It’s a remote-access world now, with everyone making the leap to digital services together. Truth be told, the real estate industry has been heading this way for some time now—the COVID-19 pandemic just sped up the timetable. Before the virus, the incentive to digitize operations stemmed from a desire for convenience and efficiency. Instead of relying on mountains of paperwork (which needs to be sorted, filed, and secured), it made sense to implement modern software and hardware solutions to manage properties.
All of that still holds true, in addition to advantages that have become much more apparent in our current circumstances. With such a strong emphasis placed on safety, social distancing, and limiting or tracking interactions, it’s become exceedingly cumbersome to manage real estate without some kind of a digital solution. Using the right management software or app, however, opens up possibilities not only for increased efficiency, but also improved quality of life for everyone involved.
For example, most property management apps give you access to things like:
- tenant/client record and relationship management;
- ease of tracking and resolving maintenance requests;
- digital records of leases, rental agreements, etc.;
- package tracking;
- booking systems for facilities and amenities;
- consolidated communication channels for various properties;
- companion apps for tenants to allow ease of access.
Stepping into the digital sphere
Fifteen or so years ago, any sort of digitization effort involved either acquiring custom software written specifically for a business’ needs or adapting a generic solution for use.
Nowadays, thanks to the explosion of cloud-based applications and software as a service (SaaS) products, there’s an application for virtually every aspect of management. The only question is which application best matches your needs.
Getting set up is generally straightforward, as most solutions are cloud-based. Internet access is usually all that you’d need to get things going.
Although there’s a whole spectrum of solutions available, everyone’s requirements are different–that being the case, a conventional ranking of apps has limited use. Instead, here are three important considerations to bear in mind while narrowing down the best options for you.
Right off the cuff: the size of your property portfolio is probably the most important criteria to base your search on. While generic solutions exist for all sizes, you might be better off with a more tightly-designed piece of software intended to work with a defined range of units. The subscription costs for the cloud-based services can vary greatly, so it pays to carefully consider what your needs are.
For example, a US-based company, Avail is “an intuitive property management app that helps you advertise vacant units, request rental applications and credit reports, sign leases and collect rent” designed specifically for landlords with less than 10 units to manage. Conversely, an app like Buildium is designed for property managers working with large portfolios, and clients that include landlords and tenants. The difference in pricing between the two could be anywhere between $40-$440, depending on the subscription package chosen.
2. Modular capability
Businesses and companies which already have digital solutions in place for certain aspects of their business needn’t transition everything over to a new system at once. Depending on the size of operations, migration and deployment on a large scale could take a substantial amount of time and money to implement correctly.
In those cases, it may be worth considering apps which are modular by design, allowing customers to acquire components as they’re needed. In that way, you’re only ever paying for services or functionality that you’re actively using. In the long run, acquiring full functionality piece-meal might cost quite a bit, but the upside is that many apps with modular pricing also tend to have an all-inclusive rate as well.
3. Security and data protection
Needless to say, moving operations entirely online does require careful management of sensitive and personal information. The benefits of digitizing and automating paperwork-dependent processes and information can quickly be negated if data is mismanaged or poorly protected. Any app you select should have robust protections in place and use the highest encryption possible.
How this fits into the COVID-19 landscape
As mentioned before, there were already plenty of good reasons to consider the switch to an online property management system. As it currently stands, the additional requirements for cleaning, social distancing, and facility management will likely see use long after government restrictions are lifted. For example, having systems to remove dependency on physical interaction with staff means important functions such as granting access to units, or signing leases and rental agreements can all be handled remotely. Moreover, systems that have integration with smart technology can provide property managers with access to advanced analytics and sophisticated tracking, so they can easily manage things like cleaning schedules or monitoring traffic in and out of premises.
At the end of the day, there are myriad reasons you should consider moving some of your operations to a property management app. Chosen carefully, the benefits far outweigh what you’d be paying in subscription fees.
Freelance writer and communications professional at the University of Toronto. He’s an avid cinephile, voracious reader, and a terror at karaoke bars.