Heard the one about how to get rich quick in real estate? Or how to stop working for money and instead make money work for you?

Robert Kiyosaki, the man behind the best-selling Rich Dad, Poor Dad books, audio tapes and workshops, is peddling his upcoming real estate investor’s conference in radio and newspaper ads throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.

The one-day event, slated for Feb. 21 at the San Francisco Hyatt, promises to reveal where to find “bargain properties” and “how to buy property without being rich.” Attendees pay $135 for lunch and a nine-hour crash course in investment.

The nation’s hot real estate market is a hotbed for self-proclaimed investment gurus, books, events and other merchandise that claims to reveal industry secrets and turn people into financial wizards. But buyers need to be careful as these peddlers aren’t subject to regulation or forced to meet quality standards.

It’s difficult to gauge what specific techniques Kiyosaki teaches at his workshops. The schedule for the San Francisco event is vague, with time blocks labeled “networking,” “breakout seminars” and “Robert Kiyosaki.”

Kiyosaki’s Web site lists some of his basic investment mantras such as “your house is a liability” and “money always follows management.” But it’s not clear how these nuggets fit into the big investment picture.

Kiyosaki has provoked both praise and harsh criticism. The huge success of Rich Dad, Poor Dad proves his widespread following. But best-seller lists count the number of copies sold, not the quality of the content.

Author John Reed has made it his mission to sort the good, the bad and the ugly in the world of real estate investment. Reed publishes a monthly real estate investor’s newsletter and keeps a checklist on his Web site of who he recommends, who he doesn’t and why.

Kiyosaki flunks Reed’s tests. In fact, Reed even published on his Web site a 43-page analysis of Kiyosaki’s alleged inaccuracies.

“This book (Rich Dad, Poor Dad) has many important factual errors,” Reed wrote.

Reed’s analysis includes several tables in which he rails against specific passages from Rich Dad, Poor Dad or applies Kiyosaki’s advice to realistic investment scenarios. Reed has 23 years’ experience in real estate investment and has written 10 books on the subject. He’s suspicious of anyone who claims to be an investment guru.

Some of Kiyosaki’s advice could get an unsuspecting person in a lot of trouble, according to Reed. He noted one passage in Kiyosaki’s book: “Frequently, my broker will call me and tell me (to buy) a company that he feels is just about to make a move that will add value to the stock, like announce a new product.”

Reed points out it is illegal to buy or sell stock based on material, non-public information. Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart is currently being tried on allegations that she took part in this very practice.

Reed’s analysis is thorough and provides links to public documents tied to Kiyosaki’s own real estate investments. He also links to e-mail from readers who disagree with his criticism.

Despite Reed’s public disapproval, Kiyosaki’s book still sits on the best-seller list and his workshops still sell out. He was pictured on the Web in a Hawaii Business Times cover story along with his expensive car and Arizona mansion. And the majority of reader reviews on Amazon.com praise Rich Dad, Poor Dad for its “profound” advice.

With all that’s been written about real estate investment, people who want to learn more may struggle to figure out what’s sound and what’s bogus.

And a lot of real estate investment advice is available free. For instance, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Web site provides information on how to buy HUD-owned properties that have foreclosed. HUD also provides guidelines on property flipping, which occurs when an investor buys a low-cost property, then resells it at a higher price.

One way to gauge the quality of a “guru’s” investment advice is to consult the state consumer protection agency. Nearly every state has one and these agencies’ Web sites often have tips or advice on what to do before making an investment.

The California Department of Consumer Affairs advises investigating property details and loan terms before investing hard-earned dollars. The agency recommends investors stay away from purchases offered over the telephone or the Internet or in newspaper, television and radio ads before first checking the appropriate regulatory agency to determine whether the company is licensed.

“When in doubt about a potential investment, wait,” the agency advises. “(E)ven with legitimate investments, there is always the risk of losing money.”


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