What Real Estate Technology Do You Really Need When Starting Out?

by | BiggerPockets.com

I feel like every day I am compelled into reading another blog post about a piece of tech or software that is the “new new” of real estate.

I can’t count how many CRM platforms I’ve been pitched, times I’ve been told my phone is too old, or received some email extolling the benefits of some seminar that will change my business.

(Really? Because I thought lead generation changed my business?!)

Having worked for some pretty savvy and successful real estate investors and running my own business has taught me valuable lessons on chasing the newest and greatest when you’re just getting started.

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Must Haves:

1) Smart phone

There’s a running joke that I’m going to slide into my grave closing a deal, texting someone as the coffin closes. Guilty, as charged. I make myself available via email, phone, and text to my customers & vendors and I’m perfectly OK with responding to them quickly when they’re “online.” If it’s 11pm and I’m simply watching TV or early morning and getting going, I’m happy to reply & keep things moving then get swarmed with emails and phone calls in a budgeted timeline. Everything goes to my blackberry (shush, dear reader!) and I like it’s durability, efficiency, and battery life.

I do like to tweet and use social media to stay connected and post content. I still find it most easy sitting in front of an actual computer, but having a smart phone is at least an easy way to work on your social media influence on the go. Does this mean the latest Iphone or Android? Not necessarily. Start of with what you really need and a plan that fits what you’re using right now. Don’t tie yourself to a highline device least of which gets good cell reception. There will always be a new phone to buy; don’t be afraid to wear one down for awhile while you’re building your business.

2) Laptop/desktop

Even if all you have is a laptop, it’s absolutely critical it be efficient. With the amount of software you’ll probably have installed and how much you’ll be using it while you’re on the road, either using something like GoToMyPC.com to login to your “home/main” computer or having a fast processor is a must. Now of course this is a very watered down version of stating the obvious, but it also doesn’t require going out and spending $2,500 on a top line high-end sleek new notebook.

Where I get a diversion of need vs preference is with tablets. I have a dell-mini instead of an Ipad, as I simply cannot type as quickly without a “real” keyboard. I am constantly writing, blogging, and responding to emails, so I felt like if I was going to buy an auxiliary “on the go” device that was bigger than a phone and smaller than a laptop, I just would prefer a miniature laptop. Plus, for what I use it for, it’s not worth the added cost to me. I will mostly be trading that in for a tablet that comes with full suite windows 7 and small typepad though.

Personally I don’t think everyone needs an additional device as a go-between. If you’re just starting out, save the $500-$1,000 and put it into something more useful (read: marketing) until such a time that you can clearly see how having a tablet is going to save or make you more money. Personally I think a lot of those devices are meant to go defunct or be obsolete in such a short time, it makes no sense to me to run out and buy this stuff because you think you need it. Trust me, having cool tech may *help* you get to where you’re going faster, but it ain’t gonna do the job for you. If you’re not already doing what you need to do to be successful, having a zippy new toy isn’t going to make a lick of difference.

3) Database

If you’re just starting out, in my opinion, there’s absolutely no need to purchase fancy software to manage your database. If you have 50 people that you consider a customer/prospect list, just create an excel spreadsheet for goodness sake. Once you start to grow, investing in a robust customer database management software will most likely become necessary. Especially if you want to start drip marketing campaigns, implement cool tools like video follow up, etc, you will quickly outgrow anything you could possibly manage well through Excel or a similar program.

In the meantime, there are plenty of free/inexpensive platforms to help you organize your email database and send professional looking emails. Icontact, ConstantContact, & Mailchimp are just a few. Some of the more expensive ones can have so many features, it can be overwhelming and you end up using just the bare bones, or not using it at all. Ask around or google reviews on products before you purchase them; you may find it’s just what you’ve been missing for your business, or a waste of time and dollars.

4) Software

Although it’s not software, one thing I cannot live without is my access to my local MLS. I am a licensed agent and do work in a agency capacity at times, so I simply pay my annual dues and use it. As a real estate investor, you can’t get away with using national companies for comparables and local market information. It’s imperative you have ground level real-time intel to make informed decisions.

Beyond that, you may need software for photo editing, video editing, IM’ing and phone and fax service, and so much more. What I’m seeing more and more though is, there are many solutions that are free if not nearly free. If you are running a large outfit, you may need to pay for enterprise level access or features, but I’m supposing the majority of the readers do not have business’ with many, if any, employees. Again, my suggestion is to google and research what it is that you’re looking for and read up on what’s tried and true that may work best for your current needs.

