Business Management

4 Brilliant (Low or No Cost!) Online Tools for Real Estate Professionals

Expertise: Personal Development, Business Management, Real Estate Investing Basics, Landlording & Rental Properties, Personal Finance, Flipping Houses
120 Articles Written

With all the things that takes our time as real estate investors, it's crucial to have systems in place that help us stay organized, efficient, and on task. I am a fairly type A personality ("fairly" is probably an understatement), and when things are not put together and organized, it really drives me crazy. Even within one real estate transaction, we have countless documents: contracts and closing statements, insurance documents, contractor bids and receipts. Not to mention the many other things we deal with, lists of people to call, and other tasks to remember.

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There are a few things that are most important to me. First, organization of the “paper” kind of documents. Second, having the best access to finding property information, whether it be through easily accessible telephone solutions or fax or e-sign delivery.

4 Brilliant Online Tools for Real Estate Professionals

1. Trello

First, this has been by far the biggest breakthrough for me this year. I learned through a friend and partner on BiggerPockets about the amazing website and application called Trello. #mindblown

Check it out. Trello offers not only the ability to categorize your information, store documents and pictures, and create task lists, but it also allows you to share and collaborate with other people on it.

Boards. Trello has a system that took me a week or two getting used to, but it goes in a logical sequence. First, you have an “organization,” which owns a specific board. Second, you create a board. Personally, I have several kinds of boards — some that are deal specific (“123 Main Street”) and some that are much more broad, with potential deals, potential off market deals, rentals, etc. This way I have a lot of information in one place, right there. And don’t forget, you can actually open up the application on your phone, computer, or tablet, and have it all right there.

Once you have built your “board” within Trello, then you can add a list.

Lists. You can add it, name it, change it, whatever you want to do with the list. For example, in our 123 Main Street property, we have a list for “timeline/to dos, finances, utilities, closing docs, and renovation pics.” This is very similar to how I have mine set up. Within those lists, you have “cards.”

Cards. These guys can be used a couple ways. First, you can use them within the list to hold a lot of information. For instance, before I know a deal will be a deal, I will generally put all the information for one property within a Board (potential deals), List (123 Main Street), and Card (all info for subject property). This list includes any information about my offer price, the seller or agent I am working with, as well as pictures of the subject property (I always make the cover photo the front of the house for reference).

If you have a Board that is made up entirely for one property, you can be more specific with your lists (finances, closing docs, etc), and then within those lists are the cards containing the details. You can have a stream of conversation WITHIN a card or as the title of a card. For instance, some cards on deals with partners, we might have the card name as “utilities – (also the card name)” and within that card, there is a conversation back and forth about what is happening on that deal — OR you can simply type the card name as: combo 123. Now when you open up that board/list, you see the card and the information is right there.

Related: 4 Productivity Hacks to Turn Wasted Hours into Quality Time

Trello takes some time to get used to and understand, but it is well worth the time.

And also, it’s FREE.

2. Ooma

For my office line, I use Ooma. It is simple to set up, with an online account where you can select your phone number, set call forwarding, and select options for how you want to receive your messages. You can also have an actual phone at your office location, forward calls to your cell phone, and if you have a larger number of employees, they have business solutions, too.

You need to buy the Ooma telo (basically the brain), and you can plug any telephone you want into it. We have both the Ooma handset (wireless) and a regular office style telephone. This is a voice over IP system, so you do need to have internet for this service. The quality of the calls is great, and for the service, I have with two phone lines and call forwarding, and it’s about $15 a month.

The thing I love the most about this service is when someone calls me, it rings my cell phone and I can answer it there, but if I don’t answer it, it sends me an email with the voicemail. I can then forward this to my assistant, save it and play it later, or add it to my Trello board.

3. Zillow

I know, I know. Everyone hates Zillow. The values aren’t quite right. It doesn’t always have all the correct or up to date listings. I know. Except it’s also great for a lot of things, too.

First, if you don’t have MLS access, you can generally see how long the house has been on the market and when and what the price declines were on a listing page (if the realtor has allowed access to the third party sites). You can also pull up the Zillow houses app on your cell phone, and it will pull comps near whatever property you are at, so you can see them and drive by them wherever you are searching. I love this feature. I use it pretty often to see both rental properties available/rented and comparable properties in the area.

If you are on your computer or tablet, it also has the links to the city/county websites, which a lot of times link you directly to the property information. I love this feature when I run across a house, and I want to see if there are back taxes or confirm what the square footage of the property is.

Related: Boost Your Productivity in Real Estate With These iPhone Applications

Second, they have a mortgage/payment app where on one screen you can determine the payment of what your property would cost you, including changing taxes/insurance/mortgage. This is super useful if you are using funding/mortgages/private money on your deals. It’s not the most sophisticated, but it’s useful and easy to get to. And it’s also free.

4. Docusign

I love anything that is intuitive and makes life easier. Docusign is incredible for getting signatures from clients, buyers and sellers without having to print out 35 pages to try and get them to scan, email or fax back. The interface is easy to use, and they also have a cell phone application.

Generally, Docusign is allowed on most transactions (I am not acting as your attorney here!), but we have found in transactions with HUD or some of the other short sale/foreclosure type transactions, we are required to use “wet ink” and sign them all. #awesome #handcramps

Technology is out there and can be very useful and reasonable, cost-wise. I needed to find good technology tools to integrate into my daily life and work that were intuitive and efficient enough to make my life EASIER, not more complicated — and I believe these fit the bill.

What technology/applications are you using to grow your 21st century real estate business?

Leave your best recommendations in the comments section below!

