Sunday, April 09, 2006

Is This a Good Investment?

From: Los Angeles Daily News

Tens of thousands of hopeful real-estate moguls entered the Convention Center on Saturday with money on their minds.

They were drawn to the two-day Real Estate Wealth Expo by iconic investors like Rob "Rich Dad" Kiyosaki, Donald Trump and Magic Johnson.

Many wanted to know how to make their first million, and the program covers assured them, in block red letters, "THIS WEEKEND CAN MAKE YOU A MILLIONAIRE!"

"You do not have to have money. You don't have to have good credit. You don't have to have a job. All you need is the knowledge to put a deal together," Reggie Brooks told students in a session he taught on investing in abandoned properties.

A high school dropout, Brooks was living in South L.A. and making $36,000 a year at Pacific Bell when he attended a Learning Annex real-estate class taught by Albert Lowry. Eighteen years on, he's still buying abandoned properties. He believes he is transforming community eyesores while making a pretty penny.

Attendants were over and over reminded of such success stories: middle-aged men and women who had left steady jobs and, following a speaker's tips, had struck paydirt investing in real estate.

But, at a time when the once-blistering housing market is cooling, others warn that flipping properties isn't going to carry the profit it recently did, particularly in California.

"Wealth doesn't happen overnight," Vince Malta, president of the California Association of Realtors, said in an interview Friday. "This is a market that is well balanced. It is great for the homebuyer. It is not great for the investor who is looking to hold on for a short period of time."

The expo, which runs through 8 p.m. today and costs from $179 to $499, began in 2004 as millions of Americans found themselves trying to capitalize on a soaring housing market. Organizers anticipate 55,000 visitors, enough to fill the Staples Center next door almost three times.

"What a turnout! This is fantastic!" Hall of Fame basketball star and urban investor Earvin "Magic" Johnson said as he spoke to a 23,000-seat auditorium half-full of people. "I wish the Lakers got this many people."

Johnson told people to dream and be patient. He was rejected by the first 10 investors he approached about opening franchises of Starbucks, 24 Hour Fitness and TGI Fridays. The 11th shared his vision - and helped launch a $700 million empire.

"If I had stopped," he said, "I wouldn't be here today."

The Learning Annex spent $2.5 million to have Donald Trump promote the expo on freeway billboards, full-page newspaper ads and TV spots.

"If you're a first-time buyer or a serious investor, this event will change your life," Trump said in a commercial during March Madness.

The well-known real-estate mogul, whose return to fame has been fomented by the popularity of the reality-TV show "The Apprentice," will be paid $1.5 million to share his wisdom for one hour tonight.

Kiyosaki, author of "Rich Dad, Poor Dad" and object of a cultish following, also will speak today."Chase has read all his books," John Boulter of Orange County said about his 14-year-old son, who said the expo will help him become a millionaire.

"If I start (investing) now, I can probably do it by the time I'm 25," Chase said.

Everybody is selling something. Keynotes and seminars were just the beginning. The truly apt pupil was inspired to spend several hundred dollars on additional training materials.

"Compare that to a Harvard MBA," Brooks said, referring how much cheaper it would be to spend $895 on his program. "One little abandoned property can make you so much money and you don't have to have a big student loan."