What are my essential needs to be successful?

6 Replies

There is so many software's and "must haves" in the real estate investing world that i do not know where to go to what to do. I need to know if having a CRM software and/or VA/VA's really helps that much. I currently have myself and one other guy that does most of the marketing for me. What else do i need to get the ball rolling. I know this is a pretty broad question but like i said i am overwhelmed with all the things people say i "NEED" to have an edge in the industry.


The only thing you must have to be successful in real estate is grit. 

Now, software makes it easier to get things done, but at the end of the day, it's grit, grit and more grit.

The easiest thing to do starting out is a "paper" system. Perfect your "paper" system on a small scale. By "paper" I mean simple like one spreadsheet, one document file, or even really on paper. Get the process worked out on a small scale.

Once you have grown to the point where the "paper" system is too small to work, then transfer the "paper" system to automation (computer) then from there scale it up, and change as necessary. 

Keep the number of systems to a minimum, and make them so dead simple a monkey could make them work. Eventually, if all goes well, you will be hiring folks to work your systems. If you don't understand them COMPLETELY you can't work with them, modify them, or troubleshoot them. 

Hope that helps.

Good luck!


@Austin Rankin

It's really hard to help you because you don't detail what you need the software for. You could be a buy and hold guy, flipper, wholesaler, syndicator, etc. 

So I thought I'd share my software notes. NOTE: steer clear of rentecdirect, a lot of people got screwed recently on BP.

Asana – “Ive used asana in the past and it works out pretty well. Its fairly easy to use and can sync with your phone.” Justin S

“While Asana is a great tool for consulting it is not a great tool for rehab/flip/development. It does not have the functionality you would need and it's too hard to bring in additional resources. Asana has no gant charts. No critical path visualization and no way to track all of the hard costs associated with a build.” Jeffrey Stasz
Pros: Free for teams of up to 15 people, Collaboration Tool
Cons: Not designed for real estate

Basecamp - “It is a good communication tool for everyone that is involved in the project. I am able to assign task and deadlines to those task[s]. But if you are looking for something to track cost, this is not the software for you. It is simply a communication tool.” Alex Craig
Pros: Free for teachers & students, 50% for nonprofits, free 30 day trial, Collaboration Tool
Cons: Not designed for real estate

MS Project “You can not beat MS Project and how powerful it is for the price.

It is COTS and I have management a portfolio of $500 million construction projects with it at once.

Build your MS Project schedule with cost and export to Excel for status updates. Either email it or print it on paper for the contractors to update.

You can export the costs from project to Excel to Quickbooks if need be.

The most important thing with building a integrated schedule is defining a true critical path with tasks relationships to know the true finish date and how it is impacted...”

Justin Case

Pros: Powerful Gantt features, used by professional project managers in many industries, can export to Excel or Quickbooks

Con: not cloud based – access problems James Bowie, time investment to learn, $589 for Project Standard 2016, not designed for real estate

Podio – “We use Podio for both lead management and project management. Podio is very customizable so it serves as the "central hub" or "interface" and creates the relationships between items. We then use Google Spreadsheets to track the numbers and then attach the spreadsheets to the Podio project page via soft link. All of our books are kept in Quickbooks.” James Bowie
“Podio is great, but lots of maintenance/developing. “ Jonathan Ulyatt

Pros: “Podio Lite is free up to 5 employee seats, up to 5 external teams”, used by over 400,000 for collaboration, mentioned several times on BP
Cons: Need to build projects from scratch, not designed for real estate, CRM that you have to “code” to yourself (according to Lloyd Stanton)

“In my experience there aren't a lot of CRM's that do everything. I had the same issues with other CRM's and I am an Authorized Partner for Podio too. The problem with Podio is you need a lot of integrations to make it do what you need it to do but then you are managing all of these other services/accounts and this eats up your time. “ Tim Herndon
Podio Teams ($9 per employee/month, 20% off annual subscription): unlimited number of employee seats; unlimited number of external teams; Podio apps and core features.

Podio Business (by quote): unlimited number of employee seats (discounts for larger teams); unlimited number of external teams; Podio apps and core features; access right and control; personalized training and support.

Evernote: Is a document repository.

