ToolBox

My Toolbox and Other Resources

Over the years I have come across some great tools and resources that have helped my real estate investing business tremendously. Some of these items I’ve found myself and some have been referred to me by fellow investors.  I can not thank those people enough for being so generous, so I want to give back and share my favorite tools and resources with you.

* Certain links to products and services below are affiliate links.  If you decide to purchase one of these products I obtain a small referral fee from the company.  These fees in no way affect the price to you.  

Build Your Own Website

I use these website tools to create and manage my Blog, Lead Generating and Company websites.  The best part about these tools is that you do not need to be a website expert to put up a very professional looking website up.  There are many options out there, but I’ve found these to be the easiest and cheapest to use.

  • Godaddy  – Register and Manager your domain names
    I’ve used Godaddy from the beginning.  There are always great coupons out there that will get you discounted domain names and renewals.  The site is not exactly simple, and be prepared for upsells at every turn.  The selling points for me are that you know it’ll work and they will be around forever.
  • BlueHost – Website Hosting Company
    For an entry level hosting company these guys are great.  The Starter level is perfectly fine as well.  However if you want to hand over some of the maintenance of WordPress, I would go with the Dedicated WordPress Hosting.  I’ve got Dedicated WordPress hosting myself and I don’t think I’d go back.
  • WordPress – Content Manager System (Framework for your website)
    This CMS is the key to all of my websites.  It is simply the backbone (framework) for my websites that I then add Themes, Plugins, Content and graphics to really build an incredible website.  The crazy thing is that it’s absolutely FREE!
  • StudioPress Themes – Premium WordPress Themes
    When I first got started using wordpress I tried using Free Themes.  There are plenty of great looking ones out there right now.  However, what I have found is they are always a Pain In The Ass to setup and maintain.  After many battles I started buying my Themes ($30 to $60).  I settled on StudioPress Themes.  Their support is great and the are very SEO friendly.
  • X Theme by Theme.co – Premium WordPress Theme
    This is the them I’m using for the new look StrugglingInvestor.com.  I wanted to really customize the look and the X Theme allows me greater flexibility to do it.  There’s a bit of a learning curve but once I figured it out the sky is the limit with this theme.  I’m LOVING IT so far!
  • Gravity Forms – Contact Form Plugin
    There are some free contact form plugins out there (Contact 7), but the features, ease of use and support that Gravity Forms offers won me over. Even Investor Carrot uses Gravity Forms for their sites.  It’s easy integration with Aweber (my CRM) and many CRMs out there helps save me some time as well.
  • Lynda.com – How To Video Tutorials on Everything
    I have found that one of the best places to go learn about wordpress, websites and practically anything else is Lynda.com.  All of the video training is top notch and easy to follow.  It’s costs money to access these videos but it’s worth it over some of the youtube stuff out there.

Websites Built for You

Building a website yourself is an awesome option if you have the time to learn the skills needed.  However, what I have found is that the best use of your time is not to build a website.  That was the original reason why I decided to have one built for me.  A web developer was WAY to expensive so I needed other options.  Below is a list of other options that I discovered and use with great success.

  • Investor Carrot Website Service (My Investor Carrot Review)
    By far the best decision I’ve made over the past 2 years was to get a website through Investor Carrot.  I gush over them all the time because I love getting lead notification emails while I’m at work and wile I’m sleeping. Their sites rank well and more importantly convert well.
  • Jessica Sala – Content Writer
    Another great move on my part was hiring Jessica to write content articles for my sites.  All I provide her is the article topics and she produces some really good content.  Then it’s just a matter of publishing them.  Saves me a TON of time each month.
  • Jerred Morris – SEO Services
    My business is Real Estate, not SEO.  There is so much to know about SEO that it’s one of those things that needs to be hired out.  At least in the first year of your website.  Once you get things rolling, the maintenance is much less time consuming.  Jerred is great because he is an investor himself so he knows exactly what needs to be done and where. Example Sites: jerredbuysaustinhouses.comjerredbuysdallashouses.com/

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Other Website Tools

Here are a list of tools that I use.  These tools help me keep track of website analytics, do website design, lead followup and task automation.  When you don’t have a lot of time to waste it’s important to use the right tools.  Every 30 minutes you save can be used to talk with sellers.

