Property Management Revolution

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

SIMS for Property Managers

I'm a control freak.

I loved playing SIM City 2000 when it first came out. I think some of my grades in college suffered because of my addiction to the game for a certain period of time. Now that I'm in property management, I can see all the benefits of having certain controls in place that can guide the decisions of the people who really drive the world...residents. If only I could have the cheat codes that would allow me to turn off all natural disasters, and every once in a while, I may want a directed alien attack on a certain part of my community.

I digress, but my point is that the controls offered by that ridiculous, time consuming game would be invaluable to me as a property manager. To have a software package that can effectively provide a comprehensive set of controls would be invaluable. Even more invaluable would be the ability to actually use and even manipulate those controls in an easy and logical fashion.

The property management world has some very proprietary software offerings that have been developed over very long periods of time. However, these software packages vary widely from the complex and expensive standard, YARDI, to the affordable yet limited TenantPro. Products like AMSI, Spectra and a slough of others flood the market place trying to get property managers to invest in their product. Unfortunately, these products are very standard and one must create their property management company around the software instead of creating the software around the property management company. Modification of the software packages is extremely expensive and out of reach for most property management companies.

I'm one of those companies. Being that we don't manage all of our properties first hand, we utilize the investor end of software packages by our 3rd party managers. We also need to use a software package for the properties we do manage. This is where my dilemma enters the picture. Our first self-managed property was purchased without a software package. We partnered with a commercial tenant of ours to develop an existing product for website leasing, and we are using our accounting department's accounting software, but ne'er in between do they meet. Are we to dedicate $25,000 to buy a bargain property management software or develop something proprietary?

The benefits of proprietary software are great, but so are the pitfalls. The lack of a dedicated research, software development and support departments greatly detracts from this option. However, I believe that EVERY property management software should be "proprietary". The largest asset of a property management company beyond the people that it is comprised of and the relationships that generate business is it's software package. The software package is the tools of the trade. Without the tools to succeed, a property manager is destined to fail. Part of this tool is the ability to service residents at the utmost level. A good software package will enable that.

This brings me back to the SIMS concept. As the partnership created develops this software package, we will analyze every aspect of property management. The software package will be organizationally and graphically intuitive. The controls will be comprehensive and malleable. The look and feel of the entire product will be manageable by the end user while the substructure remains in tact and unharmed. Most of all, the software package will be affordable to the end user. More affordable packages will allow property management companies to offer better service at a better price bringing greater returns to the investor.

In the end, our SIM Property Management Companies will be easier to manage, easier to provide customer service, easier to provide greater returns and most importantly fun!


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