Any good rental management software out there?

Discussion in 'Mac Apps and Mac App Store' started by Sill, Jun 1, 2017.

  1. Sill macrumors 6502a

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    #1
    I recently took on a client that owns a sizable apartment complex. I need to be able to track leases, tenant info, deposits, generate late notices, all that fun stuff. I was going to build my own relational database in Numbers but then I realized I could spend my doing something fun, like watching grass grow, instead of trying to play amateur cell coder.

    If anyone can recommend good software to do this, or even a Numbers template, that would be much appreciated.
     
  2. 960design macrumors 68020

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    #2
    There has to be some cloud and local based software out there to do this. Numbers / Excel would be so cumbersome and error prone. Software could automate late notices and receipts, accept online payments, so much easier.

    I do not know of any off the top of my head but will watch this thread. If there is a need, I'll make it a summer project.
     
  3. jtara macrumors 65816

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    #3
    I think it's a bad idea to install property management software on your own computer!

    My friend up the street manages 3 of his own properties, I think about 40-50 units. He uses PropertyWare, like just about everybody else. It's an online service. Nobody uses paper leases. Everybody uses e-signed leases. And, yes, it is apparently a serious pain for renters who are not computer-savvy!

    Everybody seems to complain about PropertyWare - at least my friend, as well as the property management firm that I lease from. The latter managed to lose my move-in pictures and notes (but the property manager insists "it's all on my phone!") so I guess I don't have to worry about the return of my security deposit! It seems it's difficult for managers to figure out how to customize the site content. Or they just don't realize that they should.

    I'm sure there are other alternatives to PropertyWare. But, for goodness sakes, use an online service! You do not want to happen to you what happened to my friend. (His employee got mad and smashed the hard drives... and that's why he now uses PropertyWare!)
     
  4. Sill, Jun 1, 2017
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2017

    Sill thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #4
    I appreciate your advice. However, I do not intend to use any cloud-based or web-anything software for this client. I would prefer a local solution. I'm prepared to have significant backups in place, believe me.
    --- Post Merged, Jun 1, 2017 ---
    I looked into the available property software, and there was very little choice. I've seen property management software for as little as $25/month, and as high as $250/month. Nothing standalone. Thats ridiculous. Why rent something thats basically the front end of a database? They all want to offer electronic payment services and lock landlords into a monthly expense. The property owner is considering e-pay but right now likes good old fashioned paper checks, and I can't really blame him.

    Interesting. What codebase/language/whatever would you use?
     
  5. 960design macrumors 68020

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    #5
    First, I definitely understand your local solution needs. Having said that, local backups are bad ideas for many reasons. I live in a hurricane zone, flooding, island moving, coast changing scenarios have and will continue to hit me, so I really think about backups. Weekend fires caused by the ultra rare in-wall short by a hungry mouse, riots, car accidents, lightning and or tornadoes can and will eventually bite a local backup solution. And all of that is only if local backups are done properly, they are not. No one is perfect. [Off soap box.]

    Here is the way I write software. Local storage and automatic backups to a remote server. No button pressing, it just happens. That way if catastrophe hits, you just stop by the local best buy, pick up a computer, download the software again and it will recognize the login and autosync from the remote server.

    The local software would make API calls to a payment processing company/bank that specializes in PCI compliance. The end user does not notice the API calls, but there is a fee with this. A rent check would have a pretty high fee using credit / debit cards: typically 2.9%, but ACH payments could be run at around $5US each. The downside is ACH requires a lot more verification and explicit acceptance from the account holder.

    It is much easier to write software that way. It also has the benefit of being usable on any device that has access to a browser, as long as the front end uses a basic responsive design. The cloud software also is easier to maintain and update and protects the intellectual property of the software company. A popular local solution will be reverse engineered by a script kiddy and sold at half price, because they spent zero time on UI/UX and coding. Good luck on suing someone in China.

    Would a standard pay for service, aka 2.9% required by the credit card companies or $5US required by the banks for ACH be acceptable?

    I like to stick to non proprietary code as long as the client does not require it. In this case I would write it using HTML5/JS/CSS/node and package it up with electron.atom.io to allow for local deployments to Mac, Windows and Linux*. The backups would be sent via delta json packets to a remote server. The remote server is not free and can get quite expensive with scaling. Small companies or use cases like your client would barely dent the server, but larger corporations like Century21 would definitely be expensive to maintain. How best to solve this?

    *Could also be deployed to mobile devices through an app with something like WKWebView.

    And now I'm rambling... so sorry.
     
  6. Sill thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #6
    Understood. Even so, there will be no off-site component to this setup. Single machine access, no access for anyone besides a single authorized user at a time.