Bottom line: time is money. If you can see a reduction in costs, increase in profits, or get back your precious time by implementing new software, purchasing a new device, or upgrading your existing hardware, CRM, phone, etc, than it’s a solid investment. Otherwise, running a profitable and low-overhead business earmarked with efficiency is the beacon for any of us.

What about you reader? What tech did you invest in that made the biggest improvement in your business/marketing? What did you realize was a waste of money?

Photo: Trey Ratcliff

About Author

Tracy Royce

Tracy (G+) is an Arizona Short Sale Realtor, Investor, Rehabber, and Foreclosure Expert. She also is an avid blogger, vlogger and consultant on all things Arizona Foreclosures.


  1. On #3, if you feel the need for more power, you can download Microsoft SQL Server Express free from Microsoft’s website. I installed it so I could download tons of delinquent taxpayer data from the city to analyze it by district, owner vs non-owner occupied, and other variables. You can do this in Excel too, but I found Excel to be too slow on that much data.

  2. Instead of gotomypc.com check out teamviewer.com, they have the same type of features and it is free, just install it on your computer(s) and on your smartphone/tablet and you can access all your computers. Also a must have is google voice. Part of google’s apps is google drive, which you get 5GB of free storage, and you can set it up to show as a drive on your computer. I use network attached storage (two of them, pogoplug and a true NAS system). The nice thing about these is it is massive amounts of storage space that you pay for one time and that is it. In the case of the pogoplug(+/- $50) you can plug in regular USB hard drives you already own and it is expandable. The Pogoplug and NAS system has features that allow me to access the files from any internet connection and apps on my other devices. Another feature of a smart phone is I can share the internet for the rare instances that I don’t have a wifi connection somewhere for my laptop.

  3. I find that using my smartphone for looking up data in the field is difficult, but not impossible. On the other hand, I’m obviously not going to take my desktop in my car. I am almost to the point of springing for a tablet, just because it is bigger than a smartphone but smaller and more conducive to car typing than a full-blown laptop. My two cents.

  4. One of the biggest things that drives me crazy when I see people getting going is they spend tons of money on fancy devices and high end software before they do anything.
    Also seems like the ability to be able to use the stuff is inversely proportional to the propensity to buy it.
    If you can’t figure out how to sum a column of numbers in Excel you probably don’t need a high end MacBook with $10K of software to go along with your iPad and iPhone.

    I have found that I can pretty much do anything I have ever needed to do with Excel spreadsheets. I have a smartphone but use it mostly to erase junk email when I’m away from my computer so it doesn’t distract me when I am trying to work. Otherwise its biggest use is to read BiggerPockets if I get stuck in a long line somewhere. 🙂

    • Along my same line of thought, Shaun! It’s funny to me to be next to someone that has an Iphone as they’re fumbling to figure something out and I end up being able to accomplish it easily on my Blackberry. Of course not always the case but certainly softens the jeers I get for still having an “old school” smartphone.

      • I think a lot of people confuse things that they “Need” vs things “That can be quite helpful if used correctly”.
        I know guys that are doing totally fine still using a flip phone and can’t even figure out how to text. 🙂

  5. I keep my spreadsheets, plan docs, and other things inside my free (2 GB limit) http://DropBox.com account. It’s a folder that syncs, meaning any file you put there gets uploaded to their site, and then copied onto any other computer you own that also signs on. This works with iPhone, Android, macs/windows/linux computers. Effective backup with easy access from other places. And the 2 GB space is FREE.

    Can you do your business with a free website (@ wordpress.com or blogspot.com), a free spreadsheet/doc/pdf writer (LibreOffice), and a free backup location (dropbox.com)? Maybe not. But you sure can do a lot of what you need to do without having to shell out tons of software.

    I personally REALLY like tracking all receipts using Neat Desktop, but you have to pay for it. Don’t get that until you reach a point where receipt management is getting in your way. Start off with something simple and cheap like an accordian folder for a couple bucks at Walmart.

    Keep it simple and CHEAP until you are making money. That’s my opinion.

    • Couldn’t agree more, Greg! There’s so many inexpensive solutions out there that are useful for start ups, small business, and business’ that are growing. Something like neat desktop is probably going to be next on my list. Thanks for reco!

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