7 Brilliant Tools to Help Find Your Next Investment Property

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Real estate has picked up, and once again it is cool to be an investor. Everyone has their favorite way of finding that next deal: driving for dollars, yellow letters, real estate agents and the MLS. There are lots of tools to find properties. Here are some of my favorites.

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7 Brilliant Tools to Help Find Your Next Investment Property

City-Data

City-Data is absolutely overflowing with information on every city in the United States. From population and income to house values and school ratings, there is a wealth of information on this site to help you narrow down the city you want to invest.

They have an Advanced US City Search, where you can find cities around the country that fit your criteria. They even created a tool to compare two cities!

With all their maps and pictures, you will be able to get a good idea of the city before you ever set foot in it.

NeighborhoodScout is another site that provides similar data, and GreatSchools.org gives school data.

Google Street View

If you are new to an area, how do you even know what neighborhoods to walk? Google Street View. Street View was introduced in the US in 2007, and they have been working on making it better ever since. Check out what the street looks like every day. Is there a car sitting on blocks on the lawn? Rusting Chevy big block with a tree growing through the middle? Probably not the high quality area you want to be investing in. Or maybe you ARE looking for that market.

Why waste time and gas driving to a place you would never consider investing in?

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Legs

Yup. I consider my legs to be one of the best tools around. I don’t drive for dollars; I walk for dollars. Walking takes longer than driving, so you spend more time in the neighborhood when you walk. You can’t cover as much ground, but you cover it in much more detail.

Related: Forget the MLS… Here Are 7 Clever Ways to Find Great Real Estate Deals!

While you are sitting in your car, you may not hear that garage band warming up. You don’t hear the neighbors fighting, you can’t really talk to people, and that horrific stench may not be so offensive.

But if you walk the neighborhood, you can stop and talk to neighbors who are out and about. Ask about that house with the weeds. Get the scoop. Are they on vacation, or is the house vacant? If you are really interested in a neighborhood, walk the whole thing and talk to every single person you pass. Neighbors love to talk, and they love to complain about that house down the street with the car in the front yard.

Smartphone

Your smartphone has a camera and note-taking app. If you don’t have a note-taking app, check out Colornote and Evernote, both of which are free (the basic version).

Take a ton of pictures and notes on each property you want to investigate further. You can’t remember everything on your own. When you get home to look up the property, the images can spur more questions than just a note. A picture is worth a thousand words.

Use your smartphone to access apps that can give you a quick snapshot of the property/neighborhood you are in.

Zillow App

Zillow was a groundbreaking website when they first came on the scene. They created a “living database of more than 110 million U.S. homes – including homes for sale, homes for rent and homes not currently on the market, as well as Zestimate home values, Rent Zestimates and other home-related information.”

(Their Zestimate isn’t 100% accurate in all cities. I have seen Zestimates that are really far off, so take them with a grain of salt. They are getting better, though.)

Not one to rest on their success, they took all this and created smartphone apps that let you take this information mobile. Now, as you go through the neighborhood, you simply pull up the app and see if it’s worth your time.

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BiggerPockets Pro Membership

My BiggerPockets Pro Membership allows me to publish in the Marketplace Forum, gives me access to the Exclusive Pro Forum, and provides unlimited use of the Analysis Software. Pro Membership also allows me to print and customize my reports. I can even track my profile and blog visits. I can register 20 Keyword Alerts to really refine my searches.

Related: The Stupid-Simple Truth on How to Buy More Real Estate Deals

BiggerPockets Investment Calculators

Did you know BiggerPockets has investment calculators to help you figure out your potential profit? There is a Fix and Flip Analysis & Reporting Tool, the Rental Property Calculator, the Wholesaling Calculator, the 70% Rule Calculator and the Mortgage Calculator.

We live in an age of incredible information. Entrepreneurs are coming up with new and better tools to help analyze a deal — or even find properties to invest in.

What are some of your favorite tools?

Let me know with a comment!

About Author

Mindy Jensen

Mindy has flipped numerous homes in the past 10 years, one at a time and doing much of the work with her husband. She lives in Longmont, CO, and is always looking for an ugly duckling to turn into a swan.

10 Comments

  1. Dakota Cooley

    Let’s stop giving Zillow credibility. If anything, realtor.com is the closest thing to the average persons MLS. Zillow will have listings thy say active that sold a month previous, while having “zestimates” that are so outrageous it’s hard to believe they come across to anyone with market knowledge as legitimate.
    A great marketing budget doesn’t make a great website.

