How to Build a House Hunting Database to Find & Track Deals

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[Editor’s Note: A version of this post originally appeared in the BiggerPockets Member Blogs.]

“Measurement is the first step that leads to control and eventually to improvement. If you can’t measure something, you can’t understand it. If you can’t understand it, you can’t control it. If you can’t control it, you can’t improve it.” – James Harrington

Wise words, but unfortunately I didn’t follow them when I began my real estate journey.

Before I bought my first property in Sacramento, I would drive for two and a half hours to Sacramento almost every weekend for 6 months. Unfortunately, I didn’t create a system to track: the 100+ houses I previewed, what I thought of those houses, and more importantly, I didn’t create a system to track the condition of the neighborhoods I visited. This was a huge mistake, and it wasted my time, gas, and sanity.

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What is a System?

A system is a set of procedures that lead to a desired result. Have you ever noticed that no matter which Starbucks your visit, the drink you order is virtually identical to any previous order? That’s the result of a healthy system. A well constructed system creates consistency, saves time, and leads to a repeatable desired result. Without these systems, you will find yourself spinning your wheels, and you won’t know how to evaluate your decisions.

Related: 7 Irresistible Ways to Find House Flips With Real Estate Agents

Beginning your real estate journey, you need to create systems with repeatable processes to create consistent outputs, and if you intend to survive in real estate, you need these systems to track what matters — be it a system to track potential fixers, buy and hold prospects, or potential wholesale deals.

Our First System: A Housing Database

A housing database is an example of a system. Without a housing database, you have no way of knowing which houses you visited, when you visited them, what you thought of the price at that time, what you were willing to offer, and more importantly, the status of the neighborhood.

Can you remember the house you previewed 3 years ago? Yes, we can all remember that one meth house we visited or the cat lady’s house that reeked, but can we remember the less noteworthy houses? More importantly, can you remember the condition of these houses? And the condition of the surrounding area?

Memories fade, waistlines grow, hair recedes (thanks, dad), and sadly, houses that could have provided us with steady income are forgotten. Yet properly built systems can last the test of time.

Once you create your database you will have the ability to quickly plug in a house into this database to do the following:

  • Prescreen houses you find from the MLS, realtors, or wholesalers.
  • Save valuable time and money from visiting a house in an undesirable area.
  • Begin the due diligence process on a house before seeing it in person.
  • Have a record of all of the offers you have made on houses and the sellers reaction to your offer.
  • Track homeowners who are considering selling their homes months from now and the last time you have checked in with them.

This allows you to put perspective in what you are purchasing. More importantly, this is one of the first system you should create as an investor to develop the systems mindset. The systems mindset builds discipline, which allows you to improve your operations, scale your business, and eventually teach a vendor or employee your system so you can focus on other projects.

Related: MLS Bargain Hunting: Tips and Tricks (Part 1)

Creating Your First System: A House Hunting Database

There are numerous ways you can create a house hunting database: You can use a pen and paper, a physical map, websites, or excel spreadsheets. I wanted to focus on one simple system I’ve been using, but hey, if you know of a better way of doing this, please let me know!

Now, with Google’s MyMaps you can easily create a personalized real estate map to track all of the houses you previewed:

  • Create a new map titled “Real Estate.”
  • Enter the address of a house you recently previewed.
  • Select a pin type. I use the following types of pins:
    • House Pin: The property you own.
    • Red Pin: The property you previewed but decided to skip.
    • Green Pin: The property you will or have made an offer on.
    • Bar Graph with Arrow: Neighborhood which meets your criteria.
  • In the notes section of your pin you can list:
    • The condition of the house.
    • Condition of the surrounding neighborhood.
    • Listing price.
    • Your offer.
    • The date you visited the area.

This is just one of the many ways to use MyMaps to track your Real Estate prospects. Feel free to tailor this system to your individual needs.

Do you use other methods for tracking homes you preview?

If so, let me know. Happy Hunting!

About Author

Jordan Thibodeau

Jordan Thibodeau is a contributor for BiggerPockets.com blog. He works a full time job and invests in Buy and Hold Real Estate in the Sacramento Area. Jordan is dedicated to helping people become better real estate investors by helping them clarify their investment criteria and goals. He was also featured in BP Podcast Show 74. Also, Jordan is the author of a personal development blog titled Growwithjordan.com. You can learn more about Jordan here or reach out to him in the BP Forums.

23 Comments

  1. jeffrey gordon

    Thanks, this is a great first step, but after seeing a recommendation in the forums, I have been using the free version of http://www.batchgeo.com the last week and would suggest not starting wtih google maps but rather going straight to BatchGeo.com. It is very easy to use and you can take an excel file with any type of data in the cells and import it directly into batch geo with a simple copy/past action. Allows links to URL’s and images. The only thing it really lacks in the free version is the ability to filter more selections—i.e. you might have to create different maps with different single item filters to show house you liked vs ones you didnt. check it out.

      • jeffrey gordon

        Thanks Andres, I am not sure what added value it has either, just saw a recommendation on BP when I was looking for a way to visually map property data records. I am not paying for BatchGeo and find the free version with ads is not a create viewer experience because of screen crowding etc. is the validation step when you can move a pin that is not in the right location?

        The other limitation i see to batchgeo is the ability to only run a single filter at a time. It would be nice to run a number of filters simultaneously and map the results, but i am guessing that becomes a more sophisticated tool etc.

        I will check out MyMaps as I am not very familiar with it. But I am now in the first stages of testing Google Apps for Work and hoping that i will be able to consolidate my file storage, website management tasks and collaborative projects into one single google login dashboard–my life would be a lot less confusing!!

        j

        • Andres Narvaez

          I think the validation step means having the BatchGeo interface flag any incorrect addresses and making a recommendation. I tried only using one address and “corrupting” it, but no luck. With MyMaps here’s what worked:

          1. Created a Google Drive Spreadsheet
          2. Had to make sure the column headers were in the first row
          3. I added one extra column at the beginning of the spreadsheet called “Nickname” which will be the title of the marker. Otherwise, Google will use the other column headers to locate the exact address, and have no other column to title the marker, and the import wizzard will get stuck at this step.
          4. Google does do a great job of flagging markers it couldn’t find their, but haven’t seen a recommendation. Also, it might do a really good job of finding a marker based on the closet location it “can find”, such as only city name, or zip code. So just keep an eye out for the quality of where your markers do end up.

          And yes, I’m also all about Google drive products, my MO is digitize, consolidate, and make thing as searchable and cross “linkable” (e.g. Google Sites, or online Wikis) as possible. Oh, and spacial visualization of course.

  2. Andres Narvaez

    MyMaps also has a layer tool, so you can toggle on and off the display of points of interest (POIs) relative to properties in question. One thing they seemed to have dropped though, is the ability to quick add points from standard Google Maps to My Maps, which is a shame, because there are tools that are on Google Maps but not on My Maps such as historical traffic patterns. I posted the question here though: https://productforums.google.com/forum/#!categories/maps/feature-suggestions/custom-maps/mac

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