85+ Recommended Tools & Resources For Real Estate Investors
Just like carpenters use tools & resources to build houses, real estate investors use tools & resources to build their businesses. I created this page to share what I recommend in your real estate investing toolbox.
Some (but not all) of the tools & resources below have affiliate links, which means my company will earn a small commission (at no cost to you) if you purchase their product (see full affiliate disclosure). But many of the others I recommend are free or don’t pay any commission. With any product, make sure it fits your needs or goals before spending any money.
The bottom line – I chose these tools & resources first for their potential usefulness, not whether they make me money. Enjoy!
Table of Contents
Here is a table of contents for the categories of this resource page. You can click on each link to go directly to that category.
- Personal Finance:
- Landlord Business/Rental Management
- Property Acquisition:
- Business Management
- Personal Development/Education
Personal Finance & Banking
Personal Capital is a free online software that helps you organize and track your net worth and all of your financial accounts. Before Personal Capital, I struggled to keep track of my accounts because they were spread out between multiple 401ks/IRAs, banks, real estate investments, and brokerage accounts. Spreadsheets helped, but they were tough to keep up to date. Now, at the click of a button with Personal Capital, I have everything automatically up to date, presented in easy-to-understand charts and reports. While Personal Capital is a free tool, they do make money by offering their own mutual funds and advising service. However, you’re free to just say “No” to those if you aren’t interested.
Local or Regional Banks are my preference for business checking and saving. I like to pick up the phone or send a quick email to a local person I know. And if there’s a problem, it won’t take days of red tape to get to a decision-maker. Wherever you’re located, you can ask other local businesses and investors for their recommendation. You can also click here to see if First Citizens Bank, the bank I use, is located near you.
Capital One 360 is an online savings account I’ve used for years. They pay higher than average interest (which doesn’t say much!), and their user experience is great. For example, I can set up separate savings accounts within seconds for different categories (ex: car, house, child’s college, investment, etc). I also like their Capital One Venture One credit card as my every day, no-annual-fee travel rewards card.
Schwab Bank High Yield Checking was a recent addition for me because it made a lot of sense as a bank account for international travel. They reimburse ALL fees from ATMs, anywhere in the world.
Vanguard is the brokerage I use and recommend for stock & bond investing and for non-real estate retirement accounts. Their index funds consistently have among the lowest fees of the mutual fund industry. In addition, their entire corporate ownership structure is built to serve investors first (and not to charge excessive fees that only fatten the pocket of middlemen).
Your Money or Your Life is hands down my favorite personal finance book. It hasn’t been updated for a while, but the philosophy and advice are awesome. It’s the book I would make required reading for high school and college grads.
The Simple Path to Wealth is an excellent book about a simple (yet effective) approach to stock investing using low-cost index funds. It’s written by my blogging friend, Jim Collins. You can also read his excellent, free Stock Series on his website.
I have used self-directed retirement accounts since I was 24 years old in order to invest my retirement funds in assets I know – like private loans, tax liens, and properties. You can set up IRAs (traditional and Roth), Solo 401ks (THE best retirement account available if you’re self-employed), Health Savings Accounts (called “the ultimate retirement account” by the MadFientist), and even Coverdell Education accounts. If you’re interested, these resources below will help you get started.
Rules & Regulations for self-directed IRA/401k accounts are summarized at Wikipedia.com. The wiki article also contains links to some of the relevant laws and IRS publications if you are interested in digging further.
American IRA is the self-directed retirement account custodian I use. I see them as the “local bank” of the self-directed retirement account universe. They are headquartered in Asheville, NC, but they serve clients across the U.S. I’ve had very positive experiences as a customer over the years. I’ve also known their CEO (Jim Hitt) and their Senior VP (Sean McKay) for years. Sean has actually offered free 1-1 consultations with any of my readers who would like to talk about their situation and explore the possibility of a self-directed retirement account. Just visit HERE to set up a call or to watch a free introductory webinar.
