The explosion of software apps has made property management infinitely more efficient, accurate, profitable and even enjoyable. Many of the headaches and hassles traditionally burdening property management professionals have been solved in the cubicles and break rooms of today’s industry-leading software companies.
While these companies have produced an array of key solutions, choosing them ad hoc will only result in a hodge-podge of software that doesn’t work smoothly together. You’ll find yourself jumping from program to program, frequently re-entering information you’ve already entered elsewhere and working within several different user interfaces. It generally pays to source your software from a company that covers all the bases with solutions that share information and work seamlessly together.
With this in mind, let’s run through the following checklist regarding the major areas of managing single-family properties. Look for:
- Screening and leasing
- Interaction with owners and tenants
- Inspections and maintenance
Today over 70 percent of rental property searches happen online. You simply can’t compete as a property manager without a strategy for marketing your properties on the Internet.
You must start with a first-class website – one that employs best practices proven to convert visitors to warm leads. Internet marketing has existed long enough that expert website designers know exactly what captures and holds people’s attention – and then gets them to take action.
Look for software that lets you easily create new listings, complete with photos, descriptions, pricing and availability. It should provide an easy means of posting your listings to your website, as well as to other sites and listing services you use to advertise your properties.
Once you have the website, you must ensure visitors can find it in the chaos of companies competing for the same space on the Internet. You need an organized program of search engine optimization (SEO), search engine marketing (SEM) and social media to be effective. Many property managers outsource these complicated activities to digital marketing experts.
Finally, you need a lead tracking system that lets you systematically track every prospect from lead to lease, capturing their information and scheduling property visits. If no one on your team has the tools to follow up with good leads, those prospects fall through the cracks and equate to wasted time and money. Your marketing software should also let you determine which advertising sources deliver the best bang for your buck by associating leads and leases with the sources generating them.
Screening and leasing
Between deciding to rent at one of your properties and signing their leases, prospects should have a streamlined system moving them through the process. These days, nearly everything can take place online, virtually eliminating the drudgery and inefficiency of paper moving back and forth.
Today’s online screening systems tap into huge databases of criminal and financial information to protect you from “bad” tenants, and they also help protect you from Fair Housing trouble since you set objective standards for acceptance.
However, not all screening systems are created equal. For example, Propertyware’s screening and leasing solution is the only one that taps into 20 million renter payment histories – the most accurate indicator of whether someone will reliably pay their rent.
If you’re not already, you should also enable applicants to fill out their applications and sign their leases online and at their own convenience. For good reason, the days of faxing, mailing or driving papers back and forth have waned. An online leasing solution allows everything to happen over the Internet, right through to a final e-signature, easing the burden on renters and saving your people hours of data entry.
Interaction with owners and tenants
Many problems in our business result from misunderstandings. Rather than getting in touch only when something goes wrong, property managers should generally keep lines of communication open with tenants and owners at all times.
Tenant portals and owner portals not only foster better communication, they also centralize it in one location and track conversations, giving you a reliable record of what transpired in every exchange. Owners can keep an eye on their properties, and tenants can find the information they need 24 hours a day without calls to the office burdening your staff.
In addition to improving communication, Propertyware’s tenant portal also enables online payments via credit card, ACH and other means, saving renters the trouble of mailing or dropping off checks.
Inspections and maintenance
Today, you can carry out inspections using your cell phone or iPad, and the information goes right into your software system, alleviating the need to return to the office and enter the information. You can even use the built-in cameras on your devices to attach photo documentation to your inspection reports. Users of mobile inspection software have reported reducing the time spent on inspections by up to 85 percent.
When it comes to maintenance, the old confusion of mailing, faxing, or scanning paper orders and invoices has been replaced by a streamlined online system that routes documents to those who need them and stores everything for instant access. From initial service requests to paying vendors upon job completion, you no longer have to slow your people down with constant paper shuffling.
Remarkably, many property managers still use off-the-shelf accounting solutions not specifically designed for property management. This software rarely integrates with their other software and inevitably results in accounting-related functions that take longer and contain more errors.
Your property management accounting software should act as part of a seamlessly integrated system that enables you to share data since your accounting functions touch most others. The software should handle accounts payable and receivable, naturally, but also bank reconciliations, budgeting and reporting.
Though only covering the basics, this list still serves as a glimpse into the property management functions transformed by the newest software. If you still do business the old-fashioned way in any of these areas, you’ll be amazed by the results of systems custom-designed for our industry.