Maybe this seems like a silly topic to write about, but a couple missed opportunities over the past week made me realize that this is an important topic for new and experienced investor alike and can actually lead to more deals!
As real estate investors, we always want to keep an eye out for deals and just like the Boy Scouts of America motto we want to “Be Prepared”! So with that, here are 6 essential items that I believe every investor should keep in their vehicle:
Pad & Paper: This seems like a Captain Obvious statement, but you definitely want to have an easily accessible pen and pad of paper (like this great Moleskin one) in your car at all times. While you’re driving you’re going to see “For Sale By Owner” signs, “For Rent” signs, and “We Buy Houses” signs and you’re going to need something to write that down with. I’ve had to resort to writing on small scraps of papers and gum wrappers…whatever is nearby, however now I’m a bit more organized and keep a small notepad that is precisely for this purpose. The problem with writing on whatever is within reach is that its very easy to lose it!
(Note: Pen & notepad just costs a couple dollars, but a more expensive higher tech option would be to keep a voice recorder nearby so you don’t have to fumble around with a pen & paper.)
Auto Mileage Log: We all need every tax deduction we can get whether we’re a part-time investor with a full-time job or a full-time entrepreneur. Keep track of those miles you’re driving! Every single mile that you’re driving to look at homes, meet with sellers, etc. should be recorded for tax purposes. It can be a pain, but do this and you’ll thank me later.
Business Cards: Have you ever looked in your wallet or business card case at an opportune moment just to realize that you don’t have any left? I have. More than once. If you keep some business cards (or small flyers…whatever you use for your business) in your car as a back up, you won’t be left having to write your information on a napkin with someone you meet. Plus, there are so many strategic places where you can just leave your business card. I could do an entire article on this topic, but I do want to mention one really cool technique a friend of mine who is a photographer does. Every time she goes out to eat she leaves her business card with the tip for the waiter/waitress. She takes the time to write a nice note on the back of the business card as well. I think its brilliant. One day I’ll remember to do it myself!
Contracts: You never ever know when you’ll have an opportunity to lock up a deal immediately when talking to a motivated seller — whether its a planned meeting or an impromptu one. Keep an option contract and purchase & sale contract handy!
Digital camera: Perhaps this one isn’t a must, but it can be incredibly helpful. I like to take a photo of the front of a house to jog my memory about it later when I know that its one that I’ll be finding and contacting a seller on. You can also take photos of signs rather than writing the information down with pen and paper. A standard digital camera can work great, but in case you’re unfamiliar with the Flip Cam or other tiny portables, they are really nifty video cameras. With a simple one-button record, all you do is plug it right into your USB on your computer to save it or upload it to YouTube. Pretty sweet and there’s are even HD versions which will cost ~$200.
GPS: If you’re really short on funds, a GPS doesn’t need to be on the priority list, but if you can swing it (my Garmin Nuvi cost less than $125), do so! Having a GPS has been a major time saver for me when going to meet with sellers and check out properties. The other cool thing about having a GPS is when I’m driving around and see a vacant home or one is serious disrepair, I can grab the house number but then get the street number from my GPS without having to drive down the street to find the sign. Again, not a huge deal but definitely a time saver.
Depending on the size and contents of your glove compartment, you can use that as a storage place for all of your essentials. I purchased a small plastic box that can fit underneath the seat when its not needed. Hope these tips are helpful for you! If you have any other ideas for investor car essentials, let’s hear them in the comments below!