“The best tool we use is Evernote to track progress. Every time work gets done the pictures get put into Evernote and it gets attached to Podio.” James Bowie

“The key to Evernote is to commit to it and jump in with both feet. It’s pretty rotten if you’re just using it for a few isolated tasks, because absolutely, it doesn’t do any one thing perfectly and it’s not as fast as other apps.

It really starts to show its brilliance once you start using it as your default bookmark/webclip app, notetaker, recipe box, repository of all your reference material, and so on. It’s great to have ALL the information you need indexed and searchable across every single platform you have.” Whitson Gordon (non BP Member)

Pros: Basic is free with 60 MB of new uploads per month and sync across 2 devices
Cons:Not designed for real estate
Cost: $34.99 for Plus with 1 GB of new uploads per month with synch across all devices
$69.99 for Premium with 10 GB of new uploads per month with synch across all devices and more features

Trello - A Trello board is basically a web page containing lists laid out horizontally on the page so you can get a bird's eye view of your project. Items within the lists, called cards, can be dragged and dropped onto other lists or reordered within lists.
“is a great free tool, although its hard to see/plan for dependencies.” Melissa Kilbourne
Pros: Easy to learn
Cons:Not designed for real estate
Cost: Trello offers three paid options: Trello Gold $5 per month, or $45 per year, Trello Business Class $12.50 per team member per month, or $119.99 per team member per year, and Trello Enterprise. They’re ways to build on to the free Trello experience—Trello Gold offers a way for individual users to take their Trello use to the next level, Trello Business Class (contact for quote) is intended for multi-user teams to have more fine-grained control over who can access their boards, and Trello Enterprise allows for concierge support as well as additional security features important for large-scale enterprise teams.

gantter.com “ easy to use Gantt chart (free). Cloud based and Google drive integration, so sharing and collaboration rock. Great for scheduling projections with dependencies. I agree with @JustinCase 'The most important thing with building a integrated schedule is defining a true critical path with tasks relationships to know the true finish date and how it is impacted.’ ” ~Alisha Zwirtz

Pros: There’s a free version
Cons:Not designed for real estate
Cost: Personal is 4.95 a month, 9.95 per user / month for team

rehabvaluator.com “A great one that a friend of mine showed to me is the rehab valuator calculator by Daniil Kleyman. He has a rehab valuator Lite that you can download as a free demo. Not to mention that he has numerous tutorials on his website. Don't take my word for it- check out his website at rehabvaluator.com.” John E.

Pros: free lite version
Cons:not software, but spreadsheets
Cost: $29/month or $197 / year

Xactimate - Replacement cost estimating software for property claims. Tools needed to create professional and accurate estimates, as well as to view and manage all estimating and communication-related activities. “We use one program that can be expensive and we use it on insurance rehabs. I dont know any insurance adjuster not using it in our area. Even though its geared towards the insurance industry its still dealing with rehab/replacement costs. I would not say that it should be used as a be all end all. Nothing can substitute a hard estimate based upon historical numbers. Xactimate (I have no affiliation and I wish there was a cheaper competitior).” Steve H.

Pros: Used by insurance adjusters
Cons:Expensive and tailored for insurance industry
Cost: Webpage for cost is down.

Freedomsoft – CRM software used for lead generation

“My subscription still works, not sure if they (Preston & Co) have made any major updates in the past 2 years. They do have some cool features like using IFTTT that will pull in leads from CL right into the program. Also lets you setup buyer and seller capture pages....some cool stuff.” Derrick Watkins

Pros: 14 day free trial, geared towards real estate, MLS integration
Cons: Expensive and not much information about itCost: Needs confirmation, their company hides the cost from their website: “$97, $197, or $297/mo” from online review

Buildertrend – Cloud system designed for builders, remodelers, and contractors for real estate

“If you mean critical path method, then yes. Schedule items can be linked to each other (start to finish, start to start) creating a visible critical path, including a generated Gantt chart.”

Pros: 30-day money back guarantee for first month, real estate centric
Cons: Expensive and additional costs for more projectsCost: Starting at $99/month for one project but additional fees for more project

JIRA – offers flexible issue and project tracking with best-in-class agile tooling for software teams
“JIRA has a huge marketplace which allows you to really scope what type of project management system you want to build” Jared Beauchamp

Pros: Proven in software development
Cons:Not designed for real estateCost: Starting $10 for 1-10 users, $75 for 11-15 users, $150 for 16-25 users, $300 for 26-50 users

Primavera – Used by commercial builders for project management.

