I started my business on a shoestring. Looking back on the equipment I started with, compared with what I'm using now, I can see just how important it is to have the right equipment. A couple of days ago I had to fax back 25 documents for a closing assignment. It was almost a pleasure. When I first started, I would have been cursing. So I'll start with that.
Fax machine: Brother Intellifax 2820. Laser. There are more expensive fax machines with a lot more features, but this one does everything I need it to do. And it does it well. If there aren't enough copies of the Right to Cancel, instead of going back into the file to print them out, I can make copies with the fax machine. It holds letter and legal size paper. It also serves as a printer.
Printer: You could probably do without one, if all of the jobs you did entailed having the documents overnighted to you or the borrower. But not for long. At some point you will have to do e-docs. And they have to be laser. I use the HP 1320t. Again, there are higher priced printers, but this is really all the printer I need to get the job done. It has 2 trays for printing on letter and legal size paper. It's simple to operate and maintain. And it has sufficient memory for handling any printing job you'll encounter.
Computer: No need for a home theater. Just one that has sufficient speed and memory, and can run the latest software, including all of the document printing utilities. I'm still using Windows XP Pro.
High speed internet connection: You could probably get by with dial-up. But not for long, if you're doing e-docs. The files are just too large.
Software: Most of the printing utilities are available for download at the time you receive the documents. You will also want to have software for maintaining your system (i.e. virus protection, routine system maintenance, etc.). For a long time I used Excel for accounting. I have QuickBooks now, but still use Excel for some tasks.
Cell phone: A matter of personal preference. I don't need a phone for listening to music or watching movies. I just want a good phone that will make and receive phone calls. And one that has a speaker. It comes in handy when you're in a closing and the borrower has a question. You can call the company, set the phone on the table, and everyone can hear what is being said.
Office supplies: Paper, toner cartridges, folders, envelopes, binder clips, shipping supplies, etc. Toner refill supplies, if you decide to refill your toner cartridges. I buy paper by the case at Sam's Club. I usually stock at least 2 cases of legal and letter size paper at all times.
Shredder: No explanation needed.
Notary supplies: Notary seal, journal, loose certificates, ink, etc. It's not a bad idea to have a backup seal. I have an ink stamp and embosser. I'm considering getting a pocket stamp.
A briefcase or bag to carry all of these items. It would be nice if we could store all of these things in drawers and file cabinets. But we're road warriors, so we have to carry it all.
All-in-one printer, scanner, fax, copier: There isn't much that needs to be said about the versatility of this machine. I have a basic machine: the HP Officejet 5610. It comes in handy for scanning a document and convert it to PDF. I have also taken it to closings to make photocopies of IDs for the borrower.
e-fax: A good service to have for receiving confirmations, revised documents. etc. I currently use K-7, although I intend to upgrade sometime in the near future.
Digital camera: This comes in handy for those times when the borrower doesn't have a photocopy of their ID.
PDA: Palm, Blackberry, etc. It's a matter of preference. It's a good tool for staying organized, and enables you to be more productive. I use a Palm T|X. The built in Wi-Fi is useful for sending and receiving email, getting driving directions with MapQuest, etc. I can also transport Word and Excel documents to it. It has a lot of other nice features. And if I did want to watch movies or listen to music, I could do it with my Palm.
Voice recorder: Preferably digital. We work with enough paper. So a lot of times I will take notes with a voice recorder.
Laptop computer: Most people own a laptop already. Having a mobile office is beyond the scope of this post. I'll talk more about that later.
2nd laser printer: It's good to have a backup. It can also be used if you decide to have a mobile office.
Portable table: I have been in several situations in which a portable table came in handy. I'm scheduled to do a reverse mortgage closing in the near future. I already know that the borrower doesn't have a table, so I'll bring a portable table. It's also useful when you do signings for borrowers who are bedridden. It has many uses in the office too.
Spotlight (halogen): Preferably one with 2 lamps. This device has been a life saver. I use it for seeing street signs, house numbers, etc. If you travel in rural areas a lot at night, it's a must. There are places here in Colorado where the only lights you have are the stars.
There are a lot of other things such as charging devices for cell phones and PDA, cleaning equipment, etc. I recently bought a Dirt Devil portable vacuum for cleaning my computer equipment and printers.
One last piece of equipment that you will certainly want to have: a car.