    Or, how about multiple synchronous backups in a local, hardened facility that can withstand a small plane hit and the resulting avgas fire for thirty minutes. Would that work?

    Or, just stick to paper checks. Convenience is great, until it becomes an inconvenience. Like if the ACH is down, or communication between them and the bank is disrupted.

    Ultimately though its just for protection of the revenue stream. Ease of distribution/use/support/implementation is all tied for a distant second place. Plus you get the added benefit of reduced security by using the cloud. I really just need a piece of software like we used to buy in cardboard boxes off a shelf, for a single user on a single computer.

    Not one bit. Its easier to collect checks. He's just looking at cashless as an option, but truthfully not a single tenant has asked for it. I suggested it initially as a convenience, but when I saw how consistent and easy the check AR process was at this place, I said "don't fix what isn't broken, and don't replace it with something that adds ten layers of complexity and a bunch of fees and hurdles".

    Best way to solve that would be to do the local backups I mentioned. I personally think remote backups are wrong. There is no such thing as offsite data security, despite what anyone says, and I simply don't trust it. All you can truly guarantee is a higher cost of entry for a determined supplicant. A database of cash transactions and the related banking info is just too good a target to pass up.

    As for that multiple-platform deployment, I just need something to work on a Mac. At some point it would be nice to have it running in parallel with a field person on an iPad, but since that will inevitably require "cloud services" I doubt it will ever happen. It would be nice if an iPad could talk to an office Mac without someone getting in the middle, and I really can't see why that can't be done, but evidently people fall all over themselves to handle your data for you. For example...

    I recently downloaded Spark, set it up, and then something told me to check their Privacy statement. I'm glad I did. I found out they run all the emails from Apple's servers to THEIR servers, where Google Analytics has a nice comb through them, and then you're allowed to get your email. I deleted Spark immediately, and then changed my passwords. There is not one good reason they need to take control of your email on their servers when the email is already on Apple's servers and Spark is just supposed to be a client on a local machine.


    And so am I :D Thanks for your input/advice. If you run across any local options let me know.
     
  7. jtara, Jun 10, 2017
    Last edited: Jun 10, 2017

    jtara macrumors 65816

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    #7
    Given your requirements and unusual preferences, I'd suggest you install MSDOS on a PC, and find a property-management package written in the 80s.

    Seriously, there are businesses that do this, and I can't fault them for it. When you have something that works, leave it alone. There are MANY businesses still with that old MSDOS computer sitting in the corner chugging away, printing some kind of reports on a dot-matrix printer.

    On the other hand, some law changes, or just the nature of the business changes, and now you could have a BIG problem. The software probably isn't published any more. If it was custom, the developer has almost certainly moved-on and won't be interested in supporting it, or else is in the Old Age Home for Programmers.

    I can't imagine why a landlord would prefer paper checks to ACH. Renters often either forget, or else "forget" to send paper checks. Many will put ACH on auto-pay.

    I think that in general you are wrong about the motivation for monthly service fees for software. No software is ever "done". The ongoing maintenance has to be paid-for somehow. If not a monthly fee, then a yearly one, whether "in the cloud" or not. The old model of paying for software created significant problems for publishers. If you do only a "support fee", then customers stop paying until they have a problem. And then they create reputation problems when they try to use their 5-year-old buggy software (or that simply doesn't work with the newest browser or OS - which is something the publisher could not have possibly accounted-for) and then complain, and the software gets a reputation for unreliability.

    MOST problems with locally-installed software are due to: amateur set-up of workstations/servers. Not keeping OSs up to date. Workstations/servers (especially Windows) getting infected by viruses. Inadequate operational knowledge. Inadequate backups. No off-site backup.

    "Cloud" services eliminate all or nearly all of these concerns.

    On backups: on-site backup is simply a non-starter. If you are going to do local backup, you need to take a backup at whatever interval makes sense for your application, take a copy to a safe-deposit vault, and ship a copy to another part of the country. In fact, I actually did this in the early 2000's for some high-frequency-trading software. We fed-ex'd drives between NY, St. Louis, and San Diego on a rotating schedule. Today, cloud backup with local backup as a convenience makes much more sense. The local backup would be the first choice if you need to restore, as it would take significant time to retrieve a remote backup online, or a fee to have a hard drive shipped.

    For cloud backup, you need to insure that the data is locally-encrypted before sending off to the cloud. If good encryption is used, and somebody decrypts it, you have bigger problems - because then it's the NSA that decrypted it! ;)

    You will find very few vertical software publishers any more that are interested in selling installed software.

    I will ask my friend, though, what property-management software he used before his employee unceremoniously destroyed the hard drives!

