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Dexter, who buys and rents properties, says the so-called get-rich real estate gurus don’t adequately explain how difficult being a landlord can be. He’s written books instructing property owners on how to do it better.

Dorkin encourages new investors to seek out local mentors.

“Do what you can to connect with them and befriend them. Volunteer your time and energy to work with them,” he says. “I liken it to the old blacksmithing days. You want to be an apprentice to a guy in your neighborhood who you know knows his business.”

Some clubs have colorful names or gimmicks. One new club, Lady Landlords of Orange County, also welcomes men. But founder Jasmine Willois says that after a former stint as a stockbroker for a Wall Street “boys club,” she wanted to create an organization that would be particularly appealing to women.

Her club is an outgrowth of her Real Lady Landlords of San Diego, a concept she’s hoping to take across the country.

“We don’t push programs; we push education and networking,” Willois says. “We’ll show you how to get involved without spending $30,000.”

Willois, who says she couldn’t afford to start out buying homes in San Diego, invests in properties in Indianapolis, and teaches others how to find investment markets outside their backyards.

“You don’t have to fight over deals with these big millionaires to get into this game,” she says.

When the real estate market collapsed seven years ago, the Rushings were stuck with a house in Twentynine Palms, Calif., which had cost them $180,000 and was quickly worth less than half that amount.

That bout of bad luck helped them find their investment niche.

“When the market crashed, we realized our house was worth $70,000,” Kimberly Rushing says. “But so were all the other ones.”

Military rent allowances, however, had remained steady.

The couple saw that if they put 20 percent down on a $70,000 house, their mortgage would be $400 a month. But they could rent the home for $950 a month.

“We thought, ‘Hey, instead of having a wedding, why don’t we buy an investment house?’ ” Kimberly Rushing says.