“I am a PM at a commercial construction firm and use software such as Primavera and Prolog. However, I honestly find myself constantly going back to Excel and Word. There isn't much you can't do with these two, besides complex scheduling and costing, and they are easy to format to your needs and preferences.” Tony Williams

Prolog – Construction software mentioned several times.

Pros: Mentioned on BP
Cons: Expensive, no one on BP users
Cost: Website hides costs. Online review “Prolog is relatively easy to deploy, and the cost for a small company to implement the system would be in the range of $10,000 for three concurrent licenses and another $10,000-15,000 for implementation and basic configuration”

Landlord Maxx - Aaron Saarela said, “We just started Landlord Maxx which was 199.00 one time fee. I like it. It has a lot of great features. I was going to go with Quickbooks, or Saje like my accountant recommended but they don't make an option for mac. We had to do something to convert it? and so we chose landlord max which works for windows or apple.

PropertyRadar for DFD – Information redacted per moderators due to confusion

InvestorCarrot – Lead Generation

Lucas Machado said, “InvestorCarrot is a paid lead generation website, which is generally speaking feature rich for the vast majority of tasks you want to perform. Blogging, lead generation set-up, posting videos, sidebars. It's simple, and that's the beauty. Now, contrast that with creating a custom site: find a web programmer, hope he is pretty good and doesn't create spaghetti code, when something changes or breaks have to deal with that person again. I've often wondered if I switch off InvestorCarrot - would I quickly come to regret that the decision because I simply don't have the time to baby-sit a website (IC site also requires a fair amount of baby-sitting). Custom site also could run you anywhere from $500 to $5,000 depending who you talk to. Price tag of $1,000 to $2,000 seems pretty fair since the site would be pretty basic.

IC is fairy cheap at like $50 or so per month, they have excellent customer service. For example, I've been expanding to my YouTube channel quite a bit. I ran into a quirk where I just couldn't associate my website with my youtube channel - so I couldn't create "end pages" or "annotations" linking to my website and YouTube video testimonials. I spoke with IC - bam - 1 hour, they had a tutorial, it was linked up. Same issue with Facebook conversions - I tried over and over to get the Facebook conversions to come up on the Facebook tracking page. I eventually connected with a knowledgeable guy at IC and he went right into the website, fixed it up - bam - all connected.

InvestorCarrot also has a weekly "mastermind" conference where you can go and ask questions. To be honest, it usually isn't something I necessarily hadn't learned before, but just sitting there for the mastermind forced me to re-consider various aspects (particularly my relevance score). I kind of knew in the back of my mind that needed to happen, but the conference really solidified it. I started changing my ads around, I went from relevance score 2 to 8 and 9. As a matter of perspective, 2 is awful and 8 to 9 is very strong (relevance score is essentially you need to pay more to get more of some action because FB views you're ad strategy as not engaging to the customer). I was pretty excited about my 8 to 9 scores and I'm applying the lessons I learned on those 8/9 across the rest of my FB marketing to track if it's an aberration but my initial reaction is the tailoring of the message, content, and audience made the difference.

InvestorCarrot also has content packs you can post to your website and ways to modify them to make them city specific blogging articles. I don't really use though (I'd rather create unique content more aimed towards my entire marketing plan then copy and paste "hey 5 moving tips!"). Even though I don't use, I have seen websites that do use and currently rank higher than me for what that's worth. That said, I haven't necessarily been SEO consistent the last year and next 6-months I want to go all in on the SEO.”

Vacation Rental Software

Your Porter

Monica Liu said, “Since you are eager to manage your business on your own I can recommend you to use a tool to get things done with a little piece of software on your smartphone.

For my STR business, I have been using an app called Your Porter. It facilitates the communication with guests and automatically updates check-in and check-out dates of my guests with the help of an online form.

I take care of my guests well via short text messages and email reminders.

Having a general look at my availability calendars on the go is a plus, as well.”

