By Risha Gotlieb
The evolution of today's property management software enables property managers to achieve a level of automation they've never been able to before.
"It's a real eye opener for those who've been using systems that are a decade old," says Peter Altobelli, vice president of Canadian operations for Yardi, a leading provider of high-performance software solutions for the real estate industry. "They quickly realize how manual and antiquated they are."
It's now possible for non-techies to achieve a totally automated business environment — from generating invoices and collecting rent electronically, to sending out notifications and producing monthly financial statements. That's because today's automated software tools allow property managers to do more with less. This can enable managers to add properties to their portfolios without hiring additional staff, Atobelli says.
Using an automated software program has helped, Catherine Moran, CFO for Toronto-based Greenwin Inc., a full-service real estate firm that manages 300 buildings with almost 20,000 units. This improved service and provided significant savings, she says.
By using Yardi, Moran says she eliminated the need to create purchase orders at various office sites around Toronto and then personally deliver those orders to the head office. Now, she opts for the automated electronic version. Once the invoices are received they are matched against an electronic purchase order. That saves a lot of employee time and money, Moran says instead of manually transferring orders back and forth.
Implementing business automation tools helps property managers access real-time information, which is especially important when managing several properties. "Our managers are now able to analyze more quickly the issues that need attention whether it means finding new avenues to advertise vacancies to making improvements in how we collect rent," Moran says.
In fact, many property management software systems now integrate cloud computing with mobile technology. For example, tenants can download easy-to-use apps onto their mobile device, Atobelli says. The tenant can then log in, pay their rent, communicate with a property manager, and even make repair requests, such as reporting a leaky faucet. This request then automatically generates a work order that can alert the maintenance staff and/or property manager to repair the faucet, Atobelli says. When the work is completed the accounting department can then be notified.
For Moran, implementing these features will make life a lot easier. "Being able to operate online and have a tenant portal is the next evolution for our firm," Moran says. Doing so will eliminate a couple of data entry employees by adding additional software and adding online lease applications to their website that will be automatically inputted into a tenant file. "It will increase efficiency in our daily workflow by enabling us to do everything from handling tenant applications to pulling up information from multiple locations," Moran says.
With the influx of more and more property management software, even small landlords who do their own management can now afford these robust tools, enabling them to operate at a more professional level. Some inexpensive programs are delivering services on an a la carte basis. Others start as little as $10 a month and have tenant portals, do credit checks, perform basic accounting tasks and create a website to feature their properties, says Leonard Drimmer, CEO of Property Vista, a Toronto cloud-based property management software program designed for landlords in the residential market.
"It's a real time saver," says Brook Hamilton, who manages a triplex in The Beach neighbourhood of Toronto and previously did everything manually before switching to Property Vista software in summer 2012. "It allows me to have everything organized in one space and I'm now able to do things like credit checks which I had no idea how to do."
Whether you manage three tenants in a triplex, 300 tenants in an apartment building or 3,000 tenants in a real estate investment portfolio spread out across the country, Altobelli advises property managers to call their local landlord association to get some suggestions. "Always select software based on your needs and who else is using it," Altobelli says. "Think through what you need the software to do."