What does a property management company do when the technology they use to manage their property is causing them more headaches than it’s relieving? This is what Lynn Charles faced in 2008 as the general manager of 160-unit apartment property in Northeast Philadelphia. In short, it was time to start looking for another solution.
The Townhomes of Regency Place had been using the same program for at least the eleven years that Lynn had been there, but it wasn’t providing her, the property’s owners, or their CPA with the information each needed.
“The old system frequently gave us trouble, especially during our end-of-year audits,” she said. “The software just wouldn’t cooperate, and it would always end up costing us thousands of dollars from the combination of the software consultant’s costs and our own added time and labor. Even when the consultant would come out, he usually couldn’t solve our issues, even though he was supposedly an expert.”
So, Lynn started looking online and found a few alternative systems designed specifically for property management, but she was generally put off by the costs, and their CPA had asked them to change to a system that would better integrate with what he was using. Specifically, he wanted them to use QuickBooks.
That posed a challenge for Lynn because, while the program offers some industry-focused versions, it doesn’t offer one tailored for managing apartments or other residential and commercial rental properties. As with most industries, apartment managers aren’t trained in advanced accounting, but they know the bookkeeping and management issues specific to their field. And they have specific reporting elements they need, with terminology they are used to.
After searching online for tips on how she could get QuickBooks to work for her, Lynn found Gita Faust, a small business consultant in the Greater Philadelphia area, recognized as an Intuit Certified ProAdvisor and Premier Reseller. Her firm, Fast Trac Consulting (www.FastTracConsulting.com), specializes in helping property management, real estate investors and businesses in a few other key industries quickly customize the program to their specific needs.
Prior to consulting, Gita was controller at a manufacturing company, then opened an accounting firm. She continues to also offer bookkeeping and payroll services, provide reconciliation and financials reporting, and acts as a part time controller for some clients.
After reading about the programs and services Fast Trac offered, though, Lynn says she was still not certain it would be able to meet their needs.
“I was a bit hesitant because of the cost,” said Lynn. “It didn’t cost nearly as much as our previous program or other property management systems on the market, so I wasn’t confident it could really make life easier. I literally waited about three weeks before I called Gita.”
In addition to offering in-person and web-based consulting and training (and speaking at events such as The Sleeter Group’s Accounting Solutions Conference; www.SleeterConference.com), Gita has written a series of books specifically designed to help property managers and other real estate professionals use QuickBooks in their businesses. Managers can get the book separately, or can buy it and also use Gita for consulting and training.
The book Lynn bought, “A Landlords’ Guide to Financial and Property Management in the series “Manage Properties with QuickBooks” includes a guide with step-by-step instructions, a brief live consulting engagement, email support and a CD that includes template and sample files that are customized for property managers. This includes a custom chart of accounts, as well as more than 100 industry-specific custom reports, such as, rent rolls and owner reports.
Finding a Solution
Lynn decided to also use in-person consulting to help make the switch, and while it did take a few days to get all of the data from the old program transferred, Lynn says that, after Gita’s direct assistance, the CD was the most valuable tool.