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10 Systems Property Managers Can Use Improve Their Record Keeping

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Strong records are important, especially in the real estate business. Here are some approaches managers can use to improve how vital information is safely stored.

Forbes - Real Estate

Property management relies heavily on the proper maintenance of records. Because of this, property managers need to be experts at administrative tasks. By creating a workflow that enables them to keep records meticulously, they build a valuable resource that they can use when they need to find or reference important information.

However, the more properties a manager has to deal with, the more convoluted the records can become. And while limiting complexity would be ideal, the only way a professional property manager can truly streamline the process is by embracing practices that can help them simplify how data is recorded, as well as referenced later on.

To find out about what kinds of approaches work, members of Forbes Real Estate Council, below, share their insights into some of the best systems that property managers can use to create order out of chaos. Here is what they advise:

1. Get An Expandable Software Package

In the event of a sale, your seller will need to produce records for the property. If these records are a hodgepodge of who knows what, you stand a chance of losing the deal. Buyers are very sensitive to a lot. Give them comfort by having organized and understandable reports. If you can incorporate photos of repairs performed and closed in, this will be helpful. The software will help a great deal. - Michael J. Polk, Polk Properties / Matrix Properties

2. Invest In Cloud-Based Storage

Invest in a cloud-based software system that will maintain records for text messages, phone calls and emails between you, the property owners and the tenants. Hire a bookkeeper to ensure you are properly reconciled each month and keep your escrow funds in a separate banking account. - Tanya Delahoz, Dwell Summit

3. Use Off-The-Shelf Software

We favor using off-the-shelf industry software. The primary reason is for compliance. A software package designed for real estate and real estate management will come with all the features and then some already built-in. Additionally, the software vendor will provide updates and patches to address any potential security/privacy issues as they arise. - Blake Plumley, Capital Pursuits LLC

4. Maintain Separate Files

Have a system in place that tracks rents collected, all executed lease documents and correspondence with your tenants. Maintain separate files either electronically (always ensure backup) or with a secure file cabinet. Keep records for at least four years on all tenants and landlords. Dropbox or Slack are both great systems that allow you to share with team members. - Nancy Wallace- Laabs, KBN Homes, LLC

5. Encrypt Tenants' Information

Property managers handle personally identifiable information on tenants. Maintaining proper records is not only important but also your legal duty as a property manager. High-profile data breaches have been increasingly prevalent. Before adopting a new property management software or consulting with a real estate attorney, make sure you have a robust system that encrypts and stores tenant info. - Chuck Hattemer, Onerent

6. Ensure Proper Security Against Hackers

For medium to large properties, such as apartment or condo complexes, having a good network security system that is set up and managed by professionals is key. Technology is constantly changing, and having professionals that can keep your records updated and secure so that they meet all regulations is crucial. - Bill Lyons, Griffin Funding

7. Do Not Commingle

When a property manager is managing properties for more than one owner, you must have separate banking accounts for each separate owner's properties. Do not put your own personal manager's funds into the escrow account of your clients. Even multiple bank accounts for that one owner who has more than one property is a good idea. Have your accounts audited by an outside third party annually. - Rita Santamaria, Champions School of Real Estate

8. Document Everything

Implement a record-retention policy to provide guidelines for record maintenance and document everything. The importance of the document will usually correspond to the length of time to retain: correspondence can be kept for three years, and expired contracts and leases for seven years, while licenses and permits, external audits and property appraisals are kept indefinitely. - Ari Rastegar, Rastegar Property

9. Hire A Transaction Coordinator

Let's face it—most successful people in real estate/property management hate keeping records and documenting activities. Make it as easy as possible. Keep everything organized with an online filing system. Hire a transaction coordinator who can help at a very reasonable rate ($300-$500 per transaction). - Aaron Marshall, Keyrenter Property Management

10. Don't Underestimate Old-School Tactics

Use a communication log that is located in front of every resident file. It's a simple piece of paper that documents all verbal communications pertaining to residency. Some property management companies are nearly paperless in that regard. And even though cloud storage has its place, there are numerous situations where it pays to maintain an actual hard copy kept under lock and key. - Caroline Kane, CKR Property Management, LLC


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