  • Canva.com – Social Media Graphic Editor
    Canva is a graphic editing tool that helps you create those Article heading, Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and other social site’s profile graphics.  It saves me a TON of time and can usually create my graphics in about 15 minutes now.  They have full samples you can customize, general layout templates, font templates, 1000’s of images you can use (some cost $1 to use) or upload your own images.  It’s mostly FREE, but could cost a dollar or two depending on the images you want to use.
  • Paint.net – Photo and graphic editor
    This is my editor of choice for small graphic editing needs that I have.  It’s completely FREE as well.  Photoshop would be ideal to have, but when you only need to do small graphics jobs this tool is all you need.  I have been using it for years.
  • MailChimp – Email Marketing AutoResponder/CRM
    Mail Chimp is a great place to collect names and email addresses of leads that fill out your website form.  You setup a chain of Emails to send out to the leads over a period of time.  I like to send one out once a month.  These emails can be anything from “I’m still interested in making an offer on your house” to foreclosure information.  The idea is to keep your name in front of them.
  • Aweber – Email Marketing AutoResponder/CRM
    Aweber is an alternative to Mail Chimp.  I use Aweber for my Blog and is a great place to collect names and email addresses of leads that fill out your website form.  You setup a chain of Emails to send out to the leads over a period of time.  I like to send one out once a month.  These emails can be anything from “I’m still interested in making an offer on your house” to foreclosure information.  Aweber costs start at $19/mo and goes up after you have 500 leads.
  • 99Designs – Graphic Design Service
    If you need logos, branding or any other custom graphics this is a great site.  It’s very affordable as well.  You simply create a request for a graphic and you’ll be able to select from a group of designers who custom create designs for you.  Pick the one you like or decline all of them and get your money back.  Cool concept!
  • Zapier – Task Automation and App Communication
    Zapier connects the web apps you use to easily move your data and automate tedious tasks. It’s a tremendous time saving tool.   I use it to automate the process of getting buyer’s information, who purchase my lead manager, into my aweber autoresponder list.
  • If This Then That (IFTTT) – Task Automation and App Communication
    This is an alternative to Zapier.  They do basically the same thing but one might have an integration that the other ones doesn’t.  IFTTT is great though and can do some very cool time saving things.  If you have a tedious task see if they can help.
  • Google Analytics – Website Statistic Tracking
    Basically a must have if you run a website.  Keep track of website visits, where your traffic is coming from and what pages they look at most.  Valuable information to help you strategically craft content that attracts the leads you want.  I’ve used this service from Day 1 and check it every day.
  • Google Keyword Tool – Website Statistic Tracking
    Excellent tool to use to help you to find keywords related to topics you want to write content about.  I’ve outline how I use the tool to write content a few months back.  In short, you basically want to write content about what people are searching for.  This tool will help you do that.
  • Sparkol – White board video create software
    Have you ever seen those cool looking videos where they are drawing people and other objects on a white board while they talk?  This software will help you create them yourself.  Trust me when I say it’s easier then you think.

Lead Tools and Resources

I love me a good lead management system.  No other tool can save you more time then one that can manage your leads and mailing campaigns.  I put together a list of some of my favorites.  Best of all they are either low cost or totally free.  My Favorite one is obviously SI Lead Manager v7.