    And, FWIW, surprise, surprise (cynicism) an add for apartment management software just appeared on this page. I'll include the link only for information purposes. I know nothing about it:

    https://valencepm.com/

    I was unable to determine from their web site, though, whether this is installed software or a cloud service.

    Good luck!
     
  8. Sill thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #8
    That is certainly true. Another one of my clients just presented me with an odd challenge in that vein: they want their 25 year old accounting software - still running on Windows98 - moved to a Windows98 virtual machine running on their Windows 7 desktop. Its convoluted but it makes sense for this place. Its a machine shop. Many of those kinds of businesses are running DOS or 32bit Win because thats what their milling machines still use. A CNC shop shells out $1.5mil for a lathe or whatever back in 1996, those machines run forever with proper maintenance, and they have very minimal computational requirements by today's standards, believe it or not.

    That may be true, but I can't see it in this case. The paper mechanics of being a landlord haven't changed for hundreds of years. Rental rolls, leases, evictions, work orders, AP/AR. The current owner was just dragged into the 20th century last year with online AP, but its still done manually, instead of auto-debit.

    While I've grown to largely depend on online banking now, despite my desires not to, I can see why the owner is resisting the cloud and e-pay. Besides the fact that not a single tenant has raised the question about ACH/e-pay, it just doesn't add anything to their operation. Rents at this complex are placed in a drop box, and one of the property workers collects the rents. That same person can make a roll check-off on the spot, and pay a visit to whomever is not in compliance. Auto-pay sounds great, but the tenant can just as easily "forget" to put money in their account as they can "forget" to put a check in the drop box. At least with manual collection the employee can instantly respond, as opposed to having to go through a sequence of reports prior to dispatching a response. Also, with a paper check there is no question of a software error, and paper checks aren't dependent on a phone/data connection. A paper check is either there or it isn't.


    I'd debate that. Software gets finished, unless you're talking about changes dependent on law, as you mentioned above. Tax software is certainly one that comes to mind. Still, software does get done, with respect to its purpose at the time. The ancient accounting, word processing, and gaming software I have for the Apple IIGS works flawlessly, the chess program I bought in 2001 for my old Yosemite Mac still works, but the computers I bought those for are in storage or long gone. Software can be finished. What isn't finished is the rest of the platform. People buy computers, upgrade them, replace them. Sometimes people upgrade their OS without realizing that can break third party apps. Then they blame the apps. But the apps are done.

    I personally prefer to stay away from the NSA - and all the other criminals out there - by staying out of the cloud. My client feels even more strongly about it than I do. On-site makes far more sense. If this was an operation with multiple property locations across the state or even the city, I could see doing remote backup. But not for a single site with contiguous buildings. If there is a disaster strong enough to take out the machine and the backup hard drive, then the entire complex will be done for. At that point the data is of minimal concern, because the insurance will be buying new structures.


    I would very much appreciate that.

    From their contact page : "ValencePM is online property management software."

    At this point, it looks like a regular database is the best option. I guess I need to learn how to do templates and all that. <yawn...>
     
  9. jpine macrumors 6502

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    #9
    Then I would reiterate what was mentioned before. Buy a few external hard drives and rent a safe deposit box at the bank where you do business. Figure out how often you need to back up your information and rotate out the hard drives as needed when you go in to make deposits or other regularly scheduled business with the bank.

    Not necessarily. It is within the realm of possibility that you could have a small contained fire, water damage in the computer room from an adjacent unit, or any other "small" disaster that would result in loss of information but not a "total" loss of the structure.
     
  10. Sill thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #10
    I could just as easily get a fireproof safe for the customer, with a 1-2 hour burn rating, and rotate the drives through there.

    And any data storage facility could be compromised just as easily by fire, flood, earthquake, GWAR moving in to the adjacent property, Purge Night, Voldemort, unholy creatures from Raccoon City, or whatever. Anything that you can think of that can happen to local storage can happen to remote storage as well. There are very few remote facilities that can stop all these things people seem to think are going to seek this hard drive out to destroy it, and for all we know those data clients could be paying for AWS, but actually getting HRC. The property owner is supposed to take any of these companies at their word that the data is safe. Its not, and their guarantee is only good until something happens. Then all the promises and all the excuses in the world aren't going to help.
     
  11. jpine macrumors 6502

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    #11
    Now THAT is a good idea. Voldemort would have problems with a safe too. ;)
     
  12. TonyK macrumors 6502a

    TonyK

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    #12
    Have no idea if this is any good or not but look at Quicken Rental Property software for Windows. If you are going to make a Windows partition, you might as well consider this.

    https://www.quicken.com/personal-finance/quicken-rental-property-manager-2017

    Do not know if they do local storage or what. It is supposed to be on sale at this moment for about 40% off.


