What are the best free tools available to increase productivity?
As you progress forward in your real estate career it will become more and more important to stay organized. Without mastering a few select tools it becomes very challenging to stay on top of everything that will be thrown at you as a real estate agent. If you are a beginner or looking for ways to stay more productive you may want to consider the tools I’ve outlined below. While they certainly aren’t the only productivity tools available, these are the tools I use personally. Best of all they all feature free versions or are have premium versions that are very affordable. Most of these tools are included in my technology guide for beginning real estate agents that explains easy ways to fit these costs in your starting budget.
The idea of shift is to bring all of your emails, apps, and extensions into one dedicated browser. After using Shift for almost two years now I truly don’t know how I would go back to another platform. It did take me a little while to adapt to the interface, but once I was able to, I’m not sure how I could ever go back to the way I used to work on my desktop. Not only can you combine emails, you can also streamline popular services from Google, Microsoft, and others all in one place.
Why I Use Shift
I own several businesses and have a separate email address for each company, along with a personal Gmail account. Shift makes it possible to keep all of these open at the same time without overwhelming my desktop. It also allows me to search all of my inboxes at once, which saves a ton of time. All of the other productivity apps I have listed below are also available at all times in the same Shift browser. It has really simplified my workflow and allowed me to be more productive. The custom workspace feature is new but is also a great way to organize things like Google Sheets or specific websites open in one place.
One Idea on How to Use Shift for Real Estate
Create a custom workspace that already has your MLS and prospects open. This will allow you to quickly go through and identify new properties that may be an ideal fit for clients to email them immediately. Also, include your calendar application in Shift for quick access to your schedule (Better yet, if you are a Gsuite user, send your client’s open slots that they can quickly choose from).
Evernote has been around for a long time and is still the king of organizing notes and thoughts in one place. There are some other applications that will do the job, like Google Keep, but in my opinion, nothing compares to the simplicity of Evernote.
Why I Use Evernote
For me, organizing my notebooks and notes in Evernote each night has become a cathartic experience that also helps me relieve stress while I stay organized. I also really enjoy the ability to save web pages or articles I’m reading directly to a relevant notebook to reference later. The web clipper allows you to just save text from a specific area of a web page, add a few notes, and save it to the note of choice. On top of that, you can easily take a picture of virtually anything (including handwritten notes) and import it into Evernote with one click.
One Idea on How to Use Evernote for Real Estate
If you are doing real estate correctly, you should be meeting a ton of people, especially when you are just beginning your career. I always recommend new agents set quick face to face meetings with other agents in the office, loan officers, title reps, and others in the industry that you will come to rely on. Use Evernote to organize details about every meeting. Label people that you meet by industry, and then take real notes about the meetings you had with them. Categorize different people that you meet with things you believe they can help you with in the future. For instance, did you meet a lender that does a good job with grants, or a title rep that will close anywhere? These are good things to know in the future and if not cataloged properly, they can be easy to forget.
I juggle way too many things at once, and have a lot going on. This becomes obvious to people in my life, and they often wonder how I am able to stay on top of everything going on. Unfortunately, I do miss things from time to time, but one way I eliminate mistakes as much as possible is by using Todoist to keep track of what I need to do.
Why I Use Todoist
This is somewhat repetitive, but creating lists really is the main function of todoist. What makes it better than a plain old sheet of paper is the ability to organize your tasks in a dynamic way. They even have a karma system that can make completing tasks more enjoyable and rewarding.
One Idea on How to Use todoist for Real Estate
Set up a routine in todoist that will take you through specific tasks you want to perform each morning. Perhaps you would like to set up a routine each Monday morning where you update sellers about their listings, alert buyers to new listings, and send out five hand written cards to people in your sphere. With todoist, you just set these as repeatable tasks and make notes on what you accomplished as you finish. That way you will be able to go back to your notes the next week to see what you accomplished.
There are a few different password management software applications on the market that I like, such as LastPass. However, I personally use Roboform and believe it offers the most bang for the buck (especially if you just use the free version). It does a lot more than just manage your passwords and keep them safe. Roboform also allows you to store credit card information, addresses, and other information so that you can quickly fill them in while you are browsing on any device or browser.
Why I Use Roboform
Its almost hard to believe, but the amount of hackers and criminals trying to get access to your information on the web is simply out of control. After dealing with a few personal incidents where crooks were able to steal from me, I’ve been adamant about keeping sensitive information about myself private on the internet. Roboform is just one of the ways I’ve been able to do that. It is also a huge time saver and keeps a lot of data in one place. How many times have you had to go through the “forget password” link on a website in the last few months? With Roboform, that issue is all but eliminated.
One Idea on How to Use Roboform for Real Estate
This would be applicable to any profession and is fairly strait forward. However, real estate agents do have a lot of places they need to log into. Typically they have email, CRM, local MLS, Zillow, Trulia, Realtor.com, and a variety of other websites that they will need to log into regularly. Use Roboform to keep passwords very safe and also easily accessible.