Real Estate Investment Using Self-Directed IRAs is a written guide that explains how to use your self-directed retirement account to invest in real estate or related assets like private mortgages and tax liens. The author is Dyches Boddiford, a veteran of almost 40 years in the business. Dyches is the teacher I trust most on this subject. There are MANY pitfalls with expensive consequences if you don’t follow the IRS rules for self-directed accounts. So, this is a must-have for your bookshelf if you are considering this type of retirement investing.
The Solo 401k: The Entrepreneur’s Guide to a Powerful Pension Plan is a written guide about the Solo 401k by Dyches Boddiford and Dorsie Boddiford. This type of account was designed for Americans entrepreneurs with no full-time employees other than the business owner(s) and their spouse(s). What makes it so powerful? Contributions to a Solo 401k can be 2x, 3x, 4x+ higher than limits for a normal IRA. There are no income restrictions for Roth component contributions. And the prohibited transaction penalties are also much kinder in the Solo 401k vs. the IRA.
Property Management Software
Buildium is the software my business partner and I currently use to self-manage 60 of our investment properties. It has been a HUGE game changer for us! We use it to advertise rentals, accept applications, screen tenants, collect online payments, sign leases remotely, track property maintenance, pay bills, do bookkeeping, and more. For less than the cost of cable, we’ve been able to systematize and optimize our entire landlord business. And because it’s all done in the cloud, we can manage our business anywhere we have internet access.
Cozy is like a Buildium-lite, but it’s free! For many landlords, especially if you have a small number of properties, it can do everything you need to manage your properties online. You can use it to advertise, screen tenants, receive rent, and more. And the developers at Cozy are continuously adding more features to make it even more awesome. I highly recommend it.
Quickbooks is an accounting software, but it can pull double-duty to also manage properties. This is the solution we used to manage our properties for over a decade before switching to Buildium. If you only have a few properties or if you use 3rd party property manager, this is the perfect and more affordable solution for you.
Zillow is a free website that syndicates or shares your property listing with a large number of other online property listing websites. You can accomplish most of your property marketing reach online through this one free source.
Craigslist is another free website that reaches potential renters or buyers for your properties. We have had a lot of success renting and selling properties with Craigslist for many years.
The Multiple Listing Service (MLS) is a database used by real estate agents to list and sell properties. While online website giants like Zillow get a lot of press, the MLS and agent listed properties still represent a large number of overall sales. So, if you want to maximize your ability to sell a property, I recommend connecting with a traditional listing agent or a flat fee listing agent in order to get on the MLS.
Tenant Screening & Credit Checks
Buildium is my property management software, but it also manages the credit check process. I receive an online application from tenant prospects. After initial screening, I press a button to send the prospect a credit/background check request. The prospect pays the application fee (which can be more than the credit check fee if you like), and I receive credit, criminal, and eviction reports in my online dashboard. I also save 3rd party documents, like landlord references, pay stubs, and more within Buildium’s software for easy reference.
Rent Marketplace is a free online software that lets you accept tenant applications, order credit/background checks, and complete your lease. It’s all done online with a simple account you can access anywhere. I have used this software once for a rental my wife and I own and self-manage outside of my real estate business.
Cozy.co is popular and free online software that also lets you accept tenant applications and do credit/background checks. I have an account, and I plan to use it much more in the future for the rental my wife and I own. It comes highly recommended from other landlords I know like Paula Pant of affordaything.com.
SmartMove by TransUnion is a free (for landlords) tenant screening service by TransUnion, one of the major credit bureaus in the U.S. You send your tenants a link, they pay the fee, and you get to view their full credit, criminal, and background reports as part of your tenant screening process. If you are not using Rent Marketplace or Cozy, this could be a simple option for you.
