What’s your competitive advantage, as a real estate investor?
Perhaps you have the best network in your local market, and know every contractor, every lender, every wholesaler, every other investor. Or maybe you do your own repairs, and have a team of workers at your beck and call.
If you don’t know what your competitive advantage is, you’re in trouble.
But what if you can buy a competitive advantage? What real estate investing tools are out there, that can give you a leg up over other investors?
One such real estate tool is PropStream. It’s not free, but it comes with a pretty impressive feature set, to help you find and analyze off-market deals before any other investors.
Real Estate Investment Analysis in the Information Age
Remember the movie Short Circuit from the ’80s? Throughout the movie, the protagonist robot Number 5 repeats “Need input” over and over.
It’s a refrain that would fit in today. Information is the ultimate competitive advantage; it may feel ubiquitous, as we’re constantly inundated with it from news notifications chiming, social media, search engines.
But the right information, before anyone else knows it, is worth millions.
Before exploring how PropStream is different, let’s start with the free options for real estate investment analysis, to set a baseline for investor information.
Free Real Estate Investment Analysis
You’re almost certainly familiar with Trulia already. Sort through a mixture of data, location, price-points and so forth and find listings for rent or sale.
Then there’s its sister company Zillow. A great free resource, referred to as a “real estate marketplace search engine.” Zillow will not only search, but also has a proprietary formula to pop out a “Zestimate” for any property: Zillow’s estimate of a home’s worth. While the figures are only statistical guesses, there is no exact science for estimating value anyway, right?
Along with these resources there is Realtor.com. It’s been around since 1994 and is the official website of the National Association of Realtors (NAR). And though it provides a ton of information for free to the public, it limits its best information for licensed Realtors.
Looking for foreclosures? There are many free and paid resources available to real estate investors, such as RealtyTrac. And if you are so inclined, you can even visit each mortgage lender and most have lists of foreclosures. But RealtyTrac charges for its best data.
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Free Mini-Course: Passive Income from Small Multifamily Properties
So What Does PropStream Offer?
Mind you, I’m a licensed Realtor, with direct access to the multiple listing service (MLS). Yet even having access to a local MLS has its limitations. Namely, it is location specific.
What if I want to look beyond my state for “that one amazing deal?”
So, I tried out PropStream.
Being someone who loves to be in the know, I like me some details! And PropStream delivers on details.
It provides mortgage details, tax information and tax history for each property. Like Zillow, PropStream provides you with estimated property values and rent prices. But the data doesn’t end there.
Here are some of the statistics, trends, and analytics provided by PropStream’s real estate investing software:
- Property details (bedrooms, bathrooms, square footage, etc.)
- Foreclosure details
- MLS details, as available
- Comparable property listings (sold and current)
- Tax information
- Mortgage information
- Transaction history
- Owner details
- Detailed documents and reports as they are available. And if you want premium reports, these too are available at a small per-report cost.
What didn’t I like about the property search feature? I noticed that after searching several addresses, the app can get “sticky.” I cleared my cache, and that did the trick.
Pre-Foreclosures and Foreclosures:
In any given neighborhood, PropStream will display all homes in the foreclosure process, and in pre-foreclosure.
You can then hone in on exactly where the home is in the foreclosure process. For instance, someone in the beginning stages may be looking for a quick sale at a discounted price.
PropStream also provides real estate analysis of local foreclosures:
- Default amount
- Type of default
- Last updated
If you want to delve a bit deeper, click on the address and voila! Data delight.
Auctions & Vacant Homes:
Invest in real estate through auctions? Select the area that you want to invest in, and PropStream can list all upcoming auctions along with estimated value of the property, and default amount (if a foreclosure auction).
Click on the address and to find the auction date, time and location.
What about finding properties that are sitting vacant? Another avenue to identify potential sellers willing to sell low is finding properties that are simply costing their owners money, sitting empty. Instead of “driving for dollars,” track down vacant properties without leaving your living room.
PropStream includes contact details for the owners of the vacant homes, so you can reach out and make an offer. Get to them before anyone else does!
Liens vs. Free & Clear Properties:
Even if a seller just wants to walk away, they can’t hand over the property if it has liens attached to it.
PropStream displays exactly what liens are listed on public record for each property. No waiting on the title report! This little feature, well perhaps not so little, provides the lien type and amount. Want more specifics? Once again, click on the address and lien details and there you have it:
- Creditor name
- Amount of the lien
- Date of recording
- Debtor Name
- Court case number
Useful information to know, before making an offer!
Alternatively, you can search for only free-and-clear properties with no liens attached. These property owners have the flexibility to sell for whatever they like, and may be open to a lowball offer – especially if the property is sitting vacant and costing them money.
You run searches to find homes that are high in equity and vacant. Think about the many uses for this tidbit of information!
That’s the name of the game in real estate investing: finding sellers who are willing and able to sell low.
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What about estimating and calculating rehab costs?
Powered by BlueHammer, this handy-dandy calculator is a rehabbers dream. Save the property address to your saved properties (more on this later), and you can:
- Search by type of repair or rehab
- Decide on complete rehabbing or a smaller job
- Choose quality of materials
- Get estimated cost for the job
- Cost for a professional to do it
- Cost as a DIY project
*Warning: While I loved this calculator, there were some projects that I noticed were a bit off-price. Now, I am not in any way a contractor, however I am familiar with the costs of some projects as a landlord, property manager and Realtor.
For example, the estimated cost on a project to replace kitchen flooring seemed a bit low.
Want to send out a mass mailing?
In creating a campaign, you can add recipients, send out email blasts, set up mass postcard mailings, auto-voicemails, and a feature coming soon is automated online advertisement campaigns.
Some of these items do carry surcharges, heads up!
Shortcomings, Weaknesses, Defects and Deficiencies
There is not a real estate investing software app, website or any technology product without its flaws. And PropStream does come with some.
There is a bit of a learning curve, to learn the system. However, there are instructional videos, and quite frankly, I found it fun to investigate the many features. What can I say, I love playing around with real estate investing software! Everyone has their quirks, right?
While the instructional videos were helpful, it would be nice to have a search function in the Help Section. That way, I could just find precisely what I needed help with instead of browsing and viewing entire videos.
I also found the font to be on the small side. Mind you, my eyes aren’t perfect, but it would be nice if there were adjustable settings to change this.
Get to the Bottom Line, Already!
PropStream is not free, and to some it may seem a bit costly. However, hear me out. On average, MLS fees cost approximately (drum roll please) $200 – $300 per location per year-give or take. Multiply that by 51 states, (using the low end of $200) and you get $10,200. Annually. That is a monthly price of $850.
And in most states to even have access to the MLS, you will need to be a licensed real estate broker or agent.
PropStream offers its full featured software access for a monthly cost of $97. You do the math.
For active real estate investors, profits from one deal will wipes that cost out. But only if you’re a serious investor!
And as real estate investing software, it should be tax-deductible for you. But make sure you check with your accountant before deducting any expenses.
If you’re not sure whether the cost will be worth it to you, try it before deciding. PropStream offers a free five-day trial period, for you experiment with the software.
So, you can play around with it and see if you like it or not.
I had a question. So, I emailed PropStream’s customer service at 3:55 PM and received an email back with a direct number to call an agent at 4:40 PM for live, personal assistance.
One more reason why I was impressed with PropStream‘s real estate investing software.
Disclaimer: All thoughts and opinions expressed herein are the authors own and not influenced by the developing company or its affiliates in any way. SparkRental does maintain an affiliate relationship with some real estate investing tools that we review, including Propstream.
What real estate investing tools do you use to make market and property research easier?