The best way to describe Airtable is that it is essentially spreadsheets on steroids. They describe it as having the ability to create your own app, which in some ways is very true. It is very easy to create complex and dynamic spreadsheets to help you keep track of just about anything. People use it for everything from tracking their pets medical records to their social media calendars.
Why I Use Airtable
I like Airtable because it allows me to make production schedules and calendars for things like blog posts, social media, and listing marketing. Not only can I create these tasks to remember for the next time, but I can also easily share them with my team so that they can understand the process I want to follow and I can easily track their progress.
One Idea oh How to Use Airtable for Real Estate
There are a variety of templates available on Airtable for real estate agent users. One that I particularly like is the real estate transaction management template. With this template you can keep track of all of your listings and buyers in one place with easy to use labels. If you use this template I would recommend reviewing it each evening or morning to make sure you don’t miss any important dates.
I truly hope you found this article about free productivity tools helpful to your real estate business. Even if you are not overly busy when you are first starting out, it is important to get in the habit of utilizing tools like these. If you try to learn all of them when you are already busy they can seem overwhelming. Staying productive is all about creating good habits and staying organized. If you have any questions about these products please don’t hesitate to reach out, I’m always happy to help.
Mastering technology has become an incredibly important part of being a successful real estate agent. Whether you are still working on obtaining your license, you are new to the industry, or you could still use an upgrade to your current business, this article is meant to deliver a common-sense approach to boosting your real estate businesses technology. I’ve tried to suggest ways to start on a budget, with some total cost figures at the bottom of this page.
Step by Step Guide to the Technology You Need in Real Estate
As a new real estate agent, sometimes knowing where to begin is a challenge. Follow these steps for a practical guide on everything your real estate business will need to succeed:
#1 Buy Your Domain Name
Your broker may provide you with a website that has search available. I still think it is smart to create your own website with your own content. If you switch brokerages there is no guarantee your current broker will allow you to take your content with you. In fact, they probably will not and I have seen this have a drastic impact on agents in the past. Regardless of what you decide to do with your website, buy your own domain name! Do not let your broker buy your domain name. If you are able to purchase your full name that is a good place to start.
Bluehost is a very popular domain registrar and hosting company. They have become so popular for being reliable and are also very budget-friendly.
This is actually the service I use most of the time to purchase domain names. I’m only putting them second because they don’t have quite the product offering of Bluehost for beginners to do everything in one place. Most importantly Namecheap has a wonderful tool called “Beast Mode” for domain name searching.
Just like your website, you want to control your email address. Most brokerages will provide you with a company email, but I would highly recommend also using a personally branded email that matches your domain name.
Try to refrain from using a free gmail or yahoo account for business. You want a real email that matches a domain that you use to look professional.
I use G Suites for my business and can’t imagine using anything else. The interface is exactly like gmail and it also gives you access to a ton of other tools I find myself using nearly every day now. Google Drive (cloud storage), Google Docs (Word), Google Sheets (Excel), and Slides (Powerpoint), just to name a few, have really caught up with Microsoft and I find myself preferring them at this point. Sign up using my link https://refergsuite.app.goo.gl/JttC and get a free 14-day trial, and message me to get an exclusive discount when you try G Suite for your business.
If you purchased your domain at bluhost, namecheap, or any other domain hosting manger, the odds are good they also offer an email service. This will work fine and is a cheaper alternative to G Suites. It just will not have all of the bells and whistles you may wish you had later on.
No matter where you store the information, you will want to begin storing your contact list immediately. I would recommend always keeping a backup of your database in something like Excel or Google Sheets. If something were to happen with the data stored with your brokers CRM or a 3rd party provider, that could be devastating to your business. On top of that, you will find that many other software platforms you use will allow you to upload a .csv file, which will save you a lot of time. In fact, it may be best to start with a simple spreadsheet.
Recommended: Google Sheets (Because its free with G Suites)
If you are using G Suites this is a great way to start your database and understanding the actual point of a good CRM. Eventually, you will work your way into more complex CRMs, but this is the fundamental way to begin. I know several veteran agents that still just use a spreadsheet to manage their client database.
Once you are ready for something more complicated, Kaep is an incredible option. The ease of use and automated follow up tools are second to none. While they are not a real estate specific platform, if you do any research you will find that it is utilized by quite a few of the top real estate agents. Its also a great complement for those that are building their own IDX websites, which we will get to shortly.
As mentioned above, I would recommend starting with your own website in addition to anything your brokerage gives you. It can be as simple as a one page introduction to yourself, to as complex as your very own real estate lead generation site (which may be very profitable if done correctly).
For the same reasons as above, if you have your domain name here, then this is a great option to get started with a simple website. I would still recommend WordPress when starting. For the cost and ease of use, it is hard to do much better on a beginners budget.
If you are going to get serious about creating a real estate search site with IDX using WordPress, then WPengine probably going to be the way to go. I have personally used WPengine for 10 years now and it is incredibly reliable with fantastic support. They also acquired Studiopress, which will give you access to Studiopress and all of the amazing themes that are offered with the Genesis Framework (don’t worry if you don’t understand what any of that is yet).