  • Listsource – Marketing Lead Lists
    This is a great source for getting many sorts of property and homeowner information.  I’ve used it to pull foreclosure leads as well as out of state owners.
  • AgentPro247 – Self service lead generating tool
    I haven’t used this tool myself but my friend Seth Williams of RETipster swears by it.  I don’t like to include tools that I haven’t used before but I’m always getting asked for some good lead list sources.  Here you go!
  • SI Lead Manager v7 – Lead Management Software
    This is my custom developed lead and campaign managing software.  It has saved my countless amount of hours keeping track of my mailing campaigns and leads.  It’s a windows based application so you have complete control over your data.  Try the trial version here (use code FREETRIAL.
  • Podio– Online Project/Lead/Communication Manager
    If you have some technical skill then this might be the tool you need to manage your leads, projects and teams.  I’m just starting to get my feet wet with Podio and I couldn’t be more impressed with what it can do.
  • Zoho – Online Project/Lead/Communication Manager
    A competitor to Podio in terms of what it can offer.  I’ve haven’t used this tool just yet but plan on taking a look at it in the near future.  Many people recommend it on Bigger Pockets so it’s worth a try.
  • Excel Lead Manager – Simple Lead Manager Created in Excel
    I created this Excel Lead Tracker to be a simple way to track leads.  There are no frills and extra features.  If you are thinking of using excel to manage your leads and want a good launching off point, download this tool.  Excel is an extremely powerful platform where you could almost do anything you wanted with it.
  • Excel Campaign Manager – Simple Campaign Manager create in Excel
    Just like the Excel lead manager, I created this campaign manager to be a simple and straight forward way to track your direct mail campaigns.  It’s based off the logic I used in SI Lead Manager v7 and is rock solid.  Take it for a spin!
  • House Flipping Spreadsheet – Excel Spreadsheet
    By far one of the best spreadsheets I have ever seen!  If you are flipping houses or even just wholesaling you have to get this spreadsheet.  It’ll help your business tremendously.  There are a couple different version levels but the standard $97 one I recommend.

Courses I Recommend

I haven’t bought a lot of courses over the years…Only 3.  One of those was a a wholesaling course written by Steve Cook which doesn’t exist any more.  It was really good though.  Below are the two other courses that I have bought and can highly recommend.  Best part about them is they are cheap and have great content.  No Upsells to speak of.

  • Flip This REO! by Steph Davis – Learn how to wholesale REO properties
    My first reaction when I got this course was…WOW!  It had so much more content then I could ever have imagined.  The course is in a Q&A style which I found to be easy to follow.  There wasn’t a bank owned question that I had that wasn’t answered.
  • Quick Flip Ninja! by Steph Davis – Learn how to wholesale properties
    You can probably tell I’m a Stephanie Davis fan.  Her latest course is a kick ass video course that will teach you how to wholesale in today’s market.  Two things you’ll always get with a course from Ms Davis…Content and more then your money’s worth of it!
  • 31 Days to Profits in Probate Real Estate by Ron Mead
    A simple and easy to follow probate course.  This course only deals with the nuts and bolts of probate investing and I love that about it.  You get a great probate letter and example postcards to send.  He will also walk you through the process of how to find probate leads.  This course was the beginning of my success.

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Real Estate Investing Networks

Please don’t spend thousands of dollars on real estate investing bootcamps or training.  I’m all for spending money on education but throwing $15,000 on some Guru’s bootcamp is just insane!  Learn the way I did by immersing yourself in rei communities.  Here is a list of my favorites.

  • Bigger Pockets – Forums, Resources, Tools and Networking
    Hands down the best place to go if you want to start real estate investing. They have free ebooks to help you get started, blogs from experienced investors and the forums are crawling with knowledge.   They also have the top rated REI Podcast out there (I was a guest on an episode!).
  • REI Club – Forums, Articles and Resources
    This is where I got started.  Probably spent the first year here just reading everything I could about investing.  The forums are very active and is a great place to network with a different crowd then what is on BiggerPockets.
  • Meetup.com – Join a small local rei meetup
    I prefer these meetup groups over the Real Estate Investor Association groups.  With smaller groups you can really get to know the other investors and build some solid relationships.  The REIA meetings tend to be about the speaker, who is just trying to sell you something.  Search Meetup.com for real estate investors and try a few of the groups out.

Podcasts

My favorite way to learn about real estate investing and internet marketing these days is by listening to Podcasts.  There are so many great ones out there that it’s tough to follow them all.  I’ve narrowed down my list to only the ones I think are the best and can’t miss.

