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CONSUMER CONFIDENTIAL

Trump name sells old game

December 12, 2007|DAVID LAZARUS

In fact, real estate experts say the foreclosure market isn't for the inexperienced, and that it's all too easy to lose your shirt on a deal that goes south. They say programs that push neophytes to take such risks represent the same sort of recklessness that got us into the sub-prime mess in the first place.

Goff repeatedly stressed that the goal of investing in distressed properties isn't to turn a fast buck. It's to assist others.

"We're here to help people get out of their situations," he said. "We're not here to take advantage of people."

Goff didn't address how this sentiment squares with the fact that the entire transaction is predicated on taking advantage of someone else. All you're doing is getting a better price for a home than the owner was able to get himself.

More often than not, that's because the seller was undergoing a financial or personal crisis and was focused primarily on saving his skin, not scoring some ready cash.

When the seminar finally ended, only four or five people signed up for the $1,495 workshop. The rest drifted out with perplexed looks on their faces, perhaps wondering why they'd never received the "priceless information" they'd been promised.

Michael Sexton, the president of Trump University, told me by phone that about 500 such seminars are held nationwide each year, followed by about 100 workshops. Each three-day workshop typically is attended by about 50 people, he said.

Do the math: 50 x $1,495 x 100 = $7,475,000.

Sexton said Trump University isn't the biggest player on the business-seminar circuit, but "we're the most profitable."

Before I left the hotel, I met Andres Castillo, 30, who'd attended a Trump workshop in August and was back for a little pep talk from Goff.

Castillo said he learned a lot from the training and was optimistic he'll prosper in the foreclosure market. He said he currently has four deals in the works.

"I have control of four properties," Castillo said. "I'm just looking for buyers."

To date, he hasn't made a dime.

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Consumer Confidential runs Wednesdays and Sundays.

Send your tips or feedback to david.lazarus@latimes.com.

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