Virtual Real Estate Investor's Toolbox

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I've discovered a pretty remarkable thing in my time as a real estate investor.

I've learned that my geographic location has almost nothing to do with the investment opportunities available to me.

For the longest time, I wouldn't believe it. I had this preconceived notion that the only way I could buy properties without being an idiot was to work in the immediate vicinity of where I lived (basically, anything within a 50-mile radius of my house).

As time passed, I realized there was a VAST ocean of resources available to me on the internet. To my surprise, very little stood in the way of me buying land anywhere on earth. All I needed was a decent internet connection and a reliable computer, and I was pretty much unstoppable… when it comes to monetizing the next deal that comes across your desk, your geographic location shouldn't be stopping you either.

This is no joke! I could tell you all kinds of stories about properties that I (and other members of the Land Investing Masterclass) have bought and sold without ever seeing them in person. Most of the biggest deals I've ever done (ones that have generated more than an entire year's salary from my day job) happened with properties in states I've never been to.

Getting Comfortable with Remote Investing

When I first got into real estate, the idea of buying a property from afar sounded like utter foolishness to me. You couldn't have convinced me that I could make an “educated buying decision” on a property when I couldn't see with my own eyes. Seriously, what kind of person dumps a small fortune into a property without seeing it??

And what about the administrative aspects of “virtual real estate investing”? Can you be an effective communicator, negotiator, coordinator, closer, researcher, appraiser, advertiser, and overall entrepreneur without meeting your prospects, customers, and clients face-to-face?

From what I had seen in the corporate world, it was pretty much assumed that this kind of business model wasn't a possibility (side note: I've noticed that when most people haven't done a thing, it's easiest to throw a great big “CAN'T” in front of it). As a result, I didn't start thinking outside the box until I had to… and I was surprised at what I found.

Now, some of this bias is understandable.

Most of us would NEVER feel comfortable buying a car, a house, or any other major tangible asset without getting a good feel for what we're actually getting… but what if you could get all of the critical decision-making criteria without leaving the comfort of home? If you could eliminate 90% of your questions on the front end, would that be enough information to move forward?

Working With Vacant Land

Before we get too far, I should clarify that when I'm buying and selling properties remotely, most of these properties are vacant land.

Vacant land is a different animal than houses, duplexes, apartment buildings, and the like – because with vacant land, I'm able to see almost every aspect of property anywhere on earth, and I can do the bulk of this investigation from the comfort of home, with online resources that are almost entirely free (which we'll talk about more below).

That said, can you buy and sell properties “virtually” if you're dealing with houses, duplexes, apartments, and more complex real estate types? I think it's certainly possible… but it would involve a few more items that aren't discussed below (depending on what your project entails, you'll most likely want a good home inspector, a competent property manager, and a trusted general contractor, among other things).

Let's dive into the full list of tools I used to buy and sell properties from anywhere…

Essential Resources for Virtual Investing

Since several aspects of virtual investing need to be covered here, I've broken these tools into a few key categories:

  • Property Research
  • Communication and Closing
  • Marketing Mediums

I realize these are all broad categories, but it will help us specify which aspect of the job we are discussing.

Property Research


zillow logoRegarding property research, estimating market values, and understanding the local market, Zillow can be a surprisingly useful resource (and no, I'm not talking about “Zestimates”). Zillow can be extremely helpful with land valuation and finding local realtors who can help get pictures, find comparable properties, and even get your properties sold for you.

Zillow is one of those priceless resources I always use (and it doesn’t cost me a dime).

Google Earth

Google Earth logoIf you aren't already using Google Earth, you need to get it pronto (and given that it's free, there's no reason not to have it). For several years now, Google Earth has been one of the most useful tools I know about when it comes to finding accurate and reliable data on the topography, surroundings, and street views of the properties I’m researching. When you’re making a buying decision on any property (especially when it's vacant land), this kind of perspective can be extremely useful. For a quick look at how powerful Google Earth is for virtual real estate investors, check out this blog post.


datatreeDataTree is a big deal simply because it's so convenient. This is a fantastic and inexpensive way to get fast answers without blowing your budget. Even if you have to cross-check the information with other sources, it's still a worthwhile ongoing cost simply because it will get you up and running toward to goal in just minutes.

Land id

Land id logoIf you ever need to research a property's size, shape, location, dimensions, physical attributes of the property, or ownership (along with many other things), Land id is an incredibly useful due diligence tool that can help you in several ways.

It does require a paid subscription, but if you're in the practice of regularly researching land, there are countless reasons to pay for this service.

County Websites

You might be surprised at how much information you can glean simply by looking at the county website where your property resides. Like GIS databases, some county websites are very complex, detailed, and have great information. Others are horribly designed, difficult to navigate, and don't provide much help. Nevertheless, this is a great place to find out how to access the County Treasurer (aka – Tax Collector), Recorder (aka – Register of Deeds), Assessor, Zoning & Planning Department, Equalization Department, and a lot more.

If you plan to work in any particular area on an ongoing basis, it is worth your while to explore the county's website and figure out what it has to offer – you might be surprised at how much you can learn from it!

Communication & Closing


loom logoLoom is a service that allows you to send your clients and prospects a video email – which can be highly instrumental in helping you build trust and make the closing process easier for your customers. Working your real estate business over the internet has its challenges. Some people will perceive it as impersonal and won't necessarily trust a faceless name on the other end of an email or property listing. That’s where BombBomb comes in. I’ve found that most people respond very well to video emails, and they have helped me gain significant credibility when dealing with new prospects. For a more detailed overview, check out this blog post.


openphone logoAs I explain in this blog post, a solid phone system is crucial to any real estate business.