  • Let’s Talk Real Estate Investing – by Sharon Vornholt
    Sharon is an expert direct mail marketed and a 20+ year real estate investor.  She gets some outstanding guests who all freely share their experiences.  There is no one more approachable either.
  • Bigger Pockets Podcast – by Joshua Dorkin and Brandon Turner
    The top rated podcast in the industry.  I’m not just saying that because they featured me on an episode (episode 102).  Josh and Brandon are a couple of fun guys who get the most out of their top notch guests.  The topics range from wholesaling to property management to productivity.  A must listen!
  • Real Estate Investing Mastery – by Joe McCall
    Joe is a brilliant investor who puts out some great content with his Podcast.   He puts out a new show every 7 days and has over 100 as of today.  Subscribe to his show and you won’t be sorry.

Real Estate Investor Blogs

One of the most in-depth way to learn how to invest in real estate or just keep up with the trends is to read blogs.  There are so many outstanding real estate investors out there who are willing to share their knowledge for free…we are fools if we don’t follow them.  While I could probably rattle off 50 or so blogs that are worth your time, here are my top 7.

  • RETipster.com – by Seth Williams
    Seth’s blog has quickly become one of the best out there.  His posts are well thought out and full of information.  His topics cover everything from wholesaling to buying land.  You’ve probably seen some of his articles on bigger pockets as well.  Class act all the way!
  • Louisville Gals Real Estate Blog – by Sharon Vornholt
    Sharon seems to be every where these days.  From her blog, podcast and teaching weekend seminars in Nashville Tennessee.  Between her experience and her connections you can’t help but learn something from her.  I’m honored to call her my friend and would do anything for her.
  • Bigger Pockets Blog – Assorted Authors (including me!)
    This blog is more of a publication of great investors.  Many of the top investors contribute articles about every real estate investing topic under the sun.  It won’t take long for you to find a favorite author.  What is great about this blog is you’ll always find the bloggers hanging out in the forums as well.
  • Invest Four More – by Mark Ferguson
    Mark writes about his experiences with his rental properties as well as some outstanding content articles.  I love that you can get into his mind and see how he thinks through his rental purchases.  If you are a landlord or want to be one this is your blog.  Take a look at the article about his 2014 rental income.  Loved it!
  • Real Estate In Your Twenties – by Brandon Turner
    This blog is a little different in that almost all his articles are redirects to the biggerpockets blog.  Even though his articles are on BP, I find it easier to connect with him by reading them from his blog.  Seems like more of his personality comes out.  I’ll have to ask him one day why he has both.
  • Flipping Junkie – by Danny Johnson
    Danny Johnson is a man on a mission.  I can’t believe how much this guy gets accomplished with a full time job, a family and real estate investing.  He also has developed some pretty cool tools like Lead Propeller and soon to be coming out with a lead manager that links write up to Lead Propeller. Danny his just a really smart guy and I’m impressed with all he does.
  • 123Flip.com – by J Scott
    J Scott’s blog is the blog you have to read if you are a fix and flip investor.  The detailed way he describes his flipping process is second to none.  He provides some of the best spreadsheets and tools to go along with his informative blog posts.
  • Investor Carrot Blog – by Trevor Mauch
    This blog is a great for learning how internet marketing and real estate investing go together.  I’m not only a fan of their product, but their support and education material are outstanding as well.  This blog is no different.

Additional Tools and Resources

One of the most in-depth way to learn how to invest in real estate or just keep up with the trends is to read blogs.  There are so many outstanding real estate investors out there who are willing to share their knowledge for free…we are fools if we don’t follow them.  While I could probably rattle off 50 or so blogs that are worth your time, here are my top 7.