Public Property Records are typically available for free in your county or municipality. Because local governments charge property taxes, they have a department that tracks and organizes real estate information and makes it available to the public. You can use this data to find contact information for owners of properties, study recent sales, and learn other useful information about properties (like property taxes). Start by searching Google for “tax assessor [enter your county/city here].” You can also call your local government and ask for the department that handles tax assessment or real estate valuation.
Zillow is a free website that does a good job of giving you a variety of data in a user-friendly format. You can find sold and rent comparables when you are evaluating a potential property purchase. I like to use the map function and find properties in the vicinity of my subject property. While Zillow’s “Zestimate” of value and rent are interesting for a first step, keep in mind they are not always accurate.
The Ultimate Guide to Quickly Estimating a Property’s ARV is a comprehensive guide I wrote on BiggerPockets.com. It shows you how to quickly estimate the value of a property using free tools like Zillow. It includes step by step pictures and links.
Google Maps is an incredible free resource that I use almost daily. Without having to go visit a property, you can get a quick glance at the property and the neighborhood – both from above and from street view (if available). It’s also handy for directions on the way to a property.
The Multiple Listing Service (MLS) is a database of all current and past properties for sale that were listed by real estate agents. The MLS is my preferred method to study sales and values in my target market. To get the most comprehensive data (including sold properties) you must be a Realtor or appraiser. So, it’s helpful to have a friendly agent who will give you data when you need it. But many of the local MLS databases have free, public online access to view current listings. You can search this directory for the name of your local MLS. Then search Google to get their website with access to listings.
Real Estate Analysis (Running the Numbers)
How to Run the Numbers For Rental Properties – Back-of-the-Envelope Analysis – This is a comprehensive guide I wrote to help you quickly and confidently run the numbers for rental properties.
What Every Real Estate Investor Needs to Know About Cash Flow – This is a great book by Frank Gallinelli that you can use to learn how to analyze real estate like a pro. It has also been a helpful tool to keep on my bookshelf so that I can pull it down whenever I need to review a particular analysis technique or term.
Amortization Calculator that you can use when estimating mortgage payments. This site is free, simple, and very useful. I’ve used it for many years.
Real Estate Investment Calculators from BiggerPockets are helpful to double check your back-of-the-envelope analysis. They have separate calculators for buy-and-hold rentals, fix-and-flip deals, B.R.R.R. (Buy-Remodel-Rent-Repeat) deals, and wholesale deals. They’re also a lot of fun (if you’re a real estate nerd like me)!
Republic Wireless is the cell phone plan I use. If you like Android smartphones, this is the perfect way to save money. We pay between $10 – $30/month per phone for our plans that include data, talk, and text. The company has a unique technology that automatically switches from cell to wi-fi (even during a call). This saves the company (and you) money. I even use my U.S. phone internationally when I have wi-fi access.
Google Voice is an awesome, free tool. I use it for voicemail on our phone, but I also use it as a dedicated phone number for things like taking calls when leasing rentals. You get a free, unique phone number for each Google account you have.
Ring Central is a virtual phone/fax service. It’s a little like Google Voice, but it has more features. We have used it for a fax line for several years (although that’s a dying technology). But you can also create an auto-receptionist and a custom greeting that lets callers wait for an available employee. And like Google Voice, you can forward a call to any phone line of your choice or make calls from any phone using your office phone number.
Name Cheap lets you buy your website’s domain name very cheap (as the name implies). I recently started using them after some of the other popular sites like GoDaddy got too expensive. I’ve been very happy so far.
Blue Host is a hosting service for your website with very reasonable rates. It also has very simple, one-click installation of free software that can run your site, like WordPress (which I use and recommend). While there are faster hosting services, Blue Host has been very reliable for me. And the customer service has been great when I need it.
StudioPress provides premium themes for WordPress. Themes are the custom look and function of your individual website. Studio Press has a great reputation for security, functionality, and SEO (search engine optimization). For CoachCarson.com I use a Studio Press theme called Minimum Pro. For real estate sites, I have heard other real estate professionals recommend the theme Agent Pro. But you can choose from a wide variety of themes by clicking on the logo above.
