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.
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
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.
Trello takes some time to get used to and understand, but it is well worth the time.
And also, it’s FREE.
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.
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.
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.
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!