Property Management Software – Why you need it, now.
Making an Ex of Excel
You have to feel sorry for the engineers behind Microsoft Excel. Who knows how many months were spent in development hell, incorporating an incredible number of highly sophisticated statistical functions and trying to make the process of data analysis as straightforward as possible.
And what do we all do with it? Pretty much anything we can think of that isn’t data analysis. More often than not, it simply becomes a notebook of tasks or a list of items – in the case of property management - addresses, contact details, rent due days, maintenance issues. At best, they’re organized into columns with convoluted colour coding systems that nobody can remember (and anyway, everybody always seems to use a subtly different shade of purple or green, and a different font size, so the whole list ends up wonky).
Welcome to Spreadsheet hell…
What an absolute nightmare. A headache to read. Difficult to share and collaborate. Difficult to scale or alter. No automation. No validation or data checks. No data security. So much lost potential, where you could be taking data and turning it to your benefit – increasing efficiency, lowering costs, developing deeper relationships, innovating, and generally leveraging information to gain strategic advantage.
Finding the right tool for the job
No, despite its immense potential and power, Excel is ultimately used as a jack-of-all-trades, and master of none.
But it does seem – especially with the advent of phone-based apps – that we’re finally starting to cotton on to the idea that there’s a lot of benefit to be gained from using specialized tools for specialized functions. Accountancy through Quick Books. Team projects through Monday. Human Resources, Customer Relation Management, Corporate Social Responsibility… as the famous fruit-based technology tag line goes: there’s an app for that.
And this is just as true in Property Management as in any other sphere. Indeed, perhaps more-so, given the multidimensional nature of property management; incorporating as it does sales, recruitment, finances, external contractor scheduling and logistics, customer relationship management, human resources – the whole kit and caboodle.
The most important thing here is – the size and scale of your operation should not be relevant in choosing to adopt PMS (though it might have a bearing on which one you choose). Even the largest of operators can make the mistake of ‘evolving’ very simplistic systems as they’ve grown, resulting in them clinging on to piecemeal legacy systems that simply aren’t fit for purpose.
And for smaller operators, they can be intimidated by the choice available, and automatically assume that decent PMS will be prohibitively expensive. But this simply isn’t the case – there’s a Property Management Software choice out there for everyone; big or small, commercial, student housing, community association, or mixed portfolio property managers – even storage facilities! (see our tips at the end of this article for a great comparison resource).
So what benefits can a Property Management Software tool bring you, and with dozens of different platforms to choose, what you should be looking for?
You’ve got emails, you’ve got Whatsapp – what more do you need communication-wise? So much more. We all know how messy inboxes become, how messages get lost back in the threads of a conversation. Good PMS allows you to group your messages by client thread, by subject matter, or even allows you to assign priorities and then remind you about them.
Furthermore, by keeping it within a dedicated communication hub, the client themselves can also access things they need (such as property contracts) without needing to make a special request. Attachments and documents are right there, organized in one place. Everything is grouped together so there is high visibility, accountability and an easy way of verifying and checking information.
In an increasingly competitive market, your reputation and customer service are of the highest importance. Renters are increasingly savvy; efforts at differentiation - be that the ‘bean bag room with pool table’ or ‘discount card for coffee’ are often valuable, but frequently just seen as gimmicky. What renters truly want is reliability, security and a surety that their fundamental housing needs will be met. Open, timely and reliable communication is the first step in ensuring this.
The majority of PMS now keeps all data in the cloud, so that it can be accessed from anywhere, by anyone (anyone who has permitted access). This grants you the flexibility to be on the move and not tied to the office (a factor more important than ever at moment). But it also allows you to coordinate and collaborate with your staff more effectively.
Look out particularly for software that populates a calendar for you – either within the software or linking with a third party calendar app. This can automatically slot in meetings, viewings, payments and anything else relevant to you, allowing you to delegate tasks and roles effectively, and to always be calm, composed and on-time.
Automation - for efficacy and efficiency
Tracking rent payments, following up on repair status, sending out blanket emails – these are time consuming tasks that are easily mishandled or overlooked when you’re in a rush. Automating these processes – and the record keeping that supports them – is vital for managing your time efficiently, and being more effective and accurate in your management activities.
Compliance management is also a key benefit. Making mistakes in this area isn’t just going to cost you a bit of extra time and frustration; failure to complete these elements correctly could easily spell the end of your business. Using dedicated software hugely reduces your risk here.
Faster and fewer mistakes – that’s not really a hard ‘strategic’ decision to take, is it?
If you report to someone else – or really even if you just want to have a true, meaningful picture of your own business – then the reporting functions facilitated by PMS are invaluable. They don’t just give an organized breakdown of your business that communicates professionalism and is easily digested by stakeholders (giving clients and investors a tangible feel of the added value your services bring), but they actually have the ability to give you real insight into the trends that are affecting your management practices.
For instance, are maintenance requests or complaints popping up more frequently at a certain time of year? Do they correlate with factors that you could use to predict and prevent them? This kind of knowledge gives you enhanced control and the ability to make strategic decisions which improve your bottom-line performance.
Top Tips for Choosing Software
The case for Property Management Software is clear. But how to choose?
· Decide on your priorities and needs – and don’t get distracted by gimmicky features that sound good but won’t get used.
· Consider usability and interface as much as functionality; it’s no good having it if nobody will use it because it’s clunky or complex.
· Consider your size – not just in terms of budget, but in terms of whether the software is geared towards huge organisations managing twelve major flat blocks, commercial property managers, or an individual managing a diversified portfolio with just a few clients.
· Be mindful of security – especially with PMS that facilitates cloud access.
· The majority of PMS remains computer based, but apps are frequently being developed. How important is app access for both you, and the tenants you have who will also be using the system?
· https://www.softwareadvice.com/uk/property/ breaks down 175 different pieces of PMS – giving a run-down of features, an indication of the platforms they run on, whether they’re cloud based, what price bracket they fall into, and what size of operation they’re suitable for. They also contain independent user reviews. A great tool to help you in your hunt.
Jackson Sims Recruitment is a property recruitment company operating in the UK and APAC region. Should you be a candidate or client working in property management we have a multitude of recruitment services they can be tailored to you. Please visit www.JacksonSimsRecruitment.com for more information.
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