  • Sign Hammer – How to Build by Scott Costello
    When I was hanging bandit signs I first started out using the standard sign stapler run.  It work fairly well but the staples wouldn’t hold the signs up for very long for one reason or another.  I then discovered this tool called the Sign Hammer.  I was able to go to Home Depot and find all the parts I needed and built one myself.  This post is a detailed description of how to build it yourself.
  • Google Voice – Free phone number and voice mail
    This is a no brainer tool for your real estate business.  We all need to get a dedicated phone number for our direct mail.  Nothing better then Free right?  It’s to bad you can’t get multiple numbers and forward them all to your cell phone.  Would be a killer way to track your marketing channels.
  • Google Drive – Online File Storage
    I’m a big fan of all things Google.  I use Drive to store documents and create spreadsheets that I can share with my partner or other wholesalers that I work with.  It simple, powerful and integrates with all my stuff seamlessly.
  • Dropbox – Online File Storage
    Dropbox is arguably the best file sharing/storage service out there.  I use it to store all my important documents and anything I need to access from multiple computers.
  • HelloFax – Online faxing
    I don’t have a fax machine in my house mainly because I can use a service like HelloFax.  HelloFax works seamlessly with Gmail and Google Drive.  You get a fax number to give people which is very handy.  You can also fax something by sending an email with a pdf attachment.  It’s pretty slick!
  • Trello – Organization App
    I use trello to keep track of my ideas.  It is excellent for that because it’s so simple to add items and organize them.  Trello describes itself as a free, flexible, and visual way to organize anything with anyone.  I haven’t even touched the surface on what Trello can do, but I love it for what I am using it for.

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Comments 17

  1. Awesome tools and resources. Thanks for sharing. I have paid so much money for coaching, training and education only to have to pay more money to get the next step more education, it’s like never ending education and never instructions, but the information you have provided here has been extremely helpful. Very much appreciated.

  2. Scott,

    Thanks for consistently putting out great content! Your research is thorough, and much appreciated brother! Keep up the phenomenal work!

  3. Great list Scott, I recognize a lot of tools you are recommending… I’ve had studiopress for a few years and stopped using it but maybe it’s time to dust it off again….

  4. Hi Scott,
    just a quick question.
    I use Carrot too and can’t be happier. Their websites are great, they convert well and are customized for RE investors. Even if I do some customization myself, it still saves work.
    Carrot use Gravity forms. In theory, they could talk to Podio with an integration they have. However, the only fields that get populated are the text fields. Not cool. But then, I don’t want to manually copy my leads from Carrot to Podio either. So, right now I’m using Zapier as a middleware to feed Podio. Do you have a better idea?
    Nadia

    1. Hi Nadia,

      I use Zapier as well to get my Carrot (gravity forms) lead information into Podio as well. It has worked perfectly for me from the moment I’ve set it up and I’m completely happy with it. It does stink that we have to use a Middle Man (Zapier) to do it but it works. Trevor (Carrot Owner) has mentioned that the direct Podio interface won’t be expanded because it was causing to many issues and was taking up too much time/money compared to the number of people actually interested in it.

  5. Hi Scott,

    Thanks for the resource list, it has proved to be very helpful. I was wondering if you can recommend an online skip trace or people finder source? There are so many out there we’re not sure which is the best for finding owners when the CAD addresses are dead ends. One that reliably provides resent phone numbers would be great.

    1. Hi Delen,

      Unfortunately I can’t recommend a skip tracer. A good place to ask that question would be on BiggerPockets.com. For sure someone over there could recommend one.

  6. Scott,

    I just wanted say Thank-you for all you Fantastic info. This site is a tremendous resource for us out here.

    Thank-you!!!!!!!!!

    Keep up the Great work.

  7. If you like what you are reading and want MORE! You can get great Real Estate Investing tips, resource and Stories right to your inbox.

    Yes please 🙂

    Thank you

    Gary

  8. Scott Costello, my friend, you are one to remember for being so generous to share us your real estate investing toolkit!! Once I figure out something worth sharing, I definitely email to you first. Thank You So Much!!

  9. Thank you very much for your help with these resources. They are extremely valuable and appreciate your consideration for sharing them with less experienced people like me. I hope, as I start building my business, to be able to share resources I may gather and pay it forward.

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