2015 Property Management: System Evaluation

You’ll want to make sure whatever product you choose can perform these functions.

April 29, 2015

Property management systems are a highly specialized class of software or cloud services. Each system is actually a series of tools marketed as either an integrated suite for a set price or a series of options individually priced, which can be combined into a cohesive whole. The cost may also be based on the number of tools each system has, and some require an additional setup fee.

When you invest in any system, you entrust your management services to that product and vendor. Therefore, take time to identify what aspects of your business require a system to manage them more effectively, and then evaluate options against those requirements. Take these into consideration:

  1. Type of rentals: You may decide to manage all rentals in general or specialize in residential, commercial, or vacation units. Within these broad categories, property can be further defined in such categories as single or multi-family dwellings in the residential market, office and retail in the commercial market. While some vendors promote their solutions for all types of property, others are targeted with specific management features. Vacation rental packages usually include an online reservation component, for example. Decide how specialized you need the software to be, and what specific, specialized needs you have.
  2. Site license or cloud service: Some want the security of software that is installed on and runs on your computer hardware in your office, while others want the convenience of cloud services, always available online from anywhere. Only a few vendors offer and support both options.
  3. Scalability: If your goal is to significantly grow your property management business, you want a system to support that growth — one that easily accommodates more properties and more users.
  4. Ease of use: The user interface is key to realizing the full benefits of a property management system. You and others should be able to easily and intuitively learn and run the components of the system.
  5. Web portals: The latest property management systems support online portals for landlords and tenants, which is a real convenience. They can log in to retrieve documents, apply for a rental or review a lease, and place maintenance requests or check on their status, all without contacting the manager.
  6. Accounting and reports: Effective property management requires tracking the money as it flows from tenant to landlords to vendors, who provide repairs, for example. The more investors or owners with a stake in a property, the more sophisticated the software’s accounting features should be for making complex calculations and disbursements. Report functions turn those numbers and data into valuable insights for you and owners.
  7. Automation: The ability to automate some processes and schedule alerts for regular events, such as a lease renewal or notification of a late payment, help ensure no detail gets overlooked.
  8. Marketing: A marketing module which syndicates vacancies across the Web is a time-saver that can also help improve occupancy rates.
  9. Paperless archives: The ability to store leases, contracts, inspections, work orders, and correspondence in a secure repository online makes it easier for all users to retrieve whatever information they need.
  10. Security: Security concerns cover several areas in property management. Some solutions have tenant-screening checks built in. It’s critical that all data and records are regularly stored on redundant backups. Finally, the system administrator needs control over what information is available to which authorized users.