Setting Up Your Database for Your Real Estate Investing Business


If you’ve been following my past few articles on direct mail campaigns and the use of databases to help manage thee campaigns, you’re probably asking how exactly to set up such a database. Once you have decided on a database for your real estate business, the next thing you need to do is set it up.  I gave this a considerable amount of thought before I dove into this process.  Your database needs to be easy to use; in the end, I decided it would be much easier to manage if I had everyone in groups.

I have a number of different groups and sub-groups in my database, but I am just going to talk about two of them; absentee owners and probates. The principles are the same no matter how many different groups of motivated sellers you have.

Absentee Owners

For absentee owners, begin with your list that you have purchased. Most of these lists will be large.  Have this list of contacts sorted into states.

Next, you want to set up your database so that you can have “groups” that are states. In other words, set up your groups (states) first, then add the contacts from the list.  Put the contacts from the “Alabama” list into the “Alabama” group.  This will give you a manageable amount of contacts in each group.

The reason I recommend doing this is simply for the ease of printing one section of a very large list that may have thousands of names on it. It is much simpler to begin with one state and print these direct mail letters and then move on to state #2 and so on. I would just go down the list alphabetically until you have printed all of your letters.

It would be a nightmare to try to print from one very large list. Here is an example of what this group might look like:

Absentee Owners Group

  • Alabama

Alabama Solds

  • Alaska

Alaska Solds

  • Arizona

Arizona Solds


Follow the same procedure for probates. If you look at my list of groups you will find the major groups called Probates 2012, Probates 2011 etc. Under the main group you will see sub-groups by month. Here is an example of what they would look like:

Probates 2012

  • January

January Solds

  • February

February Solds

  • March

March Solds

You will notice that I created “additional sub groups” in both absentee owners and probates. This is so that I can move these people into groups that no longer receive mailings. This might be because the house is sold, I have a bad address, they have asked to be removed from the list, or for another reason.  You don’t want to delete anyone.  At some point you will want to get an updated list, and you will want to have duplicate names removed. If they have been deleted, they would be put back in your database again.

I just have one sub-category called “solds” for all of these folks. There’s no need to make this overly complicated. I just don’t want to keep mailing to these folks for whatever reason. You can always put a note in their contact info stating the reason they were removed from the list.

This is about all you will need to know about how to set up your “groups” so that you can manage all of your contacts and keep your direct mail campaigns on track. Since Act is not specifically for real estate I spent some time figuring out how I wanted to use the fields before importing my data.

Importing Your List

I had my computer guy import the data from my absentee owner list. There are directions that tell you how to do it, but I found them more complicated than were outlined in the instructions. So I just took the easy way out and had him do it for me. Whatever you do, you want to make sure that your names, addresses etc. end up in the right fields in the database.

Since I enter probates monthly, I just work from the list that is published. They are quick and easy to enter.  Having the files in your business set up so that they are easy to find will save you many hours down the road.

About Author

Sharon Vornholt

Sharon has been investing in real estate since 1998. She owned and operated a successful home inspection company for 17 years. In January of 2008 she took the leap of closing her business to become a full time real estate investor.


  1. I am enjoying your latest posts on building a data base but what is the advanage to setting up Absentee Owners by State, how does this help you? Are you wholeselling in multiple States??? Also I thought a local title/escrow company provide you with a Absentee Owners list for free? Thanks for all of the great tips!!!
    As a side note I have been using (it’s free) for a data base for our buyer leads & I have been pretty impressed with how power it is (cloud based so you can link your website or an online form to it) might be worth a look. thanks again

  2. Dennis –
    I’m not exactly sure how you get targeted absentee owner leads with with Zoho.

    You can get a list from our tax assessors office but you have to pay a couple hundred dollars for it. I did this for a few years. The disadvantage of getting your list from them is that you cannot put in any filters except to omit certain zipcodes. You will get a lot of people that won’t be good leads. We use closing attorneys here rather than title companies, so they wouldn’t be a source for us.

    When I get an absentee owner list they are indeed from all over the country. These are people that live in another state but own property in my city. By sorting them by state, I am able to print direct mail in smaller managable groups, rather than one big list of a couple of thousand people. It also helps me when I call them back, because I know which time zone they are in. I actually have a spot on my property information form I use when I speak to motivated sellers to note the state that they are calling from. If I am in EST the last thing I want to do is call someone in California at 6:00 in the morning.

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