Property Management for Landlords with Office 365
Congratulation. You’re now a landlord, you've managed to bring together sufficient resources to buy an investment property. If you're doing really well, you have more than one investment property.
Now you have to manage them and looking at the fees charged by the management companies you're not so keen on the overhead cost. Similarly, you may have looked at some software products for property management, but if you went down that road you still have to buy the software, learn to use it and that all seems to be quite a bit of trouble.
So, here’s a way to stay on top of things, make sure you never miss a deadline or forget an essential and, what’s more, do it on low cost.
Oh, sure. You’ve heard that before haven’t you?
Okay then, let's look at what you need to do. Property, like any asset, needs maintenance, and then there’s stuff like gas certificates, electrical certificates, PAT tests, insurance, scheduled decorating, insulation checks… Oh the list is endless.
Obviously, you’re not going to do all that yourself, you’ll need to employ people, and then you’ll need to keep tabs on who to use, how much they charge, what you have outstanding with them, what you owe them… OMG.
And there’s the tenants. You’ll need to list what proof of identity they’ve provided, their rent payments, their complaints, your complaints against them, what improvement notices you’ve served them, what progress they’ve made on improvements, forwarding addresses… Suddenly you’re thinking that being a landlord is no great thing.
Now take a couple of deep breaths and prepare to discover a way to keep tabs on all of this without breaking a sweat, and without spending a fortune.
The great thing about this is that all of the stuff going on with a property is printed on paper or documented by email, so all you’ll need to do is stay on top of the documentation, file it all away carefully and retrieve it when you need it.
Okay, good start.
Let’s see, if you file every document in a folder for the property it refers to, everything will be in that folder when you need it, right?
That’s good if you’re dealing with just a single place, but what happens if you have a tenant who moves from one of your properties to another. Now you have a tenant history that spans two folders. Hmmm. What happens if you have an electrician who works on two, three or five of your properties. Now you have contractor records that span several of your folders. Oh hum, things are getting a little tricky.
Let’s think again.
Suppose that instead of sorting papers and filling filing cabinets, you buy a scanner for your computer. Let’s further suppose that you scan every document, letter, reminder and invoice and store them as PDF documents. No major science needed here, anyone could do this part. Once scanned, you can index the scanned PDFs into an electronic document management system (EDMS) and add some basic metadata.
Okay, this part needs some brain. You need to register the document to a property, and register the document to a tenant and in the event that it’s an invoice or estimate, register the document to a contractor. So, in the metadata for every document indexed you set key flags for property, tenant and contractor.
Sounds complex? Not really. If you keep records of properties, tenants and contractors as lists, you can select from the list that which applies to each document. Once the document is indexed, the EDMS library can then be filtered and sorted to show you summaries of what work each property has had, what rent each property has earned, who each tenant is and the complete tenant and contractor histories.
Now comes the clever part. When you store and index a document that requires a repeat action after a given period of time, like a PAT test certificate, you can automatically set an event to trigger for the next due date. The event will then cause an email to go to yourself or whoever you designate as the responsible person for ensuring the next PAT test is done on time. Scheduled maintenance, like painting and decorating can be set to start a work-flow so that quotations, start of work and completion dates are all met.
Then comes the best part yet. All of this can be stored in the cloud. This means you can get to it wherever you are and on whatever device to chose to view it on. At a tenants address, in your car, in the pub, in the bath, it doesn’t matter. You can access the data by PC, laptop, tablet or smart phone and take the required action without wrecking your day.
The tool to use – Microsoft Office 365.
The cost – as little as £4 per month.
So, why aren’t you doing it now?
Further free advice can be found at http://www.ffox-software.com.
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Chris has a lifetime experience of IT and commerce.
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