Management Infrastructure

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This is a guest post by Owen Johnson.

Part 6 in a series of 7 on real estate.

THE WEEKLONG SERIES OF REAL ESTATE BASICS
1. The Real Scoop on Real Estate
2. Starting Down the Real Estate Investment Path
3. The Transaction Mechanics
4. A Primer on Real Estate Agency
5. Leveraging Yourself to Grow Your Wealth
6. Management Infrastructure
7. The Week in Review

For the beginning investor, I recommend keeping software infrastructure simple and free. Here are tools that I currently use:

craigslist.org
A free classifieds site that I use to advertise my vacancies.

iiProperty.com
A commercial site that I use to host free property websites and to help me post to craigslist more easily. In the spirit of full disclosure, this site is being developed by a company in which I am a partner.

OpenOffice.org
A wonderful office suite that is open source and free! Better than any package I have used for word processing or spreadsheet building, OpenOffice.org sports great functionality like exporting to PDF without any hassles.

The GIMP
A free image manipulation tool that I use to edit my images. Similar to the other image manipulation tools out there. One caveat, this is not a specialized photograph manipulation tool. A photo tool would serve the same purpose as this tool and perhaps be better suited.

For hardware infrastructure you’ll want to own or have access to:

Cell Phone
Most folks probably already have one of these, but if you don’t, get one. If you don’t want to carry a cell phone, question your desire to get into real estate investing.

Computer
Again, you probably already have one. I have a Dell running Linux and a Max OSX iBook. I love them both. You really only need one, and there is no real benefit of having a laptop or a desktop for property management. Also, you don’t need anything super-powerful. Sending emails and recording numbers doesn’t take much.

Digital Camera
You don’t need anything fancy here either. I use a Canon Powershot S230 that is two or three years old. Anything that can take a halfway decent picture will suffice. Remember, the picture is going on the Web anyway, so 5 megapixels isn’t going to help you much. You probably will only need this once a year per property(or less), so if you can’t afford one now, borrow one from a friend.

For Rent Sign
I get at least half of my tenants from folks who have seen a for rent sign in front of a property. If this is possible in your area, don’t underestimate the power of cheap local advertising. Head to Lowes or Home Depot and see what they have. Signs should cost about $15.00. Get a friend with good handwriting to write the sign. I include all relevant details that I can fit(rent, sqft, #beds, #baths, floor, phone number, etc.) because I don’t want to get calls from folks who don’t want to rent my property.

Printer
There is not much continuous need for a printer, but make sure you can print occasionally when you need to post or send our notices for maintenance, rent reminders, flyers, etc.

On the people front, you’ll eventually build a support group that consists of:

  • local real estate lawyers (one for each locale in which you have property)
  • local real estate agent (perhaps yourself if you get licensed)
  • local and national mortgage brokers
  • local home inspector

You might meet and use various vendors over the years, and as I’ve mentioned before, you’ll never really know if they are good or not until they’ve provided their services and you’ve done a few deals with various players.

The best way to find these vendors is to get recommendations. For real estate agent recommendations anywhere, feel free to send me an email at realtor-referrals@existence.com and let me know the locale in which you are looking to buy or sell a property.

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