Like the rest of the world, the property sector is being swept along by a rapidly changing digital landscape. As property managers become more tech savvy, there’s a growing demand for the next new thing and a willingness to adopt new technology, particularly landlord software.
Property management software in 2018
The above results are indicative of changing times…
For many years, if a property manager wanted to use software to make their business more streamlined they would have to either develop it themselves or hire external consultants to make a bespoke package at significant cost.
More recently, cloud technology has made some of the most functionally rich property management software widely and cheaply available. Many companies use more than one type of cloud service, according to a survey by Frost & Sullivan, 80% of US companies are planning to increase their use of cloud managed services. Cloud computing is flexible and allows team members to access and share files from anywhere in the world via different devices.
Cutting expenses whilst keeping a high level of service is essential for any landlord; technology offers a way to scale operations and reduce costs. There are several property management software options on the market, ranging from desktop to apps, but all share the common aim of making management easier. For example, it can be used to handle tenant rent which can be complicated, particularly in the social housing sector. Universal credit delays may mean that tenants are essentially always in arrears. Property management software has the flexibility to ensure that a tenant is sticking to an agreed repayment schedule, even if that schedule differs to the one stated in the contract. Furthermore, the tenant can check how much they owe, be automatically notified of late rents and keep abreast of upcoming payments.
Maintenance issues and check-ins/outs can also be managed efficiently. Efficient workflow management is essential when dealing with multiple issues at the same time. When an issue is raised, there needs to be a process in place to monitor progress and to keep all those involved updated. Delays and miscommunication lead to time wasting and hassle for both the tenant and the contractor, and usually unnecessary costs for the property manager. The solution is to use software via an app or desktop that allows you to host all the communication related to the job in one easily accessible place, even images and videos can be shared, and clear audit trails created. All parties can then track the issue and be kept up to date in real time.
Guide to property management software
Rental property management software has helped thousands of letting agents and other property managers streamline their operations, saving time and money. But like all online tools, they take time to get used to. Taking the time to set things up properly and familiarise yourself with the many tools and features will pay huge dividends.
7 tips on how to make the most of property management software
1. Take time importing your data
Whether you manage a few properties, or a few hundred properties you’ll have a lot of information that needs to be readily available; tenant details, property details, rent amounts and frequencies, scheduled gas safety checks, cleaning fees, the list goes on. Before uploading all that information to the system, it’s best to arrange it in a format that’s easy for the software to understand. Most good property software will come with spreadsheet templates you can use to organise your data, some may even get one of their advisers to do the hard work for you!
2. Account mapping
Property management software can also integrate with online accounting tools like Xero and Quickbooks, allowing seamless updates. For example, as rent is received by your bank account, both the accounting software and property management software will recognise that rent has been paid and map the payment to revenue in your income statement. Deposits, expenses, tax etc. can be set up in a similar way; the systems can effectively prepare your accounts for you in real-time. But of course, this will only work if transactions in the management software are mapped to the right accounts in the accounting software. It’s always worth taking the time to make sure the mapping is correct from the outset. Some software providers can recommend accredited accountants to help you set this up.
One of the most useful tools of property management software is automation. It may seem obvious but setting up reminders for gas safety and EPC checks will give you peace of mind. If you’re managing even a small portfolio it can be easy to miss a deadline. Some products allow you to send automated and personalised email reminders to tenants, reminding them, for example, of when the bins are collected or when the cleaner will next be visiting, or send a rent due reminder if rent is late by a specified number of days. All these small things can add up and take time, setting up reminders will alleviate much of the burden.
Some software providers will give you the option to set up bespoke reports, statements and even apps. Some properties in your portfolio may be earning more than others, some may have long void periods. Reports take the data you choose from the system and present it in an easily understandable way to help you keep track of your business and identify areas of concern. If you’re a letting agent you may only want to share limited information in the property owner statement, and still different information in the tenant statement, good management software will give you that flexibility.
5. Invite all user groups (and encourage them to use the software!)
Some providers offer bespoke apps, such as an app for your tenant, which the tenants can download from the app store or Google Play store by simply searching your company’s name. Apps for other stakeholders, such as contractors, are also available. Tenants can use these apps to upload documents and communicate with you, avoiding the need for a paper trail and keeping good records.
6. Avoid using software or storing data outside the platform
When you start using property management software, avoid using any existing management tools, including spreadsheets. This will reduce the risk of duplication and ensure you’re making the most of the platform. A good, fully integrated platform should take care of all your needs. Tenants, property owners and contractors will be able to freely communicate and share documents with the property manager via the platform, creating clear audit trails and safe cloud storage. This also means that all stakeholders and all records are kept up to date seamlessly.
7. Use products and features available on the platform
Property management software will not only help you manage your portfolio but will also offer useful add-on services within the platform, such as digital signatures for easily signing contracts online, tenant references, digital inventories and insurance. Some will even integrate with online accounting software like Xero and QuickBooks (mentioned above) or even Zoopla, RightMove and Sturents so you can easily list vacant units and manage viewings. Any interactions you have with these add-on services or integrations will be reflected in every part of the platform, keeping everything and everyone up to date and informed.
Thinking of using a property management software?
If you’d like to know more about how you can use property management software, we are always at hand to answer your questions. Contact us to set up a free consultation — our advisers are here to help. No restrictions, no set up costs, no credit card required.