What kind of property management systems are you using right now? Do you still use the tried-and-true paper method? Or maybe you’ve upgraded to spreadsheet programs like Excel. Meanwhile the most tech-savvy of us are using cloud-based software so we can work anywhere, anytime.

The best method for you really just depends. Here are a few pros and cons of each.

Property Management System #1: Pen and Paper

I grew up using computers, but I didn’t use it much for school. I might type a paper on it every couple of months, but that was about it. Instead, EVERYTHING was done on paper. When you were finished with a document and wouldn’t need it again for the foreseeable future, you either toss it or file it away in a cabinet.

There’s still a lot of merit to that. For one thing, you don’t need to worry about losing documents if your hard drive or software crashes. Because everything is physically within your reach, any computer-related issues don’t really effect you.

Another thing is that your team, such as the maintenance crew, might prefer paper. If they don’t really like learning new technology, having paper documentation of tasks completed may help them feel better.

There are a few downsides, though. For one thing, your documents are susceptible to loss if something like a fire or theft occurs. Because there’s (likely) only one copy of the document, these kinds of events could be a big pain in the rear.

Another negative is the amount of time it can take to find certain files and put them away. With a computer, all you have to do is hit CTRL+F to find what you’re looking for.

Finally, paper is just messy and wasteful. Why clutter up your office if you don’t have to?

Property Management Systems #2: Computer Spreadsheets

property management systems

Microsoft Excel is an awesome tool. Used everyday by people in every professional imaginable, it’s easier to talk about things it can’t do than things it can.

Managing a property with these kinds of spreadsheets give you a clean, easy-to-use format that most people with computer experience can understand. Spreadsheets also help you reduce clutter, as you don’t need nearly as many paper documents lying around.

Finally, the software is fairly inexpensive- or even free! There’s a good chance you already have Microsoft Office, in which case you don’t have to pay anything extra for Excel. Another option is to use free software, like Google Drive Sheets or Open Office.

Of course, this property management system has a few downsides. While the format is clean and easy, you need to do a lot of manual data entry. Excel can import some data from other spreadsheets, but in general you’ll need to plan on lots of typing in the data.

Something else to consider is that while Excel can work on mobile devices, it isn’t as easy to use as an app specifically designed for tablets and smart phones. If you’re trying to get your maintenance team on board with using tablets instead of just pen and paper, spreadsheets can work but there’s a better option.

Property Management System #3: Cloud-based Software

Cloud-based software (usually in the form of software as a service, or SAAS) is the most advanced way to manage properties.

Here are a few reasons why:

  • Often mobile-friendly, making it easier to use on a smart phone or tablet
  • Accessible from anywhere, unlike spreadsheets or papers kept in your office
  • Automatically tracks maintenance tasks, from creation to completion
  • Allows online rent payment from tenants and tracks their payment history
  • Records and documents are easy to find
  • It’s not as expensive as you might think- sometimes its even cheaper than Microsoft Office
  • Since it’s on the cloud, you’re protected from loss if anything happens to your office computer
  • It will help you attract higher-quality tenants and landlords as clients

Of course, it’s not a perfect solution. You’ll experience a learning curve while getting used to it. It’s also not free, so there is some financial cost involved.

But in general, it’s the best way to manage properties in 2016 and beyond. The other property management systems just waste too much time and are susceptible to loss, plus they can’t compete with all of the advanced features this software provides.