Property Management / Accounting

Quickbooks pro “I'd love to use quickbooks pro but they won't allow me to import expense data, nor allow subdivision of income/expenses as I would like.” ~Brandon Schlichter

“We have been using quickbooks for 12 years. I can tell you what profit I made on each rental, new home construction, rehab, flip. What the money was spent on. A detail P & L per property. It is all you need.” Arlan Potter

“I would recommend QuickBooks Pro on-line version. We set up quickbooks to create invoices for tenants. You don't need to mail them, but you can or you can email them automatically. Then we apply the rent payments against these invoices - Very easy when you hook up QB to your bank account -happens mostly automatic every night. We also enter future bills for taxes and insurance and PM fees etc... The benefit that this can create for you (with a couple downloads to excel) is an ongoing cash flow forecasting tool and a comparison of what you thought your cash flow should be to what it actually was. Plus it alerts you of bills due so everything is getting paid on time and provides you a report of past due rents or past due bills you owe.

Their phone app connects directly to the cloud based software. You can take pictures of receipts (before they are lost) and upload into QB for permanent retention. This process also requires you to select what property the receipt is for, what bank or CC you used and what account it should charge this expense to. So, it is all posted and done at the same time. This is very simple, straight forward and takes only a few moments to do. No more spending hours manually entering into your PM software!

So, you can replace the majority of the features that a PM tool offers you with the added benefit of a great P&L, budget vs. actual and cashflow analysis.” Kevin Schulz

Pros: commonly used accounting software
Cons:2.5 star rating on AmazonCost: QuickBooks Pro 2017 web download 189.99, $45/month for online

Buildium – Property management software

“The current software I use is Buildium.com, the software is one of the more inexpensive softwares to get for your management systems at $40.00 a month up to 200 units and then the price bumps to $200.00 a month. This software has some hidden fees in ACH transfers, which are charged to the property manager for every ACH transfer a total of $.50 and could be more depending on the days it takes to transfer. If you have a lot of properties this can add up quickly!” Peter Mckernan

“I have been using buildium for 2 months now managing 14 units. It's great for costs, budgets and the money management. It allows all units or properties to stay separate or combine by owner. The online rent collection has saved me a ton of time and effort.” Blake Garcia

“I used Buildium and it's a great software for starting out. It just doesn't make sense to pay around $50 a month to manage two units. It wouldn't cost too much more to hire a property manager and they would do all the work for you.

There are services available for screening that won't cost you a dime or require any effort on your part. Free online payment options are available or you could have the tenant set up direct deposit into your account for free. All of these options take less time than it would to set up Buildium, they don't require upkeep, and they won't cost you anything.” Nathan G

Pros: mentioned often on BP so commonly used
Cons: Hidden fees that add up
Cost: Starting at $45 / month, additional fees for features like ePay, tenant screening, 1099 eFiling

Appfolio - Software used for property management

“The next software that is pretty expensive is out of the gate is Appfolio.com, which charges $200.00 fee. This service does not take any money for ACH transfers and the software does charge an extra amount for building a website for your company (this is optional).” Peter Mckernan

“I have to say, they have a lot of cool things, but their accounting system is awful. That alone was a deal breaker. They told me that I would have to manually enter every single charge I do on the credit card for the business manually. If you use quickbooks and download the transactions from your bank, you know how much time that saves you every month. They also force you into working in their molds and expect you to adapt to their software. Most of the time are small compromises, but still annoyances.” Rafael Floresta

“My PM uses Appfolio (which seems, on here, to have it's share of fans and detractors) so it's easier and quicker for me to login and review rent collections, expenses, invoices, etc. I can't speak to maintenance management or anything else like that but now that I've had a PM with a cloud solution that has an owner portal, I don't think I'd want to go back. At the very least it would save you and your partner time with owners who are similar to me calling you up with questions that they could get the answers to online.” Andrew Johnson

“I use Appfolio out of santa barbara, ca its definitely not free and my property mgmt company passes those costs down to me which I think is around 50-60 bucks a month based on number of units under the service.

I am able to see all reports from rent rolls, cash flow statements / trailing 12 month cash flow, tenant ledgers, maintenance requests, dialog between tenants and mgmt staff, resolutions to maintenance requests, move in pictures, move out pictures, or video, and many more features.

What I like is that it allows the vendors to be in a dialog/text/chat box so they are prepared (vendor) prior to job assignment with lockbox codes, scope of work and pictures before they even go to the site so we dont waste time figuring things out and run up a huge $$$ bill for lack of efficiency.” Albert Bui

Pros: mentioned often on BP
Cons: accounting module is very weak, expensive for small operations
Cost: $1 per unit, per month plus an onboarding fee (equal to two months of service). Note that there is a $200 minimum monthly fee. App Folio offers a 15 day free trial.

