April 14,2010 by Chris Thorman
If it’s been a while since you last rented an apartment or a house, you may be surprised to find that the property management industry is much more tech savvy than you remember.
The rise in number of vendors offering web-based, Software as a Service (SaaS) systems for property management is driving the adoption of new technology by property managers. In addition to major web-based players such as Buildium, AppFolio, PropertyWare, and DIY Real Estate Solutions, an increasing number of other SaaS property management software vendors have recently started to emerge. Property managers are finding that the advantages of the SaaS model help them accomplish their most important goals – retaining tenants and attracting new ones.
Besides a relatively low entry cost, there are five major reasons why web-based software for managing rental properties is gaining traction in the industry. The advantages of the model offered by SaaS property management vendors include:
• Moving tenant services online;
• Offering web site creation and integration;
• Eliminating the need for extensive software training and maintenance;
• Enhancing communication between owners and managers; and,
• Improving record keeping and security.
Let’s examine these reasons in more depth to see why property managers are spending more time than ever online.
Online Tenant Services
A business maxim that is becoming more true every day is that if a company can offer a service online, they should do so. SaaS based property management software fits this maxim well by taking many traditional functions of a property management company and making them available online.
DIY Real Estate Solutions offers an online tenant portal. Think about common interactions between tenants and property managers. Chances are a SaaS based software vendor has come up with a web-based solution:
Paying rent? Head to the company’s web site with your checking account information.
Need to review your lease? Access it online behind a registration page.
Want to view available units? Peruse a online gallery of photos or videos.
Need to communicate en masse to tenants? Send out an e-mail blast.
It’s true that these tenant services can be created without specific property management software. But what a SaaS model does is deliver these services in an integrated suite. A piece-meal approach would involve managing those with different services and it’s possible the information wouldn’t integrate with other programs without some doubling up of data entry.
Few would disagree that the more services a company can offer online, the better. SaaS based property management software gives management companies more online options.
Website Creation and Integration
In the spirit of moving services online, many SaaS property management vendors give companies the option to create online portals where tenants and owners can manage accounts.
Appfolio Property Manager can create Craigslist ads directly. Smaller management companies often lack the resources to build a web site that is also a business tool. By using a SaaS software vendor that offers a tenant/owner portal option, these companies are able to bypass the cost of hiring a web developer. This levels the playing field by lowering the barrier of entry to the online market.
These integrated solutions can also help market vacant properties and units more easily than traditional on-premise software.
Some SaaS software vendors offer integration with listing sites such as Craigslist, where a property manager is only a few clicks away from posting professional looking ads online.
These integrated web site and software suites increase the professionalism and efficiency of a management company, in addition to attracting new tenants and helping smaller companies easily get online.
Fewer Technology Headaches
In the software industry as a whole, one of the most attractive features of SaaS systems is that they’re browser-based, multi-tenant architecture systems. All software updates are pushed out automatically by the software vendor, requiring little to no action by the customer.
This auto-updating, web-based approach is ideal for property managers. Many property management firms have at best a contracted IT worker to solve technical issues and at worst nobody. SaaS vendors are able to remotely fix issues, when they do occur.
Finally, one of the primary characteristics of SaaS property management vendors is that they’ve designed their systems specifically to be easy-to-use and to appeal to those who aren’t especially tech savvy. This results in a faster learning curve for property managers who are not technically proficient.
At the end of the day, a property management company not only has to satisfy their tenants to stay in business but also the property owner. SaaS can help improve communication between owner and manager.
Buildium offers dozens of online reports. Because SaaS property management software is web-based, owners and property managers are given access or e-mailed reports detailing rent rolls, financial standing and virtually any other data they’d like to be able to see. Owners can log in from their home or office and property managers can log in from any property with a web browser.
By quickly addressing problems between ownership and management, an owner is less likely to hear, “You didn’t know we were only half-occupied?” at the end of the month.
Finally, web-based property management software is also accessible through a smartphone’s web browser, adding another layer of mobility to SaaS.
Property managers and owners a like enjoy having this level of access and owners reward management companies who offer it.
Better Record Keeping
Any property owner or manager will tell you that you only need to experience one lawsuit to know that your record keeping must be impeccable. By moving to a SaaS model, companies are able to easily digitize and store complaints, warnings, payment records, maintenance logs and lease agreements through their property management software. This information is important when dealing with evictions or lawsuits.
Data security is also an important consideration with record keeping and SaaS is able to deliver on that. Most web-based property management vendors offer security on par with online banking institutions.
Finally, a SaaS based vendor will likely back up records for a company. This is done automatically because the information isn’t stored locally – it’s in the cloud. Even in the event of a total loss of hardware, a company’s data will be available as if nothing happened.
The Trend Will Continue
The advantages offered by SaaS systems closely mirror the issues that property managers have to solve. Moving services online, integrating data, reducing technical issues, improving record keeping and enhancing communication are all advantages that will continue to motivate companies to adopt SaaS based property management software