This is your primary line of communication with the world and the best way to take control of your communication and project the right image for the people you'll be doing business with.

OpenPhone is the phone system I use in my business, and I've heard from many others who love it. If you intend to operate a virtual real estate investing business, don't mess around with a flaky phone system. Do it right, and go with a company that has your back.


dropbox logoDropbox isn't just a great system for managing and organizing your files; it's also a great solution for sharing documents with other people. I use this system when sending large files or syncing files between multiple computers and devices. Dropbox provides a great means to simply drop files in a folder instantly shared between two computers.

RELATED: How to Stay Organized (Tour My Paperless Filing System)


PandaDoc LogoDigital signatures have come a long way over the past decade. Thanks to companies like PandaDoc, people can now sign legally enforceable documents more conveniently than ever. Even the U.S. Government has gotten on board with the program! Granted, there are still some exceptions. As it concerns real estate professionals, there are some county Recorder (aka – Register of Deeds) Offices that require original, “wet signatures” (so depending on which county you're working in, you'll want to call and verify whether this will work). Nevertheless, if you need a way to make it extremely convenient for your buyers and sellers to sign purchase agreements or other documents leading up to the closing of a deal, the level of security that is now in place with digital signatures is astounding (seriously, you'd be surprised how much information can be used to verify a signer's identity these days).

Rocket Lawyer

Rocket-Lawyer-LogoRocket Lawyer has quickly become one of the most valuable resources in my business. None of the “do-it-yourself” legal websites I’ve encountered online have made my life easier than this one. Rocket Lawyer has opened many doors for people needing basic legal documents (like wills, deedspromissory notesoperating agreements and more). I use this site regularly, which has become an extremely valuable resource for my operation.

Marketing Mediums


CraigslistCraigslist is one of the highest-traffic websites in the world for buying and selling real estate, and it's a crucial component of my sales strategy. I’ve used Craigslist to sell many of my properties; if you aren't using it already, you should be.


zillow logoZillow is another solid platform you can use to create property listings. This site will give you an easy (and free) medium to reach thousands of people in a matter of minutes. The ads take minutes to put together and look great. I still use Zillow because it’s free and easy to use, and it gets great results!


facebook marketplace logoFacebook is a website that needs no introduction. In addition to being the dominant player in social media today, it has also grown into a very active and effective place to buy and sell real estate. Whether you post properties for sale in the Facebook Marketplace or in one of the local “For Sale” Facebook Groups in your area – this social platform offers many opportunities to get more exposure.


rei pebble logoWhether you're building a buying website, a selling website, or a squeeze page, Pebble has you covered on all fronts for the same price. When I started using REI Conversion, I was amazed at how good their templates looked, how easy they were to build, and how effortless they were to manage.

Most real estate investors can survive without a website, but if you're trying to work this business as a virtual real estate investor, this goes up a few notches in importance. In many ways, this is the first impression most people will have of your business and given how important trust is, your first impression must be a good one. Along the same lines as your phone system, this isn't an area you want to mess around with…  go with an option that will be easy to build and manage. I haven't regretted it, and I don't think you will either.

Dealing With Information Gaps

It's only fair to acknowledge that “virtual real estate investing” doesn't come without challenges.

Let's be abundantly clear: YES, there is certainly some value in visiting a property on-site, in real-time, and see exactly what you're buying with your own eyes. I'm not going to deny that when I have this luxury, it always adds an element of comfort and certainty to the deals I'm working on.

That being said, I still don't think it's a necessity… especially not with vacant land and not at the expense of a $1,000 plane ticket and a lost weekend, just so I can see the thing with my own eyes (as opposed to the eyes of an inspector by hiring a local photographer on Droners, Craigslist or Thumbtack).

RELATED: Droners Review: Elevating Your Listings With Drone Photography

Ken McElroy analysis paralysisUltimately, if you want to be successful with virtual investing, you need to get comfortable living with SOME (though not very much) ambiguity in your research process.

When you encounter a property with information gaps, it's simply a matter of how resourceful you are. The answers are always out there somewhere – but do you have the resources and connections (hint: see above) to fill in these holes?

Perhaps another appropriate question is this: “Does this information matter?”

I've seen more than one investor (including myself) get hung up on one issue or another that didn't need to become a show-stopper. If you've looked at all the most pressing issues and feel reasonably comfortable with the property, don't be afraid to move forward!

The nature of due diligence is that good information comes at a cost. Sometimes, that cost is in the form of dollars; sometimes, that cost is wasted time and inconvenience. Make no mistake about it – whether you're digging up the information yourself or paying someone else to do it – you'll have to pay the price one way or another. 

If you find yourself wondering whether it's worth the added cost of a property inspection, the hassle of doing a title search, or figuring out how to do payment processing – if these extra costs are causing that much difficulty in your decision-making, perhaps you're pursuing the wrong properties in the first place? If your profit margin is SO SMALL that an extra $100 – $200 in closing costs will kill the deal, maybe you need to save up your pennies, let your cash reserves build for a while, and then start aiming for some bigger fish.

I understand – many of us have to start with the small stuff (I certainly did), but as a general rule, it's not smart to ignore certain due diligence items simply because you don't want to pay for them. Mistakes in these areas can be WAY more costly if you don't catch them before they land in your lap. If you ever find yourself at the crossroads of deciding on costs you can't justify based on a deal that's too small, it's usually best to walk away.

About the author

Seth Williams is the Founder of - an online community that offers real-world guidance for real estate investors.

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