Low Cost Bookkeeping for Real Estate Agents

Your time is better spent working with prospects and clients.

Young woman with a 'for sale' sign outside a house
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Is it just me, or are there others out there who hate the record-keeping part of being in business? When it comes to the independent contractor real estate agent, there really aren't that many income and expense categories. Get advice from your accountant, but most of us can get by with:

  • Vehicle Mileage

You can have more, or break these out into sub-categories. The point is that we really don't have a very complex accounting system. Yet, many of us spend way too much time and expense keeping track of our expenses. What I've found over time is that, the more detailed my system, the more lax I am at keeping up to date with it. Then, late in the year, I'm spending many late night hours trying to gather receipts and input a long list of entries.

After a great deal of trial and error, I've found a system that:

  • Allows me to end each day with all records up-to-date
  • Takes less than 10 minutes each day
  • Ends up in a database with little or no typing
  • Because it's easy, I miss no expenses

There are plenty of online accounting systems out there, including the very popular QuickBooks products.  However, I use Freshbooks.com.  Using my accounts listed above, I might have accounts with these titles:

  • Commissions
  • Fees and Dues
  • Education
  • Office
  • Marketing
  • Mileage

You can set up Freshbooks to integrate with your banking and credit cards to automatically import expenses, which saves you a ton of time and effort. Also, you'll miss fewer expenses this way. This is all great, but how to you keep up with all of those small receipts, many for cash payments, that you gather during the course of your work?

If you're making quarterly tax payments, you'll love the way that Freshbooks creates a Profit and Loss Report on demand so you can see how you're doing this quarter or for the year. There is an app for your smart phone as well, so you can keep up with your expense tasks on the fly. There is simply no need these days to create and maintain files by month with all of these receipts in folders. Technology lets you throw them all into one box and not have to dig through it later to find what you want.

Incorporating the free version of Evernote, you can use your smart phone to take a photo of the expense and have it automatically saved into an expense notebook in the Evernote cloud account. This syncs with the desktop version and an Android or iPhone app as well. Your notes and expenses are with you everywhere you go.

The beauty of Evernote is that you can upgrade it to automatically index the text in photographs. So, if you buy some printer ink at Walmart with cash, you're not going to have to worry about keeping up with that small register receipt if you need to prove the expense months later. Just take a photo of it with the Evernote camera. It will automatically enter your system in the Expense notebook or other notebook of your choice.


Within a few minutes Evernote will have the text in the image indexed. So, let's say that you need to find proof of that expense later, maybe even for broker reimbursement. You open Evernote in any of your devices and enter "walmart" and the amount or any other text like "printer ink" to pull up the receipt.  Technology makes our business expenses easier to track and locate later.  

We don't make money doing accounting. We make money working with customers and clients. Use today's great technology tools to free up more time to make money instead of accounting for it.