In 2015, my dad and I hired our first assistants, and this freed up my time to improve various systems of our investing business.
One thing we addressed was our paperwork process. Early on, we had used Microsoft Word to create new real estate documents, store the files locally on our hard drives, and email them back and forth. Within the past couple of years, we moved to Google Drive to store our files in the cloud and share the files back and forth, eliminating the need to email them.
When creating a new lease agreement, for example, we would take an existing lease, make a copy of it, and then edit this new agreement to include the specific property information and dates. I felt like there must be a faster way to do this.
There are services like Dotloop and Zipform that will speed up the paperwork for you but charge from $50 to several hundred dollars per month. Unless you’re doing a ton of deals, this doesn’t seem practical.
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The (Completely) Free Solution to Document Production
I began to experiment with giving my Google Docs mail merge capabilities. For example, I converted my lease agreement to a standard template that contained merge fields (like dates and monthly rent). I then matched up these merge fields to a Google spreadsheet and used an add-on called Autocrat to create new leases from the spreadsheet.
I know that sounds like gibberish. Basically, to create a new lease, I simply enter a few values into a spreadsheet, run Autocrat, and a new lease agreement is created that’s ready to be signed.
It’s not only super quick, but it also eliminates mistakes, as you can clearly see in the spreadsheet what values are needed. This makes it a lot easier to hand off the paperwork creation task to an assistant. It’s also free!
I’ve only done this using Google’s suite of tools, but I’m confident that you could use Microsoft Word and Excel to do the same thing.
More Than Just Lease Agreements
For us, we’re able to merge way more than just lease agreements. I’m also able to merge eviction paperwork (different merges for the different magistrates our properties are under), various letters to potential sellers, thank you letters to private investors and sellers, private lender promissory notes and mortgages, and offers for both MLS and for sale by owner properties.
Setting up the merge is not that difficult once you’ve done it a couple of times, and it’s worthwhile even if you don’t use that specific merge all that often. The time savings add up.
One other neat feature of this merge is the automatic ability to email the newly created document in pdf form. To send MLS offers, I have a merge that allows me to quickly fill out values. Once the merge is run, the new offer is emailed automatically to the buyer’s agent we work with, who can then send it to the listing agent.
This has saved our agent a lot of time and made it easier and quicker for us to send formal offers. We just started using this at the end of 2015 so I’m hoping that we’ll be able to buy more properties in 2016 using just this one upgrade to our paperwork process. Regardless, the time savings and improved delegation of paperwork have been valuable.
What kind of paperwork process are you using?
Let me know with a comment!