If you are going to take my advice and have your own website, you may want to include an IDX feed on your site. This is probably the most expensive thing on my list, but it may net you some valuable leads for your business. I have many training videos and articles on how to set this up for yourself at AgentCrammer.com.
Recommended: IDX Broker
IDX Broker Platinum is the product I use, and I like it due to the Widget feature, which allows me to build multiple Niche websites that filter back into one main website. A good example would be my downtown lofts and condos blog at ColumbusLoftsandCondos.com that feeds into my ColumbusRealEstateSearch.com website. If you use my IDX Broker Link you will save the initial deposit and I will also personally provide you additional support with building your website.
I did use iHomefinder for a while and I liked it a lot for just one website. The optima mapping tool is really nice and its easy to build links. I stopped using it due to the widget feature that IDX Broker has, but its still really nice.
# 6 Internet Safety
Wire fraud has become one of the biggest scams in existence. Its more important than ever that you protect your clients and yourself from unnecessary theft. I’ve seen these types of scams hold up deals from closing, and even worse, lead to lawsuits against agents. Here is an informative video about real estate wire fraud if interested. There are three things below that you can do to help protect yourself.
Get a VPN
Recommended: Nord VPN
Nord VPN is a great company that allows you to work from a virtual server. This keeps your data and location information safe, even in a coffee shop. Scammers and hackers are everywhere, this just makes it a lot more challenging for them to access your information. For the price its a no brainer. (You may need to have Chrome translate to English for you just FYI.)
More than likely your broker will provide some sort of blanket E&O insurance. However, many times this won’t cover everything, including wire fraud (be sure to check). Also, if you make a mistake that goes against brokerage policy, your own broker may be forced to turn against you to save their own business. It’s always a good idea to have your own insurance just in case. Hiscox will give you a quote online and is a simple place to start. I would recommend calling around to a few insurance agents for quotes if you want the best price.
These are not absolutely necessary, especially if you are trying to cut back on costs, but will all make your life a little bit easier. Many of them start as free plans that allow you to grow over time.
Email Automation & Landing Pages
This is not mandatory, but definitely fits in the category of “make your life easier”. Yes, you could go through and email everyone individually, or figure out some kind of email merge (but that never looks professional imo). Some CRMs will offer these tools, but I find that dedicated software for email campaigns is easier. Both of my suggesteions are free to start
I really can’t recommend this product enough. Especially if you are just starting with a spreadsheet as your CRM to save on your monthly budget, this will take the place of what a lot of CRMs offer (and honestly it makes it easier than most CRMs). Your first 1000 subscribers are free and you can send up to 12000 emails per month! This is a perfect beginner tool that will allow you to upgrade over time as you grow your client list. You can also create very nice landing pages, websites, and forms.
This is another option that is completely free to begin with. I would only recommend this if you are fairly tech savvy, as it can be a bit more complex to begin. However, there is a ton of functionality and its a great product.
This is a free and easy way to store your passwords in one place. There is an upgraded version that allows for multiple devices. If you decide to go with NordVPN, they also offer a password manager for a little more per month.
Right now Grasshopper is offering 7 days with no commitment, so you can try it out and see if you like it. I provide Grasshopper phones for all of the agents at my brokerage and also use it for a construction business I am a partner in. Its a very nice way to seem professional even if you are on the go (which hopefully you are!). It also has texting, fax, and a variety of other helpful features. The best aspect of having Grasshopper is that you can keep your business line separate from you personal line, and you can direct it strait to VM during off hours.
You will often hear real estate marketing people say that regular mail is dead and that you should focus on web/email lead generation. I tend to disagree and still think that regular mail can have a big impact on your business if done correctly. There is also no reason you can’t make it simpler by using a product like Send Out Cards. They even have a print that looks like handwriting, which can save a ton of time.
There are multiple tools to take notes, but I haven’t found anything I enjoy using more than Evernote. For a real estate agent, it can be the ultimate time-saver. Quickly store business card information with your camera, auto-create text from print, speak to text while driving, etc. Organization is very important in real estate and this will help you stay that way.
Here is an example monthly budget if you added something from every category on my list. As I have mentioned, your brokerage may provide some tools that will take the place of a few of these, and you may not need a few of them when you are just beginning. If you believe you can comfortably afford it, then great, if not just choose wisely!
Personal domain name is a one time cost of $10-20/year so I did not include it in the budget**
This is just an example budget, there are a variety of ways to begin*
Obviously, you can pick and choose your services, and some of these costs may change over time. However, this gets your real estate business started on the right track for around $125-150/month with nearly everything you will need. Even better, most of these providers will allow you to scale the cost over time as your business grows, which will also offer more services from these providers at higher price tiers.
Thank you for taking the time to read this article about the best technology for real estate agents that are just getting started in the business. Please make sure to do your own research and to make sure that each product is a good fit for you and your business. Some brokerages may provide software that will take the place of some of these items.
There are a million and one software platforms out there, and there are new offerings on the daily. I did my best to come up with a budget-friendly list that I think can help any agent get off the ground without spending a fortune. Most importantly, a lot of this advice is centered around building your own business’s brand, so that you can take it with you anywhere you go!