Two Money & Time-Saving Hacks I’ve Applied to My Landlording Business


Love saving time? Me too!

Love saving money? Me too!

There are two things I’ve implemented into in my business that make me really happy and that allow me to spend less time and get the same or a better result. They have to do with managing people, as well as financial resources and time.

First of all, if you use someone as a handyman or a contractor for make readies and you are buying your materials from Home Depot and you don’t have a Pro Xtra account, you are really missing out!

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The Home Depot Pro Xtra Program

1. Savings

You receive coupons, extra deals that are available for contractors, and an online system that is pretty killer. Just received a $5 off coupon a few days ago if I spend $50. For what? Doing nothing!

Need to buy some new tools, ladders, or a pile of tile? They notify you when the deals are happening for those things. I am starting to stockpile things like paint, faucets and light fixtures, as they are sometimes on a great sale, so I buy them to use on future projects.

They also have a paint saving program — as you buy more paint, you get a better deal.

You can also go to the “bid room” depending on how much you are spending. Typically the bid room needs to be a purchase over $2,000, but any time I am spending more than a few hundred dollars, I ask for a discount. It doesn’t mean I always get it, but I always ask. They get to know your face, your name, your business, and that you spend money there — and you are more likely to get a better deal.

Related: 3 Hacks to Help Property Managers Boost Productivity & Reclaim Lost Time

2. Time


“Hello, Mr. Brooks. I have Mr. Smith here, and he is picking up some stuff today. Looks like he has some painting to do…”

Have you ever had the phone call with Home Depot or Lowes where you had to spend 10-15 minutes trying to tell the clerk all your personal credit card information with your guy standing there? First, I am not a big fan of handing out my card info, and second, it just takes forever.

You can set up your information online and when your handyman goes to check out, he can go to the Pro desk and let them know you have the account set up. They ring the purchase up, and HAVE THE APPROVAL SENT TO YOUR CELL PHONE!


Mr. Smith is at the #1234 store, do you approve the $123.00 charge? Respond with “1,” and it’s paid. Total time? 10 seconds.

3. Paper Trail

I hate trying to track down receipts to get everything together. What a pain, right? So along with being able to pay over your cell phone, after the transaction happens, it sends you the fully itemized receipt. This is such an awesome feature. Easy to keep track of, easy to line up with your credit card bill, and in the end, you can also keep tabs on what is being purchased compared with whatever the scope of work was.

The second thing I’ve added:

Property Management Software

1. Accounting

Although I am sure with any software/cloud based system there is a learning curve, getting the property management software in place was crucial for keeping track of all the costs going in and out. Namely, RENTS! I was at my (awesome) bank and working on setting up ACH for the tenants. However, I quickly realized the cost of the ACH monthly service through the bank was actually a bit more than half of the monthly cost of the service I had been looking at for property management.


It was a no brainer. Tenants can pay online… no more running around hunting down checks. Plus, tenants get set up with online reoccurring payments, and they are a lot more likely to pay on time. Even if you only have a handful of properties, I think the time and gas you save alone make up for the money you spend on a basic property management software.

2. Online/Electronic Lease and Tenant Applications

Between my software and DocuSign, we do everything electronically. Applications and leases come easily to the tenant; they can sign, we can sign, and done. So much easier. We can also get in a lot of applications, even before people have seen the properties. We have a high demand for our rental units, and I suggest the people fill out the (no cost) application before we even meet up. We charge for the background checks, but only after we have received the application. Tenants love that I am not wasting their money, and I am not wasting the time pulling background checks on people whose application I haven’t reviewed.

3. Maintenance Request

This makes sending out people to a property easy. Here is what you need to fix. Go do it. The tenant is happy because they know whatever it is, it’s getting fixed.

4. Reports

Reports for a partner? Easy. Reports for an owner you manage for? They can access it (fewer emails and calls for you). End of year statement or quarterly ledger? Click of a button.

Related: Boost Your Productivity in Real Estate With These iPhone Applications

Being a landlord is all about efficient use of your time and resources. Make sure you are spending time on the things that are revenue producing, be sure to automate, and hire well for the things that aren’t worth your time or the things that just aren’t getting done.

And don’t be afraid to spend a little money on something that saves you a ton of time. It’s a no brainer for me — it just allows for more time to bring in deals!

What have you automated in your real estate rental business that will help other investors?

Leave your comments and suggestions below!

About Author

Nathan Brooks

Nathan Brooks is a dad, husband, worship leader, and real estate investor in the Kansas City market. Foodie. Coffee addict. Crossfit junkie.


  1. Great article Nathan,
    Very useful. I also like triplog (an app for mileage), Pendorent (free software for accounting), and Rentometer (gives the going rent rate in your area). We use all of these in our business and life is twice as easy. Thanks for the info and cheers,

  2. paul j.

    Thanks for the tips! I just got my Home Depot Pro Xtra rolling and this will be way easier for payments when I am not at the store. Also, one more thing I picked up from your article is referring to it as a Background Check fee, not an Application fee. I hope this will help me get more applications prior to showings and turn into less time wasted showing to unqualified individuals. Great article!

  3. Nathan Brooks

    Hi all! Thanks for your interested in this post, and what system I went with. I did a lot of research. I used a bunch of trials with several companies. And (assuming I can post this here) … decided to go with buildium. I liked appfolio but I couldn’t get past how much they wanted just to start, and then the minimum cost of their service. My former rental managers used buildium and I was familiar with their interface.

    Also .. buildium customer service is AWESOME! They really do a nice job.

  4. Kimberly H.

    Thanks for the info! I have some sort of Home Depot program but didn’t know that I can authorize charges by phone with that as you discuss in item #2!!!

    One thing to note, if your credit card # changes, you need to update it with the Home Depot program.
    That may seem obvious but I noticed after a while I was no longer getting receipts mailed to me from Home Depot and I eventually figured out that was why.

  5. Bob Hucker

    I receive rent checks from tenants, and, as noted here, it can be inconvenient and subject to the vagaries of mail delivery and tenants’ attention to deadlines. I used to have tenants who deposited rent in person at my credit union, but no one seems interested in that option now.

    I’d like to find a free option for electronic payment. A credit union representative suggested providing my account number to tenants to let them make a direct deposit online. I think some online bill-paying systems support that and others do not.

    Also, the representative said there is no significant security risk, because someone with the account number needs other information as well to make withdrawals.

    Does anyone take direct deposits in this way? What do you think of this?

  6. Brandt Tingen

    Thanks Nathan, I have heard good things from a friend who used buildium for a quad he managed. I’ll give it a shot. This is getting into the weeds but will it link up to a bank account similar to how quickbooks will, so I can see my P & L graphically, and auto generate late rent notices, etc.?

    I am also interested in the electronic rent payment topic raised here. One thing I heard of recently that I thought was smart, but have not yet figured out how to implement, is taking payments through equifax or experian from tenants. This would give me the added peace of mind knowing that the tenant knows that their lease term and rent is being reported to the credit bureau. I live in an area where a lot of tenants probably care about their credit. Anyone heard anything about this or used it with any success?

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