Evernote is an online app that helps you categorize, remember, and organize everything. We use it as our paperless filing system for our business. You can read more details about our system in this article (see tool #6).
Fujitsu iX500 is a top-of-the-line scanner we use to scan all of the paper associated with our business. It’s FAST (25 pages per minute) and smooth, which amazed me after using other clumsy and slow scanners before this one. After scanning, we upload the files to our paperless filing system in Evernote.
Quickbooks is my favorite accounting software. It’s flexible and powerful, and it can handle just about any accounting function you need. You can use either the online/cloud-based version or the desktop version. I personally use the desktop version because it costs less and has the functions we like.
Personal Productivity, Creativity, & Better Thinking
A Personal Planner is my organization tool of choice. Yes, it’s old school. But I have found that simplicity makes it less distracting and less prone to rabbit holes of unproductive behavior on a smart phone. I’ve written a few articles about how I use my planner, including The Collection Habit – How to Get Everything Off Your Mind; 5 To-Do Lists That Keep Me Sane; The List of 10 – My Weekly System For Getting Priorities Done; A To-Think List – How to Consistently Stimulate Your Best Thinking.
A BIG Sketch Pad is what I use for brainstorming, journaling, planning projects, and taking notes when I attend classes or listen to education online. Your brain power is enormous, and I have found small pieces of paper confine you to small thinking. So, this BIG sketch pad along with your favorite writing utensils do the trick!
The Annual Review is my ritual towards the end of each year. It’s a process that has helped me set and accomplish more goals than I could have ever imagined over the last 15 years. It takes the big visions you have and breaks them into practical, achievable plans for the upcoming year.
Getting Things Done by David Allen is a fantastic book that gave me many of my best productivity habits and systems. If you haven’t read it yet, it’s a must-have on your bookshelf.
How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci by Michael Gelb was a gift to me in college, and I have reread it many times since. This book helped me become a more creative, well-rounded thinker and person. One exercise from the book, called “100 questions” is life-changing. I do it in my journal every 2-3 years.
The Mind Map Book by Tony Buzan taught me how to use one of my favorite creativity tools – mind maps. I use mind maps to brainstorm, plan businesses & projects, journal, organize teaching topics, organize articles, etc. I find it a more natural and stimulating way to think on paper than more traditional forms like lists or outlines.
Simple Mind is a digital mind mapping tool I like to use if I’m not drawing in my sketch book. It is particularly nice if you’re creating a mind map for a presentation to others. Plus it’s just a lot of fun to use!
Khan Academy is my favorite place to learn online. It’s also where I practice basic math with my two young daughters. Sal Khan started it as a series of YouTube videos to tutor math for his cousins. Now it’s a global phenomenon with a mission to show people around the world they can learn anything. Best of all, it’s 100%free.
Philosopher’s Notes are like Cliff Notes for books about how to live a good life. The creator, Brian Johnson, has read and summarized over 400 books during the last decade or so. He also teaches online classes about optimal living and wrote a book about what he learned. I subscribe to his membership program for $10/mo to get all the notes and his classes, and I often give his book as a gift.
Gratitude Practice is one of my favorite, regular practices to make myself feel happier. It’s nothing fancy. I just write down 5 things I’m grateful for. It takes a few minutes, but I feel the positive effects long after. You can read more about the practice and the science behind it here.
Passage Meditation is a book about a simple meditation practice using recited verses (which you can choose). I’ve practiced this and other variations of meditation for over 10 years. The approach is practical and will be helpful no matter what your religious/philosophical background.
Intro to Meditation Video is for those who are more into videos or just want a quick intro to meditation. The YouTube video covers the why (the scientific research) and how (simple steps) of meditation. It’s narrated by a long- time favorite teacher of mine, Brian Johnson.
