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Property Return$ Software

A well-kept secret is the best way to describe the Property Return$ free online property management software. The product allows users to manage the financial side of their residential and commercial properties from any computer connected to the Internet anywhere in the world.

Wednesday, August 30th 2006, 4:21PM

by The Landlord

Product: Property Return$
Idiot-proof, online and FREE property management software

Price: FREE
Overall rating: 4 out of 5

Having stumbled across this product via a Google search I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was simple, straightforward and actually worked! Not only that but it is very simple to use and only the most techno phobic luddites will struggle.

One of the joys of an online program is that there is no need to download software and set it up on your machine – which isn't always as seamless as promised.

Property Return$ covers all the common bases that one would expect in a property management product. It enables the user to enter details of properties, leases, mortgages, tenants, owners including multiple owners and so on. Unusually it was designed for commercial property first, and then extended to cover residential management.

Property Return$ doesn't have some of the bells and whistles of the paid-for products such as PC Property Manager, RentMaster or RevIQ.

Once property and ownership details have been entered into the system, it's then a matter of submitting rent payments, mortgage payments and other expenses in the system on a regular basis. To make matters easy, there is a facility to upload your bank statements in MS Money (.ofx), Quicken (.qif) or CSV Generic (.csv) format. Or if you prefer you can simply enter the payments and expenses manually.
There is a facility for "fast entry" which means that a recurring income or expense item can be added to the "fast entry" screen so that when you import a statement those payments can be assigned to a property quickly.

As with most property management software, the reports and graphs section of Property Return$ is especially useful – enabling users to have a quick snapshot of their properties' financial positions.

Property Return$ reports also enable users to enter "what-if" data to see how increased rent, decreased mortgage payments and so on could be manipulated.

There are many nifty features in this program. For example Property Return$ has a facility enabling details of every communication with a tenant or other contact to be entered into the system and even allows the user to upload a file such as a spreadsheet to associate with the communication. This means you have a record of what was discussed in one location.

Reminder dates associated with the event can be programmed – ensuring you get an email reminder from the system on the specified day. The system also emails reminders for rent reviews, lease renewals and any other events you want to be reminded about.

Some of the well-thought-out touches I liked included "edit" and "delete" links beside many of the input screens and the ability to group properties or owners under "holdings", if you have more than one property in a particular holding or trust. Likewise contacts can be grouped in the address book. If, for example, you deal with both Jane and Abdul from XYZ Property Management firm contact details for the pair of them can be linked.

An excellent feature for property managers is that there is a "special access" facility that gives owners limited access to the details of their property. This is a great marketing tool for a small property manager who may not have their own website. This feature can also be used to give your accountant, lawyer or property manager if you're the owner, access to the data.

By managing your properties online you also have your data "backed up" online should the unthinkable happen and your hard disk dies. You are, however, dependent on the website's servers being robust and reliable.
Finally on the plus side there are handy checklists for buying commercial or residential property, tenant changing, an end of financial year checklist and even a GST checklist for commercial property.

When looking for the down sides of this product I had to remind myself that property management software can cost as much as $900 to buy and this product is free. This was factored into the overall rating of the product.

Property Return$' key downfall is that there is no one single screen where the over-all position of a property can be viewed. The only way to do this is to prepare a report.

Considering the product can input data in various formats, such as CSV, it would also be helpful if users could also export data to import into other software products such as Excel or an accounting package such as QuickBooks. This is, I'm told, on the drawing board and may appear in the product once there is sufficient demand.

There were also a number of small improvements I'd like to see in the product. One such improvement would be a "remember me" button so that you don't need to remember your user name, password and encryption key every time you log in.

It would be nice to be able to import data from Outlook into the address book to save re-typing information about your contacts.

I also found it confusing initially that the "Contacts" section from the navigation panel wasn't in fact a list of people. Rather a list of communications with people listed in the "Address Book".

Property Return$ competition is both the paid for packages mentioned in this review and other free online packages available on the Internet. I found a number when I searched Google. Some may be too country specific to use in New Zealand. But I did track down one Australian product called, which should work in the New Zealand environment.

System requirements:
· Broadband Internet access.


Verdict: An easy-to-use, free, property management tool.

Pros: It's simple, it's free and you can manage both residential and commercial property using the same software.

Cons: You need to be connected to the Internet to use it.

Reproduced from the NZ Property Magazine December 2005

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