Technology—some people embrace it and others would rather throw their mobile devices off a cliff. However, it is the digital age and you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone whose job doesn’t involve the use of a computer or some type of software program. By the end of the year, it is expected that about two-thirds of the nation will own a smartphone. That percentage will likely rise as Apple and Samsung eventually find ways to equip kindergarteners and preschoolers with iPhones and Galaxy A71s. OK—you’re laughing now—but see me in five or ten years and allow me to say: “I told you so.”
My sister sits among those technology hold-outs but perhaps she should go to the other side. We own some properties together and it seems I spend more time troubleshooting her phone issues than I do discussing our tenants, rental units, and maintenance challenges. She’s coming around, though. Lately, I’ve been impressing upon her that the better business technology solutions we have on our side, the more time she’ll have to shoe shop. Imagine my surprise when she presented me with a list of the best apps for real estate investors in 2020. So here goes nothing, my dear Molly—I’m going to tell everyone here what I learned from going through your list.
The Best Apps for Real Estate Investors in 2020
Real estate investment is a data-intensive pursuit. You can’t wander off-track when searching for attractive deals or you will find yourself across town without a working GPS. And since you’ve thrown all your maps out, you’ll have to stop at a gas station and ask for directions—just like the old days. These are different times, however, and these apps for property investment stand out in the industry. That said, some are better than others.
I mostly own rental properties and, as such, that characteristic qualifies me as a buy-and-hold investor. This allows me to boost my overall return on investment (ROI) by receiving income in between the time I purchase and sell. Ultimately though, the biggest bang for my buck comes when I unload a home. I’ve spent too many hours with spreadsheets and formulas, trying to analyze the financial details of a purchase and exit strategy.
The Property Evaluator app allows me to input different data points on one property, including physical address, the rent I expect to charge, and the cost of necessary improvements. In a few seconds, the software synthesizes the information and spits out detailed financial calculations that otherwise took me hours to complete. As is often the theme with automation, time is money and any time saved puts more dollars in my pocket.
There are some definite downsides to this app though. If only the app tapped into regional costs and trends, it would eliminate a few more cumbersome steps. And, it doesn’t help with the most challenging part of investing in the first place: getting the lead. You’ll have to track down the lead yourself and carefully approach the distressed homeowner before even being let in the door to do an evaluation of the property. While Property Evaluator may simplify one aspect of the business, you are going to need a whole lot more to create real efficiency.
Managing my own properties, I sometimes shy away from increasing the number of calls I receive about broken ceiling fans and burned-out appliances. As a result, flipping homes strikes my fancy now and then. In that case, what I really want to know is the price I can expect to receive on a sale once materials and labor costs for the rehab are factored into the equation. Gathering estimates quickly often depends on speedy responses from building materials wholesalers and contractors. Suffice to say that some of my projects have often crept to the bottom of the other parties’ priority lists.
I can get a fairly decent projection of the total cost of a project from Property Fixer. The program culls expense factors from a database and yields a projected sales price and corresponding estimated ROI depending on the time the property is held—anywhere from one to 12 months in total. Oddly, although the app is supposed to be designed for flipping houses, it also allows you to calculate the costs of a 30-year mortgage.
The app did take some getting used to and could provide a false sense of security for newer investors. I felt a bit uncomfortable with the numbers the app spit out because it doesn’t account for important details like back taxes owed on the property, which is a pretty common concern when you are buying distressed houses to flip. Even more, if you are drilling down the numbers so tightly that you are concerned about what an extra month or two of holding costs are going to be, real estate investment probably isn’t the right business for you.
Sometimes I find that the best real estate deals exist outside my backyard. Typically, I draw a circle on a map with my hometown used as the epicenter. I’m willing to purchase in neighborhoods that can be reached by car in an hour or less. Therefore, my circle usually has about a 60-mile radius in any direction. I’ve lived in the same town all my life and while I’m familiar with that market, I admit that nearby areas require some additional research. Over the years I’ve been on enough potential treasure hunts that have given up no more than an empty chest.