I am a blogger, so I’m biased. But I think reading blogs is extremely educational and entertaining. I have many blogs that I follow using an app called Feedly that allows me to read without distractions. I hand-picked some of my favorites to share here by category.
FI/RE (Financial Independence/Retire Early)
- MrMoneyMustache.com – Pete Adney and his wife retired at 30 so they could start a family. He writes about how he did it (and more) on his blog. Pete’s hilarious, in-your-face, yet deeply philosophical style has inspired millions (including me).
- 1500days.com – I can’t read a post by Carl without laughing out loud and also feeling like a better person at the same time. He started the blog to document his family’s 1500 day journey to financial independence before his 43rd birthday, but he also regularly provides insight and inspiration hidden beneath his anecdotes about toy dinosaurs and other fun hobbies (like Live-in Flips).
- MadFientist.com – There is a science to achieving financial independence, and the Mad Fientist (aka Brandon) works in his laboratory to explain it all in great detail. For example, I regularly refer people to his article HSAs – The Ultimate Retirement Account.
- GoCurryCracker.com – Jeremy and Winnie are globe-trotting early retirees. Jeremy writes about their travels, and he also unpacks complex subjects of interest to early retirees and makes them easy to understand. For example, I like this post on Obamacare Optimization and this one on Never Pay Taxes Again (legally).
- Jlcollinsnh.com – Jim is sort of like the godfather in the early retirement blogging community. And this is for good reason – his Stock Series about passive index investing is a go-to source for me and many others. He also talks panicky investors off the edge when they want to time the market and Sell-Sell-Sell!!!
- Frugalwoods.com – This couple retired early from the big city of Boston and bought a homestead in the woods of Vermont. Mrs. Frugalwoods has an engaging, insightful, genuine style of writing that covers everyday topics on the homestead and also more financially oriented topics. Every time I read the blog I just feel relaxed and at ease.
- OurNextLife.com – This blog tells the story of one couple’s journey to early retirement and a life of adventure (including travel, snow skiing, and many other fun and meaningful pursuits). I love the blog the most because the author is insightful and offers a balanced, sensible approach to financial goals.
- EattheFinancialElephant.com – I knew I’d love this blog when I found the article Dirtbag Millionaires. The blog is about balancing the love of the “dirtbag,” outdoors-oriented lifestyle with a desire to also be smart financially and achieve financial independence. My family also had a wonderful hike with the author, his wife, and kid in real life when they visited South Carolina.
- CanIRetireYet.com – I am consistently impressed in many ways by this blog. The author, Darrow Kirkpatrick, retired early in his 50s. He regularly writes about topics like retirement strategies, investing, maintaining a strong marriage, and even RV living.
- FinancialMentor.com – Todd Tresidder is known as the financial mentor. As someone who retired early at 35 a couple of decades ago, his knowledge comes from proven, first-hand experience. His writing is in-depth and tackles both simple and complex financial subjects.
- FinancialSamurai.com – Sam Dogen is an impressive and prolific blogger. He writes about some of my loves, like real estate investing, but he also delves many other unique angles on financial topics. He also makes $200,000/year in passive income and shares detailed updates (cool stuff!).
- BudgetsAreSexy.com – J. Money – as he’s known online – is the rockstar of the personal finance blogging universe (and he has a mohawk to prove it!). He did an awesome online interview on my site one time. He also started a popular site called Rock Star Finance that shares the best personal finance articles each week.
- RetireBeforeDad.com – This blog is personal, insightful, and always interesting. The author has a goal to retire before the age his dad did (56). Along the way he shares his strategies and his portfolio that includes dividend stocks, rental property, private lending, and real estate crowdfunding.
- WalletHacks.com – I love this site because it always makes me smarter financially – from the small hacks like how to get free stuff to the big hacks like how to optimize your investing. The author, Jim Wang, is super smart and has a financial track record to prove it.
