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Here Is What I Learned When I Made the Leap to Property Management Software

Tim Snelgrove, NARPM

Member of Managers (NARPM®)/ Broker

Are you considering moving to a professional property management software system? If so, you have probably seen many discussions on internet sites about what is the “best” software package to use. I am a residential property manager and the broker and owner of a realty company, and I just completed my first year of using a new system. Here is how I came to my decision and how you can find the software that works best for you.  

I chose a system that was adaptable to how I work since I didn’t want to reinvest my time in implementing new processes and disrupt my current operations. This probably cost me more time up front to configure it, but I now know how I can adapt as my business grows and changes.

Implementing my system solo

Since I am a one-person operation, the integration time took longer than most. Larger companies can dedicate resources to bringing this on board faster and can work with the developer to progress through workflow issues and implementation. It took me about eight months to make the final switch for the accounting part until I was comfortable with it, which is longer than I wanted. In the meantime I ran both systems to make sure the numbers were right.

Customer service will be a big part of the start up phase. How does the company offer their support services? Are they included or optional as an addon? By phone or only online? The more and faster they provide assistance the better, in my opinion. Don’t forget to check with your other chapter members on what they use as well. I got some great insight from other users before choosing. You can also request access to the user groups on Facebook to see what users are asking about and the issues they are dealing with.

Thinking ahead

I found that cost can vary depending on the size of your company. Find out if they charge by user or by doors or some other method. The days of a one-and-done payment are long gone. You will most likely being paying a monthly or yearly fee — even QuickBooks and Microsoft do this now. Don’t forget to check on what is actually included and what will be add-ons. Think about how big your company will eventually be for future planning as well. Will the system be capable of growing with you or will you outgrow it and have to migrate to another system down the road and do it all again?

When it comes to choosing whether to have a desktop version or cloud-based system, I actually was given a choice by the company I chose. I was not an early adopter to cloud systems to begin with, as I was not comfortable with the possible security issues, but after looking at the options I went with the cloud-based system. To be able to access your data in the field and make real time changes can be a real time saver. I spend a majority of my time out of the office so being able to make those changes during the day when I am out saves me time at the end of the day. As far as security goes these days, I don’t think anybody is invincible to hacking or intrusions, so I was willing to let them handle that part of the risk. Of course, the downside to this is if you have no internet you have to have a manual backup system to go back to at least temporarily.

Diversity is the best policy

Having an open platform for data access, or API, will be a big plus in future software development. The ability to have integration partners access your data will lead to even more efficiencies in your processes. No one software developer will be the end-all solution for everybody. Using a collection of business expertise across an open platform will lead to faster development and deployment of solutions. There are also new tools coming out that will let novice developers create their own applications that can access and act on their data. In conclusion you will want to get the most out of the program because of your investment, but it will take time. Make a list of your priorities and learn different areas of the program to implement as needed. You don’t need to do it all at once. Capabilities will continue to change and grow, and your software partner should be ready to commit to that. Just like interviewing a prospect tenant or owner ask a lot of questions. As a property manager your gut feeling will probably tell you what is the “best” choice for you.

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