First things first: You cannot have a phobia of computers and be successful in this business. To be successful, you must use today's technology in your option investment business. I divide the real estate investment business into Before the Internet (BTI) and After the Internet (ATI). In fact, I consider the Internet to be the great equalizer! I say this because before the Internet became available to the general public, the average individual real estate investor had no way to readily access public property ownership records and a myriad of other essential real estate-related records. Today, anyone with a personal computer and an Internet connection who knows where to look can gain access to the same information that Fortune 500 companies use to make business decisions. Please understand that when I tell you to incorporate today's technology into your business, I do not mean that you should waste your hard-earned money buying the latest gizmos and gadgets on the market—handheld wireless computers, global positioning devices, and digital personal assistants. Do not tie up your available investment capital in a bunch of overpriced equipment, which will not put a single penny in your pocket. However, I do recommend that every serious real estate option investor have a:
1. Late-model personal computer with Microsoft Windows 2000 or newer operating system and Microsoft Word 2000 or newer word processing software.
2. Quality laser printer.
3. Reliable high-speed Internet connection.
You do not need to hock the family jewels to set up shop as an option investor. I am a former New England Yankee who strictly adheres to the use-it-up, make-it-do, wear-it-out, or do-without philosophy that is common throughout northern New England. And my wife, Barbara, and I are both board-certified penny pinchers, who know how to pinch a penny until it screams! We are not cheap; we just do not like to spend our hard-earned money when we do not have to. For example, in my real estate investment business, I use a Compaq 7550 personal computer that I bought at Sam's Club for under $600. My computer came with a Microsoft 2003 Windows XP operating system. I use Microsoft Word 2003 word processing software, which I also picked up at Sam's Club for $245. My laser printer is a Hewlett Packard LaserJet 1300, which I purchased at Sam's Club for under $400. I use a four-year-old Qualcom dual-band cell phone that I bought from Sprint PCS for less than $100. My total equipment cost was right around $1,345, which I wrote off as a business expense for tax purposes. My cell phone bill is less than $40 a month, and I spend under $50 a month for a high-speed cable connection to the Internet through Bright House Networks. And, it costs me $25 a month to have my web site on the Internet. My total monthly fixed operating costs are less than $115. Most Americans spend more than that a month on fast food alone, and all they have to show for their money is a big belly and a cholesterol count that is through the roof. So, for a grand total of $2,725, I have equipped my office and paid my fixed operating costs for a year. That works out to roughly $227 a month when broken down over a 12-month period. Granted, this figure covers only fixed operating costs and does not include advertising and mailing expenses. But they, too, can be controlled by using sound business principles.
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