- MoneyBoss.com – JD Roth was one of the pioneers of financial blogging with his site GetRichSlowly.com. He sold that site, but not too long ago he started a new one called Money Boss. JD gives great money advice, but he is also wise about many other parts of life.
- FieryMillennials.com – Gwen gives a much-needed millennial generation perspective to the topics of personal finance, investing, and early retirement. I’m also excited for her after getting her first house hack so that she can live free and begin investing in real estate!
- FinanciallyAlert.com – Michael retired in his mid-thirties. I love that he writes about a variety of topics, including being a dad, investing (including real estate), and side-hustle businesses. He also shares cool stats – like his $1,762,368 net worth and 139 personal finance/investing books read!
- PhysicianOnFire.com – If you are a high-earning medical professional who wants to achieve financial independence, this blog is for you. It’s full of useful information, but the good doctor who authors the posts is also funny and entertaining. If I would have followed through on my medical school ambitions after college, I would have wanted to be like this guy!
Real Estate Investing
- BiggerPockets.com – This site is more than a blog – it’s the epicenter of the online real estate investing universe. The blog is an important part of what you can find at BP. I write for the BP blog (here’s my author page), but there are also many other awesome writers who you should check out.
- InvestingArchitect.com – Erion Shehaj’s story is inspiring. As a teenager, he came to the US from Albania, a formerly communist country east of Greece. Since then he graduated from college and became one the smartest real estate investors I know. Fortunately for all of us, he shares his ideas for free on his blog.
- AffordAnything.com – Paula Pant would probably tell you her site is not just about real estate investing. And it’s true. I actually enjoy her writing on topics like stock investing, travel lifestyle, time tracking, and blogging. But she has also become known for her real estate investing, which pays for her enviable globe-trotting lifestyle.
- REtipster.com – Seth Williams personally uses a unique niche of land investing, but no matter what your real estate niche I think you’ll learn a lot from his many helpful resources on the site. Everything is practical, and it’s obvious Seth successfully uses the ideas he’s sharing.
- InvestFourMore.com – Mark Ferguson is a superstar in the real estate investing world. He runs a six-figure real estate agent business, flips many houses every year, and owns rental properties that throw off passive income. He’s also a super nice guy who I got to talk to more when he interviewed me on his podcast.
- BuddyBroome.com – When he doesn’t have his daddy or attorney hats on, Buddy is a savvy real estate investor and an amazing teacher. He has a heart for helping people learn the fundamentals of real estate investing and finance (especially how to use a financial calculator).
- RentalMindset.com – Brian lives near San Francisco where prices are sky-high, but he invests in other parts of the country where rental income is more reasonable. He writes about his approach and his actual results on his blog. For big city dwellers wanting to invest somewhere else, this is a good blog to check out.
- OutofStateInvestor.com – O.B. lives in southern California but invests out-of-state. He writes about his deals, but I also love his comprehensive how-to posts, like this one about How to Study Local Economies where you’ll invest.
- IdealREI.com – After leaving the military Eric Bowlin quickly got to work, built a real estate portfolio, and retired by 30 (no, not a typo!). He shares his strategies and details on his blog. I also guest posted on his site about systematizing your real estate investing business.
Podcasts allow you to listen to all sorts of interesting subjects while you drive, walk, or do mundane tasks (like washing the dishes). Here is a list of my favorite podcasts.
- Financial Independence Podcast – by the Mad Fientist
- ChooseFI Podcast – by Brad Barrett and Jonathan Mendonsa
- The Sidehustle Show – by Nick Loper
- The Smart Passive Income Podcast – Pat Flynn
- The Tim Ferriss Show – by Tim Ferriss
- Radical Personal Finance – by Joshua Sheets
- The Bigger Pockets Podcast – by Josh Dorkin and Brandon Turner
You can check out my Business Money Life Project for a list of books I’ve studied as part of my business and real estate self-education journey. I’ll add more recommendations in the future.