Nathan Brooks is the co-founder and CEO of Bridge Turnkey Investments, a Kansas City-based company renovating and selling more than 100 turnkey properties per year. With over a decade of experience in real estate, Nathan is a seasoned investor with a large personal portfolio and a growing business portfolio. Just last year, through Bridge Turnkey Investments, he helped investors add over $12 million in value to their real estate portfolios. Nathan regularly produces educational content to fuel his passion for helping other people learn about and find success in real estate investing. He has been featured regularly on industry podcasts such as the BiggerPockets Podcast, Active Duty Passive Income Podcast, Freedom Real Estate Investing Podcast, Fearless Pursuit of Freedom Podcast, Titanium Vault, The Real Estate Investing Podcast, The Best Real Estate Investing Advice Ever Show, the Good Success Podcast, FlipNerd, Wholesaling Inc., The Real Estate Investing Profits Master Series, Flipping Junkie Podcast, Flip Empire podcast, Think Realty Radio, and more. He is a sought-after speaker and writer and can be found on stage regularly at events across the country.

    Curt Smith Rental Property Investor from Clarkston, GA
    Replied almost 5 years ago
    Nice apps Nathan, I like better than docusign. Free for simple use. The trial times out but it still works. The emailing part stops working, just save it to the desktop. Cell apps: camera to PDF apps. Several of these. All are indespensible in the field. this is a killer front end to the google data. Very fast vs street view on google maps. MUCH better at finding cash sales vs retail financed sales. This is the best free app for finding cash sales I know of.
    Nathan Brooks Real Estate Investor from Kansas City, KS
    Replied almost 5 years ago
    This is great Curt! I will check it out … thanks so much!
    David Hughes
    Replied almost 5 years ago
    I like so far. It looks like a good place I can start for finding private money lenders.
    Susan Goldthorp Investor from Mims, Florida
    Replied almost 5 years ago is a great website and app for keeping track of tax deductible spending on travel. Check it out!
    Nathan Brooks Real Estate Investor from Kansas City, KS
    Replied almost 5 years ago
    Susan, this sounds fantastic! I will be checking this out (and sharing with my accountant)!
    Replied almost 5 years ago
    Hey thanks for the resources. God Bless you always forever!
    Nathan Brooks Real Estate Investor from Kansas City, KS
    Replied almost 5 years ago
    Thanks James .. hope it was helpful!
    Joseph Ball Residential Real Estate Agent from Groveland, Florida
    Replied almost 5 years ago
    Is Trello better than Evernote? I haven’t taken the time to learn Evernote.
    Nathan Brooks Real Estate Investor from Kansas City, KS
    Replied almost 5 years ago
    Joseph, I have NO idea! I haven’t used evernote … hopefully we will have others on here who will gives us some opinions on it. Thanks!
    Seneca Stephens from Greensboro, North Carolina
    Replied almost 5 years ago
    Just another tidbit, I’ve seen it mentioned before but Google Voice allows for you basically make a second line for you cell phone. Combine it with Google Hangouts and you have you’re second line complete with text/mms messaging and dialer from the same one cell.
    Nathan Brooks Real Estate Investor from Kansas City, KS
    Replied almost 5 years ago
    Thanks Seneca … Google definitely has several features and apps that are great. Thanks for sharing whats working for you!
    Jeremy Billauer Involved In Real Estate from Marina Del Rey, California
    Replied almost 5 years ago
    Hey Nathan, thanks for sharing. I recently started using Trello and I’m still a bit confused. Got any tips?
    Paul Doane
    Replied almost 5 years ago
    Thanks Nathan for the information just starting into the investor area after retiring as a realtor. God bless
    Paul Doane
    Replied almost 5 years ago
    Thanks Nathan for the information just starting into the investor area after retiring as a realtor. God bless
    Matt G. Rental Property Investor from Dallas
    Replied almost 5 years ago
    I like Gives great information on renter density, neighborhood trends, rent comps, etc. You get 3 free reports a month
    Skip MacKenna Investor from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
    Replied almost 5 years ago
    Hi Nathan, nice job outlining 4 valuable tools. I really like the fact that your write-ups show that you are a user of each of them. Here are a few that I did not see listed above, I am still learning so I cannot be as descriptive as you. – Direct Mail Campaigns – free meetings – real estate site with various tools, Find Lenders & Inspectors, find handy people and stagers – Rules for raising private money, nothing is guaranteed or safe – Blast your properties to the best websites – will post your video to YouTube and 40 other video sites
    Josh McNicoll from Kansas City, Missouri
    Replied almost 5 years ago
    Hi Nathan, Thanks a lot for the Trello tip. Just getting started in REI, I have been using Excel and I can see the need to get everything going in the cloud–Trello seems nicely streamlined to do this. BTW, I liked your humorous Zillow disclosure as well! I am a fan of a few different Zillow tools. 1) I search for key terms like “motivated seller” in the zillow search engine when looking for properties in KC. It’s great because I can see every single property in KS or MO with various criteria in the blink of the eye. 2) I then set email updates; this turns Zillow into my internet bird-dog. Appreciate your articles–always learning something new. Keep them coming 🙂 ! -Josh
    Chet Maxwell Investor from Glendale, California
    Replied almost 5 years ago
    One of my favorite apps is, even tho I don’t use it very often is Realtypointer- use your phone to point at any house press the button and gather the data on the property. Must be tied into county recorder database. And I like Flip It Fast. A mobile app that takes u thru a financial analysis of a fix and flip investment. Most handy while in the field to gather quick results for a financial bottom line- profitable deal or not?