The problem with free software
If you’ve ever done a quick search for condo management software, you’ve probably come across a few free platforms. This can be an attractive option because you don’t risk losing money if you’re unhappy with the product. Furthermore, the added cost and inconvenience of comparing and contrasting property management platforms that are not free may seem like a task that’s not worth completing.
However, taking the time to pick a condo management system that will work best for you and your building is a worthwhile endeavour. Investing time and energy now could save you tons of time and money (not to mention headaches) in the future.
There are strings attached to free software. Since you aren’t paying for the software, there is no obligation for the developer to provide you with a high-quality product. Free software comes with several limitations and little customer support. You may end up spending more time trying to make it work and find that it doesn’t truly simplify or automate processes the way you hoped it would. By choosing to go with a free management system, you run the risk of not complying with condo laws. This could ultimately cost you thousands of dollars in fines, penalties or legal costs. Even more critical than staying current is finding a management system that is reliable. Nothing is more frustrating, for both the staff and the tenants, then having a system that crashes or is unavailable.
Finally, there are hidden costs associated with free software that end up costing you more than if you paid for a platform from the start. These costs may include:
• Add-on modules
• Upgrade fees
If you’re looking for something that makes a real difference, we recommend paying for a reputable software system.
On-premise vs. cloud-based software
Condo management software can be categorized as either on-premise software or web-based/cloud-based software. The difference between these two is that one stores information and data locally, and the other keeps data in the cloud.
On-premise condo software
As the name suggests, on-premise condo software keeps data and information in one location. It is stored locally on one computer. On-premise software costs more upfront, but you ultimately own it.
Cloud-based condo software
Cloud-based software is faster and has a lower initial cost. You don’t own the software, however, it is continually being upgraded which means you don’t have to worry about maintenance. Information is stored remotely offsite in the cloud, which means it can be accessed from any computer or mobile phone (if the program has an app).
Why should I invest in condo management software?
Investing in the proper management system for your building can pay off big time. For starters, you can automate processes, such as service requests or work orders, amenity bookings, and online payments so that you don’t have to perform repetitive tasks over and over and over again. Plus, all of those documents appear in one designated place, so you always know where to look if you need to follow up on a request or revise a booking for the party room. Moreover, condo management software gives your residents the ability to do more for themselves, which makes them happier, too.
Online software is also good for the environment and your bottom line. By taking steps to move towards a paperless office (or at an office that uses far less paper), you can strengthen your brand image and creditability with both existing and prospective clients. You’ll also spend far less on print and paper costs, and you don’t have to worry about where to store all of those meeting minutes, governing documents, amendments to rules and regulations, etc.
Depending on your needs, the right management system will automatically produce detailed reports and charts, and provide you with accurate information that will help you make more informed decisions for your community. Personalized data can help with budgeting, maintenance, and common processes adopted by the condo.
Customer service is another important factor to consider when investing in a property management system. Poor or non-existent customer service can be frustrating, and can cost you a lot of time. Saving money upfront, only to find that most of your time is spent on the phone with poor service, isn’t effective in the long run. This is especially true if the software is complicated or not very user-friendly. Even the best software will have issues from time to time, and when something goes wrong, it’s great to know that a person is available to help you resolve the problem. Reputable management systems may cost more, but their well-educated support and training staff are worth the cost.
Be sure that whatever software you decide to use, it can grow with you. Otherwise, you may be forced to switch down the road. This will incur costs that you hadn’t anticipated.
Deciding which property management system to use
There are many good options out there for you to choose from. While it’s up to you to make the tough final decision, we have made a list of things to keep in mind to make the selection process a little easier.
• Will the software allow us to easily move our existing data to the new system?
• Can the product take all of our existing data, as well as accommodate our data needs in the future?
• Are accounting features integrated and included in the software? Are the templates flexible enough for our business and will they comply with laws or local requirements?
• Will the product help with the elimination of paper?
• Will the software allow me to email owners and keep track of the interactions?
• Are the communication tools simple enough for the community to learn and use?
• Will it let me create and manage work orders?
• Can residents and owners make online payments?
• Is my data secure? Can I add restricted users?
• Is the software user-friendly? Is it easy to navigate and search for information?
• Is the software easy to learn and be trained on?
• How much training is included? Are there easy to understand software resources online?
• Is there an additional cost for product support?
• How often will the software be updated?
• Are client services available by phone or by email?
• Am I able to have unique branding and a unique website for the building?
• Can I provide an owner portal for residents to easily share updates and information?
• Is the software innovative? Will it stay up to date and continue to offer new services that are useful?
There are many factors that should be considered before committing to a condo management system. Make sure to take the time and do your research before using any system, paid or not. By investing in the right system that accommodates your needs now, you will save yourself countless hours and thousands of dollars in the future.