I’ve been able to narrow my searches through Realtor.com. The app lets me filter results by price, type (single-family or multi-unit), and days on market. Most property listings feature a number of exterior and interior photos along with details such as room size, number of bedrooms, and baths. Digging a little deeper, Realtor.com also gives me the lowdown on the neighborhood in question, offering demographics and useful data on schools and amenities. Before I spend a couple hours behind the wheel, I can create a shortlist of properties that pique my interest.
One big issue with this app is that every listing seems pegged to current market levels and it didn’t appear to offer any leads on the undervalued properties that I favor. After all, how are you going to achieve any real returns if you pay full market value in the first place? In the end, I found that this app puts you on a chase for unicorns.
There was a time when I wanted nothing to do with business on my vacations and days off. All work and no play… you know the rest of the story. However, as my responsibilities increased in scope, there was simply no way I could detach myself from my career for a week or more. Much to my wife’s chagrin, I found myself sneaking off to take a call or banging out a few emails here and there. I didn’t relish coming back to the office and being bombarded by messages or possibly jeopardizing a client relationship.
When I got firmly entrenched in real estate investing, I likewise feared missing out on a can’t-miss deal. Auction.com gave me the ability to find those deals from the beach or my hotel balcony. The system revealed pending foreclosures and bank-owned properties that I could research and even buy online. Those properties came straight to my mobile phone while most casual observers thought I was playing Candy Crush or posting photos of my sunburned tribe on Instagram.
That said, you could spend hour upon hour scrolling through the listings and when you finally zero in on a property, it might not be available anymore. The status of auction homes can change from minute to minute sometimes. Even more, it’s a scary proposition to buy homes sight unseen. In the auction arena, you truly never know what you’re going to get, and that can be an expensive variable.
Hands down, I’ve found that the best software tools for real estate investing are the combination of MAPS and ValueChek. Both integrate with each other nicely, removing the need for duplicating too many efforts of inputting data for everything from receiving and managing leads to evaluating rehab costs, estimating ROI, and communicating with your team and the home seller. While the other apps out there may help to simplify one aspect of your business, these two work together to handle most everything.
Getting leads is easy with this system in place—there’s no need to spend hours tracking down remote possibilities on the internet. When a homeowner decides that they need to sell their house quickly, the nationally-known and trusted “We Buy Ugly Houses®” advertising is top-of-mind. When they make the call, leads for these distressed homeowners are distributed to HomeVestors® franchisees like me. I can use MAPS to respond right away from my smartphone. Effectively, MAPS is an end-to-end tool to track lead conversion, property details, and even contracts all the way to the close of the deal.
When I make an appointment to review a potential home purchase, a spot-on assessment of risk and reward becomes my top priority. That’s why one of my favorite features of ValueChek is the app’s ability to differentiate repair costs based on the regional market. As I’m standing there, I can quickly arrive at what it will take to rehab a property and the after repair value by feeding relevant data into the analysis tool. ValueChek estimates rehab costs by simply applying its material and labor prices to the square footage of the targeted area. With so many moving parts, I need simplicity when it comes to projecting my bottom line. ValueChek has yet to let me down and has become the most treasured tool in my belt.
Entering New Territory
With the vast number of apps available to assist you in your real estate investing venture, choosing the most beneficial programs could be overwhelming. But like any trip into new territory, once you travel the road a few times, the route becomes second nature. I found the most direct way to conquer new avenues was to become an independently owned and operated HomeVestors® franchisee. I joined fellow franchisees who think like me and can leverage the expertise of the tried-and-true investing system with experienced HomeVestors® Development Agents to back me up if I have a question. As one of those pleasant surprises, MAPS and ValueChek™ came free as part of the franchise opportunity.
Contact HomeVestors today to revolutionize your own real estate pursuits.