Real Estate Leaves One Investor High and Dry

According to his attorney, Serin is currently under investigation by the FBI. His attorney, Kevin Mark Wray, told ABC News that "as of yet, no charges have been brought against Mr. Serin. However, based upon conversations with the U.S. attorney's office in California, federal charges related to Mr. Serin's real estate transactions are expected to be brought against him. At this time, my office is reviewing Mr. Serin's real estate transactions. I have engaged an expert on mortgage law and mortgage foreclosure. I expect to have a complete response in the next two weeks."

Even before the investigation began, debt collectors were harassing Serin, and his mailbox was filling up with delinquent notices. Eventually, his lenders started foreclosure procedures. According to Serin's Web site, five of his eight homes have been foreclosed on, two of his homes have been sold and one is under contract to be sold.

Going Public

Despite what he has done, Serin has been remarkably candid about his actions. He started a Web site where he posted everything from pictures of his homes to a detailed list of his personal finances. His blog, which started out as a place for him to share his experiences with others, later became a possible business opportunity. "The entrepreneur in me thought, 'Hey, this is great. I can maybe leverage this into some other business later on.'"

"There was a time where I was embarrassed," he said, "but after a while I decided, you know what? What's there to be ashamed about? Successful people go through several of these, you know. Failure is part of success."

Serin once envisioned the Web site and blog becoming a place where people facing foreclosure could learn about what to expect, as well as what options might be available to them. However, the attention from the media, Web watchers and legal authorities has become too difficult for him. He recently sold the domain and will soon stop blogging about his activities. For those who loved (and hated) his adventures in real estate, as of after Friday, August 3, Serin's story, as told online, is expected to end.

In the Hot Seat

"I have a lot of critics that say because of me, the market is overpriced," he said. "Because of me, the renters are priced out. It's interesting. I've been put in a position where I'm blamed for macroeconomic problems. I'm kind of like a mascot for what's really going on."

Commentators on Serin's and their own blogs also express anger at Serin's lifestyle.

"I make things worse by telling them part of the money last year was used for my wife, and I to go on vacation. Well, people don't realize this is one thing we did. Everything else was very frugal," he said.

"We have scaled back in a lot of ways, and we have cut our expenses down. But what happens is people focus on the drama. They see that I'm supposedly living a frivolous lifestyle, they see that I went to a Starbucks or a Jamba Juice … and they say, 'You need to be on rice and beans all the time. You need to be eating Top Ramen all day.'"

Undeterred Despite Debt

Serin maintains that his critics don't realize the severity of his situation.

"You can't just send $5 toward your credit card; they will still continue their collection process," he said. "With foreclosures you can't just pay them a partial payment. They will still do the foreclosure."

While Serin wants to work out deals for his remaining debt, he said he is trying his best to avoid declaring bankruptcy.

"People say maybe you should give up after eight bad deals," he said. "Well, I'd like to say they weren't all bad, and I have learned a lot through it. So I'd like to think the next deal I am going to do is going to be successful."

So, Serin continues to search for his eureka moment and hopes to strike gold.

Portions of this report originally aired April 13, 2007.

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