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PIA Professional - Property analysis software

Property Investment Analysis (PIA) is a software program designed to make it easy for investors to analyse and evaluate prospective investment properties.

Wednesday, March 1st 2006, 12:00AM

by The Landlord

 


Price: $295 (PIA Personal Professional) or $540 for (PIA Professional)
Overall rating: 4 out of 5
Website: www.propertyinvestor.info/pia/

 


Its ultimate purpose is to take the guess work out and let you decide whether or not to buy a property based on the numbers, not a gut feeling.

In the publisher’s own words: PIA helps you analyse the capital growth, cash flows and rates of return on investment properties, taking tax implications into account. It is simple to use and – as a decision tool – provides the answers to a long list of "what ifs" on property investment.

It’s simple to use on one level, but has the ability to drill down into highly complex detail.
PIA software was quick and easy to load. It was also a cinch to start using and the manual barely needed a glance. As well as working first time, it worked every time – which is more to be said than some of the property and non-property-related software I’ve reviewed of late.

Once loaded, the software opens on a “data entry screen” which has four tabs, allowing you to enter variables about the property and your personal financial position. The four tabs cover the: Property, Finance, Investor, and What If scenarios – the last one covering off factors such as estimated Taxable Income Rate, Inflation Rate and Capital Growth Rate.

Once all the variables are set the user simply clicks a “Spreadsheet” button, which takes him or her to the main screen – a relatively simple-to-understand spreadsheet view of the potential investment.
From that screen you get a comprehensive view of the numbers involved in any particular property – with the ability to click on any number and change it – to complete a ‘what if scenario’. You can also run customised reports.

PIA allows you to project up to 40 years in the future – planning for retirement for even the youngest of investors.
There were some nice touches in the software – for example it didn’t assume that all income from the property was from standard residential tenancies. There was also an option to include holiday letting income.

I liked the fact that there are plenty of opportunities to call up “help” screens while using the software. Many of the data entry screens have “?” boxes, which can be clicked and an explanation appears.
One little feature I liked in the preferences was the “magnification” preference – which enabled me to increase the size of the font in an instant.

The PIA software program has been around a long time and according to my straw poll, is well used. It’s also a mature product that has checks in most of the boxes when it comes to they type of data and comparisons investors want when considering the purchase of investment property.
In short, investors would be pretty hard pushed with PIA to find too many features missing. It also has Pocket PC and Windows CE versions – although these weren’t reviewed.

Of the three products on the market, PIA is by far the cheapest at a flat $295 for a personal investor version, compared to $650 for Dolf de Roos’ REAP, or $995 for RevIQ + $49 a month. In fact at that price PIA is a steal – providing it enables you to get just one property deal right.

Virtually all of the features of PIA and a few more are available in RevIQ, which is a very nice product indeed. But the cost differential makes it difficult to justify buying the more expensive product.
You could of course write your own spreadsheet to do the job. But most people don’t have the time or inclination. Real bargain hunters could download the one-page spreadsheet, which does a cut down version of the same job that can be found on Acumen.co.nz.

There are a couple of areas where RevIQ has seamless integration with data such as a property sales database and live news feed, but as the people behind PIA point out, if you have the time this data is available for free or a fraction of the cost elsewhere.

On the downside, what the product does lack, is the ability to export reports to Microsoft Word, and more importantly Excel. Plenty of investors are spreadsheet-friendly and the ability to work further on their data in Excel shouldn’t be overlooked.

Unless you buy the full Professional version you won’t be able to manage multiple tax entities and investors.
It also lacks integration with Microsoft Outlook’s tasks, calendar and contacts. Although not essential, such integration could be useful.

One small complaint is that I couldn’t find a “back” button after I’d produced a report to take me back to where I was. This would be helpful. A “home” button to take you to the main investment spreadsheet would also be helpful.

One feature I would like to see is that once you’ve set your preference as “New Zealand” the Australia-only information is removed. Some of it was Double Dutch to me and simply left me feeling confused. I’d rather not see it.

PIA main competitor is REAP: www.dolfderoos.com/software/reap
Contact: (09) 815 8642 or www.propertyinvestor.info/pia/

System requirements:
· Windows 95, 98, ME, NT, 2000, XP

Verdict: Property analysis software worth its weight in gold.
Pros: Simple, straightforward and easy-to-use.

Cons: Lacks one or two features an opposing product has.



 

 

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