    • Mindy Jensen

      I can understand your frustration with the Zestimate, Dakota – they can be wildly inaccurate. But that doesn’t mean that Zillow doesn’t offer other things of value. It is still a great place to quickly view other information about a property like year built, what it last sold for and when, and frequently offers past MLS images. It is a great place to either reconfirm your interest in the property, or remove it from your list of properties to see.

      Realtor.com seems to give similar information, so it comes down to preference.

      Thanks for reading.

  2. Michael Rogers

    I agree the Zillow Z-Estimates are usually off-base and the data can be a little delayed. There are a couple features that I do like about Zillow that make a quick starting point for me when I’m evaluating a property.
    1. I can usually see a couple quick photos of the house even if it isn’t currently listed on the MLS. So if someone listed the property in the past, these photos will hang around so I can get an idea what the property looked like at the time of photos.
    2. I can see the history of sales prices on the property and the dates of sale.
    3. I can see the property tax valuation.
    4. I can click on a map and tell where the property is located in the city.

    I’ll still follow up and do due diligence to make sure all of these items listed on Zillow are accurate, but it’s nice to have a quick place to go to get this data to weed out properties that are not in my strike zone.

    • Mindy Jensen

      Exactly my point, Michael. Zillow can be a great tool to get you to the next step. None of these tools are a way to avoid seeing the house, and I think you should see a house before you buy it – especially if you are a newer investor. Images can be taken with any variety of manipulative lenses – a HUGE pet peeve of mine! Nothing beats eyeballs on the house, but you really don’t want to walk through every property in town. Weed out what you can so you can make a quicker decision when you do see properties. Thanks for reading!

  3. Hattie Dizmond

    It isn’t available for most smaller markets yet, but I prefer Redfin. Unlike Realtor.com who does away with the listing photos, after a property has sold, Redfin keeps all of them available. It really helps me, when I’m doing a CMA, because it allows me to compare apples to apples. By viewing the photos of the sold properties, I can tell which ones were a flip, therefore at near the top of the market, or why that one house was $100k less than the others…it was UGLY & OUTDATED!

    Now, if I could just get any of the services to pull the actual sale price from the MLS, that would be a huge bonanza!

    • Carolyn Lorence

      I second your vote for Redfin for the same reasons you state. I have been able to confirm the sold prices on Redfin are also pretty accurate on quite a few properties. Even though Texas is a non-disclosure state, they manage to pull the right data from either the MLS or the county clerk records.

  4. wesley c.

    A couple other good uses for Zillow is that it quickly gives you a rough list of comps, both active and recently sold. And one very useful tool is if you are selling a home it shows you how many people are looking at your property and how many people have saved your property as one of their favorites. This is useful because it gives you an idea if people are taking the time to look at your property and shows you if your listing is losing steam. While Zillow isn t the only place people come to look, I think we would all agree they are the biggest game in town. So if people aren’t looking at you on Zillow, they likely aren’t anywhere else as well. This can give you a gauge as to when you might need to consider lowering price, getting better photos, pulling the listing, etc.

  5. Chris Mukhar

    Neighborhood scout is a scam of a company. I paid for a premium version and two days later they said I was using it for commercial purposes and had violated the terms of the agreement. I lost my money and my access. The customer service was absolutely atrocious. I can not recommend them less.

  6. Jen Shrock

    I am currently on vacation and did some driving around an area I hope to move to (out of state) later this year. While I didn’t get out and walk the neighborhood, I was very pleasantly surprised that a neighborhood that is quite reasonable and has been on my radar to invest in when I get there, looks to be a decent working class neighborhood. I felt comfortable driving and would have felt comfortable parking the car and getting out to walk the neighborhood too. Well before I got there, I used Trulia to scope out the area for the crime rating. You can get a lot of the same functionality as the other real estate sites, but with that added function that gives you a feel for an area. It is a starting point, not an ending point website, as are all of them.

    I must say, while it is good to be trustworthy, some people (investors) are just plain stupid, though. While driving the one neighborhood, I saw several for rent signs. One of them actually had another sign with it to go ahead and let yourself in. Is that investor really that LAZY and STUPID? I did not take the sign up on it’s offer, but the outside of the house appeared to be decent. What the heck were they thinking??

  7. Angel Rosado

    All these items are great resources and when you combine them and use them one can really be efficient in finding property. For example one can use zillow to attain a broad understanding of a market, then use street view to narrow down the street where you want to look at and follow it up by using your legs to due some close up due diligence.

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