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Livin' La Vida Luna
Happy Father's Day to all the dads reading this!
I've been waiting since April to share this picture of Luna and me from her first birthday photoshoot. Oh, the Places You'll Go!!
My Tech Stack as a Real Estate Investor
A “tech stack” is the combination of technologies a company uses to build and run its organization.
“Real Estate Investing” and “Technology” don’t often find themselves in the same sentence. After all, buying, holding, and selling real estate has been around forever.
Until recently, I’ve been a one-man show relying on a handful of relatively inexpensive (or even free) technologies to scale my impact as a real estate investor.
In this post, I’m going to begin by outlining my current tech stack and finish with some tools I may look to adopt in the future.
🏎 Google Drive
My entire real estate business lives in Google Drive.
Every pertinent document for every investment I make is carefully organized within my GDrive.
- LLC Formation Papers
- Loan Documents
- Insurance Policies
- Closing Packages
- Before and After photos
- Financial Models
….the list goes on and on.
Keeping my GDrive organized and up to date is critical to my success because I’m constantly fulfilling requests for supporting documents.
At any moment:
- A lender may call me to request LLC formation documents.
- A mortgage broker may call to request signed leases.
- An insurance agent may call to request inspection reports.
Oftentimes, I’m able to email these requested docs to the person while I’m still on the phone with them. I don’t hang up until they confirm receipt. I’ve made myself the Amazon of document delivery. But instead of 2 days or less, it’s 2 minutes or less.
🗄 Google Office Suite
Keeping up with the Google theme, I use Google Office Suite for all my creative work.
I write every draft of SunShakSunday in Google Docs. I use Grammarly to check my spelling and sometimes use HemingwayApp to make sure a 5th-grader can understand my writing.
I use Google Sheets to analyze all investment property. I’m ashamed to say I almost always build a new model from scratch. I really need to build a template.
Finally, I use slides to create investor packets like this one or this one. I like using slides because I can download the deck as a PDF and share the link with my investors easily.
The main benefit of working within Google Drive and Google Office Suite is the ability to share files and folders in either a collaborative or restrictive manner.
If I need help analyzing an investment property, I’ll typically give edit access to my partners to override my numbers.
If I want a second pair of eyes on a blog post, I give an editor the ability to comment with their suggested changes.
If I’m sharing an investor packet, I only give access to view the document.
SendFox is the email service provider I use to distribute SunShakSunday every week. It’s a no-frills, incredibly clean, and easy-to-use email interface.
With SendFox, I can create signup pages like this or this. Once someone signs up for my email list, they automatically receive a welcome series of 3 emails over 3 days.
Once they go through my welcome series, they’re automatically added to the newsletter and I “touch” that contact once every Sunday. It’s an incredibly boring process, but it works.
I’ve raised over a million dollars from a tiny list of people that want to get in on the action.
I’ve used email service providers like Mailchimp and Convertkit in the past and there’s one main difference between them and SendFox: cost.
SendFox is a one-time fee of $50 for every 5,000 contacts. It maxes out at $250 for 25,000 contacts. I like this model better than the typical monthly fee most email service providers charge.
If you take a look at the pricing model on Mailchimp and ConvertKit, you’ll see there’s no contest. You can barely start on those platforms for less than $50 per month.
As an aside, another tool I want to promote in this section is Mail-Tester. I test all my emails before sending them out to make sure they don’t end up in your Spam folder.
I tend to send long emails that end with, “let’s hop on a call if easier to discuss over the phone”.
Before buying TidyCal, finding a time that worked for both people was a painful process.
It’s especially difficult because I have friends and colleagues as west as California and as east as London. It also doesn’t help that I try to keep all my calls between the hours of 10 am and 4 pm EST.
TidyCal solved this issue for me. Now I can send out a link to my calendar and whoever needs to speak with me can schedule a call at their convenience.
The meeting automatically gets added to my calendar. I also get one email notification when the booking is made and another reminder just before the meeting occurs.
I haven’t tested this yet, but TidyCal allows you to create paid meetings. So let’s say I want to start consulting or charging for my time, TidyCal will collect payment upon the meeting being scheduled.
Another cool thing about TidyCal is you can connect up to 10 calendars. This is helpful for me because I have 3 calendars to connect:
- My 2 personal email addresses (yahoo & Gmail)
- My 1 business email address (Gmail)
Since my personal accounts are connected, I don’t ever have to worry about getting double-booked.
I’ve used TidyCal to schedule calls with investors as well as talk to people that want to learn more about what I’m doing.
