal charm and the siren song he sang to them. By the time they figured out on their own how you really make money in real estate, they forgot that Sheets or Kiyosaki or whoever really did not really help beyond saying, “Real estate is good.”

    The fact that they love their first guru would not normally stop them from also buying my material if I made no comment about their guru. But when I criticize the guru they love, they absolutely refuse to buy any of my products and denounce me to their investment acquaintances.

    I am the only guru with such a Web page. But a great many other famous gurus have told me they agree with my ratings. If they agree, why don’t they put up their own guru-ratings? Because they see no point to alienating the guru or his true-believer followers. Other gurus speak at each other’s conferences and are loathe to lose such opportunities to make more money. Other gurus recommend each other in their writings. For example, Robert Kiyosaki recommended Robert Allen and Donald Trump in his best-selling book. Being recommended in a best-selling book obviously helps sell your own books. If I had made nice to Kiyosaki, there is a good chance he would have eventually recommended my stuff. But I am incapable of such behavior, even though it would make more money. I am appalled by the writings of the Kiyosaki’s and Sheets’s of the world and it will be a cold day in Honolulu before I endorse them, or even remain silent about them.

  14. I am an investigative journalist. That is both a professional membership—I am a member of the Investigative Reporters and Editors association—and a congenital condition. In other words, investigative journalists are born to be investigative journalists. They are incapable of standing silent when they see wrongdoing.
  15. When I entered the United States Military Academy, I was an extremely idealistic 17-year old who believed in the ideals of West Point and the Army. Now, I am an extremely idealistic 61-year old who still believes in those ideals. And as Michael Kelly said before he was the first American journalist to be killed in Iraq,

    The driving dream of the idealist is that if he could only explain things to enough people, carefully enough, thoroughly enough, thoughtfully enough—why, eventually everyone would see, and then everything would be fixed.

    In his book about Whistleblowers, Maryland Professor C. Fred Alford said,

    “Whistleblowers blow the whistle because they dread living with a corrupted self more than they dread isolation from others.”

Some critics say I criticize real esate investment gurus to sell my real estate investment books. But I mainly do it because of my investigative journalist genes. Want evidence? Look at the other investigative articles at my Web site that are not about real estate investment. They are at:

As you can tell by reading these articles, they either depress sales of my products because they criticize prospective customers—not competitors as a rule—or they are about a subject on which I have no products to sell, namely the military. They therefore disprove the notion that I only criticize people when I think I can make some money from doing so. The truth is I criticize things that I think are wrong and important regardless of whether it will help, hurt, or not affect me financially.

If I had to explicitly or tacitly approve bad gurus to prosper in real-estate writing, I would find another way to make a living. Fortunately, the intelligent-investor market segment is just about large enough for one or two gurus to make a good living from it.

If you love your guru and hate me for criticizing him, goodbye and good luck. You’ll need it.

If you appreciate logical, well-researched, real-world, real-estate-investment advice, welcome.

John T. Reed