Remember the days when the MLS was a hard copy book that came out once a week and real estate agents had to flip through the pages looking for listings?
Today’s real estate world barely resembles that one, and life moves a lot faster now. And although there’s a lot more competition now, too, it is easy to argue that modern conveniences make investing easier.
Here are 8 ways technology makes your next fix and flip or buy and holder just a little easier:
1. You can run the numbers yourself
Whether you work with an agent or not, one advantage to today’s technology is that you don’t need to wait for someone else to do comps or evaluate a purchase. Free online resources like Zillow, Trulia, and Property Shark make it entirely possible for you to go online and research sold properties and active listings.
Your agent may have more details, but the ability to quickly look up a lot of information allows you to move faster with your offers. And while you should have team members you trust, it’s better to also have the ability to verify the information you’re given.
2. Speaking of offers…
How great is it to email offers back and forth, making revisions on a computer instead of printing out reams of copies and faxing them back and forth? Or worse, driving them to an office? (It’s true: people used to do that.)
The advent of e-sign and other software like DocuSign and Dotloop means you can communicate and make changes to contracts in minutes. This allows you to keep up with the speed of the market and reduce delays.
3. Education is everywhere
Almost anything you want to know about real estate investing can be found online. Granted, you need to tread carefully and make sure you’re finding credible information, but you can teach yourself about any niche.
You can also network and find other investors to team up with, as well as hard money lenders, buyers and sellers — all online.
One of the top websites is BiggerPockets, a membership-based site with blogs, podcasts, Q&A boards, networking events, and more.
4. Out-of-state investing is in the mix
As with the disclaimer about online real estate education, out-of-state investing also comes with a big one: buyer beware.
This isn’t a strategy for newbies, but technology has made out-of-state investing far more accessible. You can search for properties, research neighborhoods, and find contractors and agents to work with in a way that wasn’t available to previous generations of investors.
For more information, the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Fact Finder provides a wealth of demographic information; you can also check city-data.com, NeighborhoodScout, and GreatSchools.org. Zillow, Trulia, and Realtor.com each have some level of information as well.
5. Research at your fingertips
Whether you’re considering out-of-state investing or simply looking for your next contractor, there’s no limit to the information available online to help you.
That includes public records. You can look up criminal records and lawsuits from your laptop, and verify licenses of service providers. Gone are the days of driving to town hall and the courthouse.
For more information, Google “license lookup” or “criminal records” for your state. The information is typically within the judicial system’s website (for criminal records and lawsuits) or the state Department of Consumer Protection (for license lookup). The state Secretary of the State’s office is also a source of information on businesses.
6. Watch your property from your phone
Modern technology allows you to manage security systems and turn lights on and off or adjust the heat from a distance.
While you of course want to visit your properties in-person, it’s great to be able to check the feed from the security camera for a quick reassurance or make sure the vacation rental guests didn’t leave the thermostat at 75 when they checked out.
There are all levels — and price points — for remote security systems, so this will take some research on your part. But systems are available everywhere from your local Best Buy to Amazon and many are even easy to install yourself. For more information, check out our article about using smart home technology in your fix and flip.
7. Online payments
Why would landlords want to collect rent checks anymore? The ability for tenants to pay their rent online makes it harder for them to come up with creative excuses for not dropping a check off at the office or claiming that it got lost in the mail.
Online rental payments also make for a great paper trail, contradictory as that sounds.
There are a number of companies that handle rent payments as well as messaging and other services, so it will take some research to find the best one for you. But some names (in no particular order) include Yardi, Avail, Rentler, ClickPay, PayLease, and TurboTenant. Do an online search and read up on the features and reviews to determine which one best fits your needs.
8. Virtual Tours
Want a serious advantage over your competition? Provide a virtual tour of your property. Hire a professional to create a video walk-through of your latest rehab or rental, and buyers will fall in love with it before ever setting foot inside. Get ready for multiple offers!
A virtual tour adds a touch of sophistication to your listing and has the added benefit of weeding out tire-kickers.
And it works the other way, too — you can do a virtual walk-through of all kinds of properties online. While earlier investors had to physically visit 50 or 100 properties to find the one they’d buy, you can now do the same in an afternoon or two. It’s a great way to whittle your list down to the handful worth your time to visit in person.
There are a variety of ways to get quality video of your properties. You can search online for a videographer in your area; any professional will know how to shoot indoors and provide a polished look.
You can get even more specific by looking for real estate photographers and/or videographers. Then there are companies that specialize in 3D tours like Matterport, which offers virtual tours, floor plans, video, and photos. You can buy the equipment yourself, or find a local service provider.
Whether you’re flipping single-family houses one at a time or investing in commercial real estate, technology has advanced tremendously the past several years. The key lies in learning how to make the right tools work for you while also remembering that, in the end, old-fashioned communication skills and relationships are the key to growing a successful business.