The Completely Free Way to Produce Customized Lease Agreements (& More!)

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In 2015, my dad and I hired our first assistants, and this freed up my time to improve various systems of our investing business.

One thing we addressed was our paperwork process. Early on, we had used Microsoft Word to create new real estate documents, store the files locally on our hard drives, and email them back and forth. Within the past couple of years, we moved to Google Drive to store our files in the cloud and share the files back and forth, eliminating the need to email them.

When creating a new lease agreement, for example, we would take an existing lease, make a copy of it, and then edit this new agreement to include the specific property information and dates. I felt like there must be a faster way to do this.

There are services like Dotloop and Zipform that will speed up the paperwork for you but charge from $50 to several hundred dollars per month. Unless you’re doing a ton of deals, this doesn’t seem practical.  


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The (Completely) Free Solution to Document Production

I began to experiment with giving my Google Docs mail merge capabilities. For example, I converted my lease agreement to a standard template that contained merge fields (like dates and monthly rent). I then matched up these merge fields to a Google spreadsheet and used an add-on called Autocrat to create new leases from the spreadsheet.

I know that sounds like gibberish. Basically, to create a new lease, I simply enter a few values into a spreadsheet, run Autocrat, and a new lease agreement is created that’s ready to be signed.

It’s not only super quick, but it also eliminates mistakes, as you can clearly see in the spreadsheet what values are needed. This makes it a lot easier to hand off the paperwork creation task to an assistant. It’s also free!

I’ve only done this using Google’s suite of tools, but I’m confident that you could use Microsoft Word and Excel to do the same thing.


More Than Just Lease Agreements

For us, we’re able to merge way more than just lease agreements. I’m also able to merge eviction paperwork (different merges for the different magistrates our properties are under), various letters to potential sellers, thank you letters to private investors and sellers, private lender promissory notes and mortgages, and offers for both MLS and for sale by owner properties.

Setting up the merge is not that difficult once you’ve done it a couple of times, and it’s worthwhile even if you don’t use that specific merge all that often. The time savings add up.

One other neat feature of this merge is the automatic ability to email the newly created document in pdf form. To send MLS offers, I have a merge that allows me to quickly fill out values. Once the merge is run, the new offer is emailed automatically to the buyer’s agent we work with, who can then send it to the listing agent.  

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This has saved our agent a lot of time and made it easier and quicker for us to send formal offers. We just started using this at the end of 2015 so I’m hoping that we’ll be able to buy more properties in 2016 using just this one upgrade to our paperwork process. Regardless, the time savings and improved delegation of paperwork have been valuable.

What kind of paperwork process are you using?

Let me know with a comment!

About Author

Aaron Kinney

Aaron Kinney has been investing in mobile home and land properties since 2011. He writes about this occasionally at and helps real estate businesses implement automation at


  1. Paul Stern

    We love automation in the office side of our business, thanks for sharing this great way to speed up and mistake-proof the process. Speaking of free, we switched to Libre Office to get away from Microsoft Office. It has the merge functionality, so we might try your suggestion. For now, we use a custom set of variables for all the custom data like tenant name, property location, rent and deposit plus all the important dates. These variables are stored right in the lease document. I do see some value to have one spreadsheet where all lease details are stored so merge certainly helps there.

  2. David Roberts

    We dont have a good paperwork process so i appreciate all of these ideas. Right now we have a hundred desktop icons with documents all over. We have a file cabinet for hard copies but i hate it.

    I would really like to get a good printer that will scan multiple pages at a time and load everything in electronically, then back it up on the cloud. It seems like that is the best way to go.

    • Aaron Kinney

      No problem, David. The cloud is definitely the way to go. My main computer is a chromebook that doesn’t have a hard drive so all files are stored in Google Drive and within Dropbox in case something happens to Drive.

      I scan business and important personal documents at the end of each month and shred about 80% after scanning. I probably don’t need to keep as many hard copies as I do.

      I know you didn’t ask, but my recommendation is to move those files off your desktop as soon as you can and put them onto one of these cloud services. In my opinion, there’s not a lot worse than a hundred icons staring back at you every time you start up your computer.

      Let me know if I can help with anything.

  3. Deryk Harper

    Hi Aaron,
    Great information. We have been using a combination of Adobe Acrobat ( full paid version ) , and, for our document management. We also store copies on a local server and back up to Google Drive.

    We can create/edit the PDF forms themselves in Adobe. We save basic templates on our server and also upload them to the template section of There we just fill in a couple of pieces of info to customize lease/offer for next tenant/buyer and send it to them to sign online. Once all parties sign the system emails a PDF copy to all signers.

    The Adobe Acrobat was an initial investment of about $300. They have switched now to a mostly cloud based subscription service but it is still very cost effective for us. We pay less than $25/month for and that is probably one of the best ROIs I have received on a service in years. We are both sales agents, and property managers, so we go through about 150 transactions a year on both sides. The Acrobat software is great but I am sure your other suggestions might be more cost effective solutions for smaller shops. As long as the document can be converted to PDF it can be uploaded to and turned into a template.

    Thanks again for a very informative post.

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