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Aspect Property Manager

The ideal accompaniment to a property management business.

Saturday, July 1st 2006, 12:00AM

by The Landlord


 

Price: $80 per month + GST
Overall rating: 3 out of 5
Website: www.aspect.co.nz


 

Aspect Property Manager is a well-kept secret. It’s been in the market for years – yet you rarely see it mentioned. There are, I’m told 70 sites up and running around the country – many of which are real estate agents’ offices and property management firms.

According to the blurb, Aspect Property Manager is designed for organisations that manage properties on behalf of landlords. It records receipts from tenants, payments to landlords and suppliers and the lodgement of bonds with Tenancy Services.

It does as you would expect take the data and turn it into a wide variety of reports – useful to the property managing ranging from tenant arrears, to an audit trail report.

Downloading and setting up the system wasn’t 100% easy – more about that further down. Once the system is up and running it isn’t instantly obvious how it works – to the fumble-your-way through user. However the installation instructions make setup plain sailing and once you’ve got a general idea of what’s where, it becomes pretty straight forward to use.

When you launch the application the first screen that appears is a reminder screen called “Bring Ups”. Virtually anything entered in the system, such as a letter or other details can be assigned a Bring Up date to remind you to take action.

Once you’ve dealt with your actionable items, the screen can be closed and your property details managed. If you have more than one member of staff, it’s likely one will be assigned daily to download bank statements. It’s likely that tenants’ and landlords’ names will be tagged so that payments are automatically assigned to the correct property. From there you can make payments to suppliers, landlords and Tenancy Services, and produce regular landlord statements.

One especially useful feature of Aspect Property Manager is the built in letters. The system is pre-populated with dozens of letters that cover most of the standard situations a property manager would contact a tenant, landlord or supplier about. For example there is a tenancy agreement, property inspection report, appraisal for market rent, and eviction notice. It also has letters covering less pressing issues such as a tenant welcome letter, guttering cleaning, and quotation for work required.

The letters are standard templates, which you can change to meet your own needs or add your own letterhead. Many, says Peter Larkin of Aspect Systems Limited, the publisher, are tried and tested letters supplied by Aspect Property Manager’s users. You can produce one off letters, or bulk mail-merge letters to clients via hard-copy or email.

Another nifty feature is the ability to create web pages. If you’re a RealENZ member, you can publish direct to that site. Or the system allows you to export data as HTML pages or to a database – which can be used to populate a web page. That way whenever a property becomes vacant, it can be advertised at the click of a few buttons.

You can also export data to a .CSV file, which can be opened in Excel or other spreadsheet.

Aspect Property Manager is designed to work over a client/server network, meaning it is loaded onto one server (central computer) and can be accessed by any number of users in an office. There is a one-off charge for setting the network up, of $250 per site and $5 per computer terminal – all plus GST.

On the downside, I had trouble setting the system up and it couldn’t be done without a call to the helpdesk [which it should be mentioned is free – Aspect doesn’t take two bites at the cherry]. I’m told I suffered a rare problem that had something to do with Microsoft.

None-the-less it took a good 10 minutes, on the phone, being stepped through the process [and I’m relatively computer savvy, not needing lengthy instructions as to how to find the control panel and work my way through the screens]. As a result of this problem, I had to reduce the font size on my computer, which made it a little difficult to read.

I did manage to uncover some less than useful warning windows such as when I clicked on the “Enter Bank Statement Details” button and got a message that read: Statement date is greater than the “End of Period” date. I got this message every time I clicked on anything – even the help button, so I couldn’t figure out what I’d done wrong or for that matter fix it.

Perhaps the other downside to be considered is the cost. At $80 a month plus GST, it can add up. That’s $720 a year. If you’re a large multi-user office managing large numbers of property, then it’s probably chicken feed and such an automated system will pay for itself. But for small users who own their own properties or manage a few on behalf of others, then it’s hard to justify. You will also need to pay by automatic payment and enter a new password monthly.

In comparison, a product such as RentMaster has a one-off charge of $149 for up to 15 properties at one end of the scale up to $499 for RentMaster Corporate, which allows unlimited properties and can be used on a company network.

Having said that, Aspect Property Manager would appear to see Vision Software (www.visionsoftware.com) as its main competitor. Larkin said that Aspect had a conversion programme from Vision to Aspect.

Contact Aspect: 09 426 2910 or support@aspect.co.nz
System requirements:
· Windows 95 or above. Preferably a 64mb Pentium processor and a CD/DVD writer or similar backup device. Internet access and email are essential.



Verdict: A valuable edition to a property management office.

Pros: Designed primarily for organisations that manage property, rather than individual property investors.
Cons: The cost. You can do this more cheaply with other products on the market. We managed to uncover some annoying bugs – mainly in the setup.


 

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