HGTV star defends real estate program amid complaints, controver - WSMV News 4

HGTV star defends real estate program amid complaints, controversy

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Christina and Tarek El Moussa endorse the workshop offered by Success Path Education. (WSMV) Christina and Tarek El Moussa endorse the workshop offered by Success Path Education. (WSMV)

A star of one of HGTV’s most popular programs is defending a course a consumer group is warning people to research before attending.

Promotional materials and the website for the company, Success Path Education, feature pictures of Christina and Tarek El Moussa, the stars of HGTV’s hit show, “Flip or Flop.”

But the duo was nowhere to be found at the courses in Nashville and Clarksville last week.

Success Path Education offers workshop that focuses on how to flip houses.

Not only is the program endorsed by the El Moussas, but company videos show numerous attendees like it, too.

Some of their comments include: “Should I spend the X amount of dollars to make it here? Absolutely!”

“The stuff that we’re getting here is priceless,” one person said.

“It is well worth it. Well worth every penny of it,” another student commented.

Josh Smith is also a student who took a three-day workshop in Nashville earlier this year.

But he said it’s what he experienced that convinced him to call the Channel 4 I-Team.

“In my opinion, the class doesn’t show enough for them to succeed,” Smith said.

Similar complaints were filed with the Better Business Bureau in Utah, where the company is based.

The St. Louis division issued a warning earlier this year because so many people said they paid up and got nothing out of it.

More than 160 complaints have been filed against the company, said BBB investigator Bill Smith, who works out of the St. Louis division.

“It really can be quite sad and quite heart-wrenching to hear what these people had to say,” Bill Smith said.

But the face of Success Path, Tarek El Moussa, disagrees. In a phone interview, he defended the very techniques he uses.

“What do you have to say to the people who say they paid the money to go to the accelerator course and then didn’t learn what they were promised?” asked reporter Alanna Autler.

“I don’t know how to answer that, other than maybe they weren’t paying attention or maybe they didn’t implement what they were taught,” Tarek El Moussa said.

James Carlson, the CEO of Success Path’s parent company Zurixx, said those complaints represent 0.1 percent of attendees, students and purchases.

Success Path hosts these workshops across the country. While the introductory seminar is free, it costs nearly $2,000 to take the educational workshop.

Josh Smith said he attended as a guest of his father, who paid the fee, earlier this year.

But over the course of those three days, Josh Smith said he learned more about buying additional training than actually flipping houses.

He said combined, he and his dad paid roughly $3,500 for programs recommended by instructors.

After all that, Josh Smith said he never flipped a house.

In May, the BBB issued a press release in which St. Louis CEO Michelle Corey stated, “The business uses the free seminars to enroll consumers in progressively more expensive programs.”

BBB investigator Bill Smith said he spoke to people who paid anywhere between $10,000 and $70,000 but never learned how to flip a house.

“These people were desperate when they contacted us, said they didn’t have the money to continue making payments on their credit cards for these things,” Bill Smith said. “They were long past the event and had not gotten anything out of it.”

The I-Team signed up for free informational sessions in Clarksville and Nashville.

The first thing we learned is that the HGTV stars, Christina and Tarek, were nowhere to be found, even though you’ll find their names and faces plastered on their website.

Instead, the pair only materialized in the form of a life-sized poster and a short video.

A reporter in Dallas made the same discovery when he attended a session.

Carlson said there is nothing in their material that guarantees the pair will appear.

“Obviously we can’t do every single seminar, so we do our best to get to the ones we can,” said Tarek El Moussa, who noted he attended a training in Knoxville this week. He said Christina attended a session in Miami last week.

And while the I-Team could not bring in cameras, we did take notes.

The instructors suggested we pay for a three-day seminar known as the “accelerator,” to learn about flipping houses.

But the president-elect of the Tennessee Association of Realtors said nothing is ever that simple.

“Nothing happens quickly,” said Brian Copeland, a realtor in Nashville. “Real estate is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s a crock pot, not a microwave. It takes a lot of time to learn these pieces and to think that we can learn these quickly and go out and make money on these is ill-informed.”

The cost for the three-day accelerator is $2,000, a price the Nashville instructor claimed would triple if we didn’t sign up that day.

In Clarksville, an employee said we could not take home a copy of the contract to review.

“That is a real sign,” Bill Smith said. “When you can’t bring a contract home with you and you can’t study it, there’s a signal there could potentially be a problem.”

As for Tarek El Moussa, he said he’s confident Success Path gives students the tools they need to succeed.

“I just hate coming out looking like a bad guy when we’re actually helping people,” he said.

Josh Smith said he never fought for a refund or complained because it wasn’t worth the time or effort. But he said students need to be aware before signing up.

“I want to tell them you need to be careful,” he said.

Carlson said the company guarantees a refund if purchasers makes 25 qualified offers without success.

The CEO also said based on evaluations, students gave the program on average 4.89 stars out of five. He provided examples from the last two sessions in Nashville. Most of the attendees spoke positively of the program.

Josh Smith said he and his father were not given an evaluation to complete.

Another accelerator workshop is scheduled for this weekend in Nashville. Tarek El Moussa said he and Christina will not be attending because they will be resuming production of their TV show in Los Angeles.

“But we want to extend our thanks and appreciation to all the great people we met in Knoxville this week. We have a lot of fans in Tennessee and I really enjoyed meeting so many of them,” Tarek El Moussa said.

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