Rent Manager – PM software
“Rent Manager has a pretty solid maintenance feature. I can create workorders and assign them individually to specific vendors or handymen. Those guys can then view their individual workorder lists from their mobile devices. When they have completed each workorder they can close them out and add comments detailing their scope of work. I am able to add/remove/edit/reassign workorders anytime.

All closed workorders are saved and can be cross referenced by tenant, property, or unit at any time from anywhere. Very handy.” – Ryan Murdock
“We have been using Rent Manager for years and its works very well for us. It can do as much or as little as you need, it is very affordable, and if you pick the cloud version (what we use) it is very convenient. Owners love having a portal to access their property information and performance in real time. “ Ante Vujic

TenantCloud “I do all of that with TenantCloud and have closed my paid account with AF. I only have 22 properties (all homes), but it works great. I do applications, listings to zillow and others, website, payments, accounting, maintenance, reports and its all free. I am still waiting for the got ya as they are free, but they claim they will always be free for up to 75 units. At SXSW I saw one of their people and they said they will have the ability to get bids on jobs like cleaning, painting and such soon - I assume this is how they make money. “ Ben Travis

Pros: they are new and offer free operations for landlords and tenants
Cons: new company, not mentioned on BP much
Cost: “We get paid by service providers - like insurance companies, plumbing companies, screening companies, A/C and heating, moving companies..... oh you get the idea. TenantCloud is free, but if you decided to use any of the service providers products then you can buy in TenantCloud, which only makes life even more convenient.”

Receipts By Wave – tracking expenses

“I use an application (via both phone and web browser) called 'Receipts by Wave'. It's free and very simple to use. You can setup categories, create users with different permissions, etc.

When you start a flip you
1: setup a new account
2: create categories (ie, kitchen, bath, plumbing, landscaping, etc, etc)
3: as you make purchases take pictures of the receipts via the phone app and choose the category
4: via the web browser (computer) portal you the administrator can go through and verify all the incoming receipts
5: then you can create reports showing who's spending how much on what very easily”

Rafael Norat said, “App folio, buildium, and rentec. Those seem to be the 3 top management apps used.

I own and manage close to 40 and have used buildium for over a year now. Very easy to learn, great customer support, can easily setup ACH payments, coordinate repairs with contractors, generate invoices, reports, and such. Only complaint is that you can't text notify directly a contractor when generating a request. Can only send them an email.

App folio seems to be used by the larger management companies and seems to cost a bit more. Rentec wound up costing a bit more for me when I looked at it and didn't seem to add more value than what I am getting with buildium.”

Payment Systems


Problem with Cozy:

Alex Reiz said:

We have been using Cozy for our rental properties in regards to rent collection. Initially, their system was great and would not allow a Tenant to make partial payments; it would only allow a Tenant to pay all or none of the Rent, which was great and was one of the reasons we started using their service. However recently they have changed their system which now allows Tenants to make partial payments, which we do not like at all. There is no option on the receiving side in order to only allow only full payments, we find this to be a waiting nightmare if an eviction ever came up. We are especially unhappy with the service now, considering that was one of their highly touted features when they first started offering it.

Does anyone know of any other online payment service which only allows for full payments or at least allows the Landlord to chose between full and partial payments?

Laura Sulak (Landlord) that loves Cozy said:

“I now have three properties with seven units, with one vacancy at this time.

All of my tenants use Cozy for rent payment, and we love it.

The background and credit check worked great (applicant with BAD financial record, did NOT rent to them!)

I've used the 'credit to a tenant' feature with success. I give a discount off first and last month's rent for people employed in a service position. I gave the tenant a credit off first month (through Cozy) and was able to schedule a credit ahead of time off last month's rent, so I don't have to worry about forgetting to do it later.

And, best of all, I've used Cozy for easy, beautiful listings. They make it easy to add photos and details.

Looking forward to a time when they offer bookkeeping software!”

