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This article was published on: 03/01/2005

TECH WATCH

Landlord tools
Small-Scale Property Management

A new, affordable software option can simplify your approach to tracking rentals.

BY MIKE ANTONIAK

If managing property represents a significant part of your business and an important source of revenue, it’s likely you’ve discovered how a computer and highly specialized software can help organize and monitor all the information and financial details involved in rental activity.

Sophisticated property management solutions—such as Yardi System Inc.’s Residential Property Management, W.G. Software Inc.’s Tenant File, Intuit’s MRI Residential, and a host of others—provide property managers the diverse tools required to effectively manage multiple rental units.

But these solutions won’t fit your needs if you handle the occasional rental as a service or courtesy, own a couple of investment properties, or advise clients on how they can more effectively manage rental of that second home or vacation condo.

In the past, real estate professionals or property owners with limited property-management needs might have used software such as Microsoft’s Excel spreadsheet program or financial management programs, such as Intuit’s Quicken or QuickBooks, or Microsoft Money. But when rentals aren’t a primary responsibility, it’s not always easy to justify the expense or sophistication of a full-scale property management suite. Intuit has now filled this gap.

Its Quicken Rental Property Manager, launched earlier this year, offers a simplified and relatively inexpensive alternative to full-scale property management solutions. This program for Windows PCs—which offers a bare-bones approach to property management for tracking the income, expenses, and all the tax-related activity—is the first of its kind to meet the needs of small-scale property management at an affordable price. (The software is available in CD-ROM or via an online download for $99.99.)

“It’s designed for those who handle from one to 10 properties, but it can support as many as 50 rental units,” says Andrew Reback, Intuit group product manager for Quicken Rental Property Manager.

An Appropriate Solution

The program’s user interface will be familiar to those who already use the company’s financial-management programs. Set-up is a two-step process in which you enter the property name and location, then select the type of unit. The software automatically creates income and expense ledgers for each rental and memorizes repeat activity for simplified data entry when recording subsequent transactions.

For instance, once you enter a vendor’s name, the program automatically fills in company information in the expense ledger for subsequent entries throughout the year; it recognizes the first few letters of that vendor’s name. If an ongoing expense involves travel, such as repeat visits to the property or some other location, the software automatically enters the mileage after that first trip. Another time-saving feature is the ability to upload information automatically to the Schedule E filing form within the TurboTax tax-preparation software.

Reback says the program’s “drill-down” report functions can be another potential benefit. With this feature, you can track the performance of rentals collectively or selectively over time, or summon a detailed breakdown on cash flow, income, and expenses with a few clicks of the mouse. You also can share the reports by e-mail or export them to Excel.

It’s those kinds of details—gleaned instantly from a well-organized database of information on rentals—that make a this property management software solution a good investment if you handle only a few units.


Suggest a Topic

Do you have technology you’d like to learn more about or a new user twist that you’d like to share with your peers? Let me know about it by e-mailing antoniak@dtccom.net, and I’ll do my best to give it the coverage it deserves.


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Mike Antoniak is a freelance journalist who writes frequently on technology.

He can be reached at antoniak@dtccom.net

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