I bought a Lifetime Membership to TidyCal for $19 and threw the calendar link into my email signature. Set and forget.
For Context: Calendly charges $8 per month for their least expensive paid option.
The most common request I get as a real estate investor is “please sign and return.”
I had a scanner in my office, but I haven’t been there in more than a year. We have a printer at home, but no scanner.
Once working from home became a thing, I had to download the AdobeScan App on my phone to sign and return documents.
The AdobeScab App lets you take a picture of a piece of paper and send it as a PDF through email or text. Pretty sweet.
The only way it could be better is if I never had to print out the document I’m signing in the first place. Just sign it electronically from my phone. I’m sure there’s an app for that. If you know what it is, please let me know!
To find distressed property owners, I use an online software called, Propstream.
With Propstream, you can quickly research and evaluate a property. You can find cash buyers and compare accurate comparable sales.
Most importantly, Propstream allows me to identify properties owned by people who have a specific motivation to sell.
Here are a few examples of those motivations:
Propstream is expensive at $99/mo, but one good deal can pay for a lifetime of membership.
📨 Ballpoint Marketing
Some of you may not consider handwritten mail as “tech”, but I definitely do. After all, a robotic arm holds a ballpoint pen and writes letters on my behalf.
Once I pull data from Propstream, I send it to Ballpoint Marketing.
Here’s what it ends up looking like.
Ballpoint Marketing sends us these mailers in a box and then we drop them off at the post office for individual distribution. They come with first-class stamps so they typically hit homes 2-3 days after we drop them.
We also used their comic book style postcard product but found the mailers have a better conversion rate.
People are actually taking the time out of their day to call and tell us they’re not interested in selling. That never happened with the postcards. I’m sure they just threw those out without a second thought.
Each letter costs about $1.25 with postage included. We’re sending about 1,000 mail pieces per month. It would take me at least 5,000 minutes to do the same, which is 83 hours. 2 weeks of full-time work for $1,250 seems like a fair trade.
Stessa is smart accounting software for real estate investors with rental properties. Stessa is also assets spelled backward. Cool naming convention.
In all seriousness, Stessa is Quickbooks Online for buy and hold real estate investors. The best part? It’s free!!!
If you own rental property and you’re either...
- Not tracking your income and expenses - or -
- Doing it manually in Excel / Google Sheets
...Please make your life easier and sign up for Stessa today.
Here’s their elevator pitch:
If you use the same password for all of your accounts, we are birds of a feather.
At least that’s been the case until I found LastPass. Now whenever I create a new account, I use one of those crazy passwords that make no sense. i.e c7dp#4jdl9ns!!
I don’t have to worry about remembering my passwords because LastPass does it for me. I just have to remember one password: my LastPass password.
I have over 120 passwords saved in my LastPass vault!
- Bank Accounts
- Email Accounts
- Utility Accounts
- Brokerage Accounts
- Lender Portals
Now that I think about it, I can’t remember the last time I had to click “Forgot Password”. I’ve been saving so much time without really noticing it. Great user experience.
⏩ Moving Forward
I’m currently using a combination of WordPress and Thrive Themes for my personal website, Sunshak.com, but I plan on moving to Ghost 4.0 by the end of this year.
If I go down the path of creating a real estate investment fund, I will likely use a platform called InvestNext. They manage the entire lifecycle of a raise from collecting funds to distributions and return of capital.
Finally, if I decide to take a bigger role in generating leads for my business, I’d use at least the following services to do so:
- REsimpli - A simple to use task management system with built-in accounting software and project management capabilities.
- Carrot - A templated lead generation website.
- CallPorter - Live call answering for real estate investors.
💸 Runway & MRR
If you told me a year or two ago I’d be willing to spend upwards of $2,000 per month on my real estate investing business with no guarantee of any return on investment, I’d fall out of my chair.
I’ve realized the secret to investing in a business is directly related to two KPIs I just started tracking in 2021:
- Monthly Recurring Revenue
Runway is cash in bank divided by average monthly expenses.
Monthly Recurring Revenue is the income I can expect to receive without any extra effort every month.
Having a monthly recurring revenue to fund operating expenses is nice, but larger chunks of cash generated through profitably exiting investments are a game-changer in terms of confidence.
To continue investing in my business’ growth, my goal is to keep 3 months of Runway in the bank at all times and spend less than 50% of my MRR. It’s a simple formula that prevents me from overextending myself.
After all, overextension is probably the biggest contributing factor to an investor imploding.