Mixed review on Cozy from M Marie M, she said, “I've been using Cozy for say 10 months and I've had an issue. In March I went to inspect my Florida property and took all my tenant's meyer lemons and said I'd credit them. So I put a credit on their account, but the next month I got the full rent and a $30 or $40 credit was just sitting there. I contacted Cozy and they said it was up to the tenant to claim the credit, something the tenant (for whatever reason) was not claiming. Then I increased the rent a few months later, and just to make sure I asked the tenant to make sure that they had the same amount on their side. I can't remember if the increase was smooth or not but the credit amount changed. In the end I put an extra charge on just to get rid of the credit and now it is fine.

My tenants like Cozy over my mother/property manager coming over to pick up the rent.”


Clay Owens said, “I just set up ERentPayment last week and they give you an option to accept partial payments or not. So far very happy with ERentPayment. It takes about 4 days for the $'s to hit my account but it's very smooth.”
“I am playing around with tenant cloud. I like erentpayment and the fees are cheap.” Jim Adrian

Unitdash – “Unitdash is a free to use property management platform for landlords and property managers. We pride ourselves on our users being able to sign up and hit the ground running. There is no required setup or setup fees. We have all of the features you expect and many nice to haves like custom online rental applications, in-app text messaging, integrated postal mail services and more.

Our online tenant portal allows your tenants to pay rent online and submit maintenance requests for free.” According to Anthony Ascuitto the developer

Cons: it’s new and not established.

Their claim: “We make money on online payments, background checks, and other integrated services by charging a small markup. We are not a beta product, we are just able to deliver a similar solution at a much cheaper price!”

Junk Software


Connected Investors Deal Dog software (web-based)

Thread started by Carly Umberger where she explains how she got ripped off and many people agreed:


Not software but spreadsheets people use:

J Scott’s Rehab Analysis Spreadsheet – Basic https://www.biggerpockets.com/files/user/jasonscott/file/13-rehab-analysis-spreadsheet---basic

Will Barnard’s Repair Cost Form:https://www.biggerpockets.com/files/user/barnardinc/file/70-repair-cost-form

www.houseflippingspreadsheet.com created by David Robertson, a BP contributor

“Overall I really like this software. A-Z program, however it is based in Excel. I am a Chromebook/smart phone user, sitting at my desk top is inconvenient, no anywhere access and no collaboration options I have found for my primary users.” Alisha Zwirtz

Pros: Endorsed by J Scott, free trial available
Cons: Not widely used - 10 mentions in BP forum
Cost: $97 basic, $167 Pro, $267 Enterprise Bundle

Smartsheet – Excel but in the cloud for collaboration

“Smartsheet is a more classic tool (think MS Excel but with some powerful overlays and template tools that allow you to build project plans) that would be great for sharing project plans with contractors, etc.” Travis Hamilton

Pros: A more powerful version of Excel
Cons: Not widely used - 15 mentions in BP forum
Cost: Basic - $10 / user / month, Team $15 / user / month, Business $25 / user / month

I would only listen to all of them so much. In my experience of building my own business and investing as well, what I learned to be the best way to do it is to do everything manually (myself) to begin with, and as I develop various needs, then invest in a solution for that need. Whether that is a software program or an employee or whatever. 

My experience has been that I don't know what I need until I need it. And anytime I've invested in something to solve a 'presumed need', it's been a waste. 

Only you can know what you need and what you will need to make your own business a success. I'd put a hush on everyone's advice for a little while, and focus on building things for yourself. As you run into different things, start to ask people what they are using to solve that same problem and decide whether that's a fit for you. If you listen to everyone that much in the beginning, it's just going to cloud everything for you.

@Austin Rankin @Ali Boone says it well.  A lot of different tools work for a lot of people.  What doesn't work is prematurely optimizing your toolset before experiencing the pain of not having it.  

I buy a lot of tools for research, and the ones that I end up using, are the ones where I have outgrown my spreadsheets, whether that's for a CRM to drip campaigns, to project management.  The ones that rarely see the light of day, are those that I bought way ahead of the need.  I may still need them sometime, but by then the industry or the investment thesis may have changed to make them useless.

Thank you everyone. I decided not to get the CRM and just do it myself starting out. Once I feel the need to get more tools I will. I want to do wholesaling, being that my area has A LOT of flip investors and even a good amount of buy and holds. I think I could be a great asset to them. I have also decided to focus on probate leads and master that area. Does anybody have any advice on probates? 

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