Automate the Little Things

Every day, every week, every month and every year there are certain things you have to do in real estate. Early on you may not know what all of them are, but the are there all the same.

How do you make sure nothing falls through the cracks?

With a little help from automation.

[If this sounds complicated or too hard, stay with me! There’s bound to be a few shortcut ideas in here for you]
[a very hidden large pipe crack found during due diligence]

1) Mail Templates (Free)

  • Most mail systems have an integrated template option! If you have emails to send out regularly (investor reports, bank drawl requests, monthly updates, etc) this can help shorten the writing considerably. You can get a great template together ONCE then on subsequent mailings only change what must be changed. Use AI to help writing the initial email for extra points.
  • Example: I use Gmail templates for making bank drawl requests because I only have to change the amount and update the attachments each time. To create a template, start writing a normal email. When you want to save it as a template, click the ellipsis (“…”) to see more options. From there select Templates -> Save Draft as Template. Name it and you have your first template!

2) Have a Reminder System (Free)

  • Your brain isn’t reliable for remembering every little detail at exactly the right time. However there are a TON of options for setting reminders for all sorts of things. The key is to have a system that works for you. Take a few minutes and think through which program(s) & devices you use most each day. There’s a really high probability that they have a reminder system in them. Start there and iterate.
  • Example: I use a few different systems for different things. Asana for asset management, Notion for acquisition reminders, Apple Reminders for most everything else. I set up reminders for everything from which properties need thermostat batteries changed to when we need to evaluate a refi vs sale to when best & final bids are due. Recurring reminders (weekly, monthly, annually) are especially useful, automatically renewing on schedule without a thought. This frees up mental space while keeping everything operating smoothly.

3) Standardize Storage (Free or Paid)

  • Just as reminders are helpful, so too is having a standardized storage structure for all your files. Search is helpful of course. But when you have many different “Whispering Oaks Apartments” it is helpful to know exactly where a certain one is. While really helpful, it is also error-prone if done manually (typos, laziness, etc.). Paying for a program to help automate it can really pay dividends in the future.
  • Example: Every property I evaluate gets a standard name from an email subject line. Zapier takes that and creates a standard folder structure automatically. That’s 10 different folders + template files in those folders I no longer have to name, rename, copy or move to the right spot. Instead all that happens in <1min. And now I can always find exactly what I’m looking for. [This can be done manually for free, it’s just error prone and much more time consuming]

4) Integrate (Paid)

  • Power up your little automations by integrating them! This typically takes a paid software to do, but it feels like magic when it is set up.  Have one trigger that starts a cascade of little automations across different programs.
  • Example: I use Zapier for this. From a trigger (an email, a button push, etc) it will update my Notion databases, create new spreadsheets, save files to Drive, and set default process step status for easy tracking. There’s a ton more it can do – these are just a few ideas to get started with.

5) Summary Report (Free or Paid)

  • Nothing is as powerful as spotting trends in data when so many moving pieces are in play. Creating summary reports, especially visual ones, around key process indicators (KPIs) helps find trends & issues quickly to minimize or expand on them. You have to pick what to look at, which is the hard part actually. Whatever you measure will impact how your property or organization runs. I like this thought exercise “If I were the person having to meet this KPI, how would I best maximize it?”. Take that to an extreme. Then find another KPI that helps ensure the extreme doesn’t happen. then plot them on a graph that gets reported regularly, set a reminder, and ideally automate its creation to minimize possible errors.
  • Example: I use Google Sheets to plot property – level KPIs into a visual format. Sheets plays well with other software, so I can automatically input data from other files. The each week I review the plots to see if we are trending in the right direction, if there are unexplainable spikes or dips, and if the property management is also responding quickly to any anomalies.
 

Small automations can quickly add up to significantly more time and higher quality business processes. Leveraging advanced tools and even AI can make it seem like magic how much can be done in a day.
Give it a try – you might find yourself looking at how you spend your day in a whole new way!

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