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Software: Columbus Property Manager 2.0.3

Dead simple property management system stores all relevant financial and tenant information. Diana Clement investigates.

Monday, December 4th 2006, 12:00AM

by The Landlord

 



Price: $169
Overall rating: 3 out of 5
Website: www.macmillansoftware.co.nz

Just when I think there can’t be yet more New Zealand-based software for property management I discover Columbus Property Manager.

The software program aims to replace “mountains of paper files” with simple computer-based property management for investors.

Columbus Property Manager stores financial and tenant information about your properties, including purchase price and valuations, rates, insurance, maintenance and tenant information. You can upload digital pictures of the property to the file as well – which can be useful to keep in one place if you want to keep a record of how the property looks over time – or have photographs on hand to go with rental advertisements. It downloaded from the internet and installed without any difficulties whatsoever.

It is not an accounting package that aims to keep track of rent payments, although it does summarise cash flow and equity on a per property basis.

Instead, Columbus Property Manager answers questions such as:

· What tenant was in this property two years ago?

· What are the rates on this property and when are they due?

· How much have I spent on maintenance on this property?

From within Columbus Property Manager you can access one of a number of pre-written letters in Microsoft Word format that can be tailored to your properties and tenants. They include:

  • 10-day letter.
  • Notification of landlord’s intention to sell the property
  • Standard rental property application form Reference
  • Basic tenant reference
  • 42-day written notification of rent increase
  • 90-day notice of termination of tenancy
  • Tenant notice of the landlord’s intention to enter the property.

On the reporting front, the program is able to generate static reports for one or a number of properties covering cash flow, equity, tenants, maintenance and sold properties.

It also has a Microsoft Excel analysis spreadsheet which can work out:

  • Yield, annual rental income as a percentage of purchase price
  • Gross monthly profit or loss for an interest-only mortgage
  • Gross monthly profit or loss for a principal and interest mortgage.

It is also possible to use graphs to look at what-if scenarios on property investments. It can also be used to compare several properties at once.

Like many of its competitors, there is a free downloadable trial version of Columbus Property Manager on the company’s website. The trial works for 21 days and allows you to try before you buy.

The Professional version includes a flat management module – which enables property investors to keep track of more than one flat at the same property.

When you download the program from MacMillan Software’s website, you also get a copy of a rent book spreadsheet and a depreciation schedule. Both products, which are in Microsoft Excel format, can be downloaded separately for free if you wish.

On the downside, Columbus Property Manager doesn’t have as many features as some of its competitors in the same price range. Many first-time property investment software users may be happy with just managing the investment information on their personal computers at first. It’s likely, however, that sooner or later they will want to download bank statements into their software and track rents and other regular financial transactions. A program such as this should also have some sort of diary and reminder system, alerting you to work that needs to be done, rent reviews, inspections and so on. Some competing products also include facilities to manage properties on behalf of others, with sections for property owners etc.

Chris MacMillan, the man behind the software, did point out that the program, like all software, is a work in progress.

Columbus Property Manager also suffers an affliction of many small software programs in that it assumes users work in a pre-defined way. When, for example, I tried to enter the date-of-birth of my fictitious tenant as 02-11-1972, I got the message “invalid input value”, which didn’t tell me much. It was only when I hovered my cursor over the field that I suddenly twigged that I should be entering the month as three letters, in this case: NOV. Rather than “invalid input value”, a message such as “enter the first three letters of the month, you idiot”, would have been more helpful. It would also be useful to be able to change these and other variables in the program setup window.

Columbus Property Manager’s lack of features marked its rating down. It was redeemed a little by its ease of use and the fact that it never crashed once – something that seems all too common with products written by individual developers, as many in this genre are.

Columbus Property Manager’s main competitors are RentMaster and PC Property Manager: www.rentmaster.co.nz and www.pcpropertymanager.com

Contact: 06 877 9899 or Columbus@paradise.net.nz
System requirements:

  • Microsoft 95 or above. Microsoft Office for full functionality. 12.1mb disk space

 


 

Verdict: Useful software for managing your property investments.
Pros: Simple to use and relatively robust.
Cons:
It’s a bit lacking in terms of features and lacks proper rent management and accountant features.


« Software: ViewbuildWebsite: Department of Building & Housing »

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