    Well this opens a can of worms. If you are doing it locally, you could use MySQL for the DB work and then whatever front-end you desired. May be easier to write the code in PHP and customize the screens. It would not handle $$$ unless you purchased modules to do that or coded it yourself and with all the regulations for money handling, I don't suggest that at all.
     
  13. mpainesyd macrumors 6502

    mpainesyd

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    #13
    I expect that there are numerous Filemaker applications for property management that can be customised for your needs. Try this forum: http://fmforums.com/

    Filemaker is database software. It is owned by Apple but runs on Macs and Windows machines (as well as iPads, with a bit of effort and expense): http://www.filemaker.com/index.html

    It works with local and/or remote (server) files. For backing up I would just use iCloud or a similar (cheaper?) service.
     
  14. TonyK macrumors 6502a

    TonyK

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    #14
  15. Sill thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #15
    It requires cloud services. Its in a couple of places in the docs. I had to search around.


    Coding will be a last resort. If I can't find an off-the-shelf package it probably won't be cost effective for me to learn to code this.

    Unfortunately, the demo doesn't work. Despite the site claiming to have a single-user standalone app available, its not there. The single user link leads to an FP7 file, which requires me to have FileMakerPro. The full version also requires that I purchase FileMakerPro, plus the management software. Thats overkill for this. I could simply charge for my time to keep things on paper and I'd come out way ahead.

    Thanks for looking, Tony.
    --- Post Merged, Jun 17, 2017 ---
    I don't know if you happened to read any of my posts above, but this system requires local backups, not the security risks of off-site services. FMP looks like it is overkill for a single user management solution. I think this whole thing could be handled by a Number template.
     
  16. TonyK macrumors 6502a

    TonyK

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    #16
    Yes, I figured FMP was a required purchase for any FMP template.
     
  17. dukebound85 macrumors P6

    dukebound85

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  18. Sill thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #18
    I thought so too, but right their on their site it says :

    "The Single User download is a full working copy. The full version requires that you already have FileMaker Pro installed."

    Maybe my reading could be mo' better, but that looks like they're saying the single user is standalone, the full version is what requires FMP.
    --- Post Merged, Jun 17, 2017 ---
    No, its not. For one, its completely online. As I stated in multiple posts above, one of the primary concerns of this job is that everything stays local. There will be no off-sire backups. TurboTenant doesn't just do backups offsite, they do the entire operation offsite. I know a lot of people think thats secure, but it isn't.

    Second, all the costs are fronted to the tenant instead of backloaded to the landlord. The first thing a tenant is going to be put off by is a landlord asking up front for $35-45 to be "considered" as an applicant for an apartment. I know that if I was renting an apartment I'd walk out of the leasing office if I was given an application with a $35-45 application fee.
     
  19. mpainesyd macrumors 6502

    mpainesyd

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    #19
    I have several back-up strategies but the ultimate one is copying critical data to Bluray disks. They cost a few dollars more than DVD but they store more (~25Gb) and are supposed to last for decades. Not fire-proof of course but resistant to most other sources of grief for hard disks and SSDs.
     
  20. dukebound85 macrumors P6

    dukebound85

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    #20
    It's pretty typical to pay an application fee for any residence here in Colorado. If someone isn't willing to pay the application fee, there are many other tenants that will.

    Regarding files, I am also able to save all files locally as well.
     
  21. Sill, Jul 7, 2017
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 2, 2017

    Sill thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #21

    I don't doubt you. I'm sure things are different in various regions across the country. I dealt with about a dozen properties here in my state, and not one of them ever charged an application fee. These were huge national companies too. The property I'm helping now is in another state far from here, and they've never required an application fee, nor has any other property owner in their entire town.
     
  22. jtara macrumors 65816

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    #22
    I suppose application fees vary by location. It is conventional to require an application fee in San Diego. I suppose one of the factors is the number of transient individuals (I don't mean "homeless", I just mean "moving from place to place frequently"), the local economy, the number of flakes.

    A friend of mine owns and self-manages about 40 apartments. He first reviews the application himself (sufficient income, etc. what can be gleaned directly from the application), and advises the prospective tenant if they are unlikely to be approved. He doesn't accept an application fee until he has first done that. THEN he accepts an application fee. The fee goes to a third-party for the records check.

    If an online service requires a fee from applicants, it almost certainly is to pay for credit/background check. It's different than the usual credit check. They need to check with a rental-specific agency (were they previously evicted? did they violate rules? Did they move out with damage?), as well as for bad checks. You also don't want tenants with a criminal history (especially drug convictions, as this puts the property in jeopardy!). Most of this typically doesn't show up on regular credit reports.

    The online service would be crazy not to allow the landlord to choose to pay the fee themselves if they so desire.
     

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