Property Management Software – Then and Now

Within the past decade, the property management industry has leveraged technology to improve processes, streamline workflows and gain better control of all aspects of property management. This has been achieved mainly through the introduction and evolution of technology, primarily built around property management software.

The first systems in the industry were mixes of DOS-based accounting and rent-roll systems that often proved inflexible and difficult to learn and use. These systems were also limited in their ability to import and export data and were laden with compatibility issues. Stricter reporting demands from investors have made broad compatibility and ease of access to data a necessity.

Next in the evolutionary chain of property management software was the transition to Windows-based software. This allowed for increased functionality, greater ease of use, and simpler deployment. The Windows platform also allowed developers to customize their applications for end users to a degree impractical on the DOS platform.

These Windows-based applications grew to include diverse components or modules covering all aspects of property management: accounting, marketing, lease management, payment and collections, financial management, maintenance management, financial modeling, and communications.

The advent of the Internet and its explosive growth as a pervasive communications and e-commerce medium has lead to the migration of property management software to the Web, with the latest software developed on the Application Service Provider (ASP) platform. Essentially, this means applications are hosted on the service provider’s, or developers, servers and accessed over the Internet through the users’ web browsers.

Web-based applications and ASPs together offer a number of advantages over traditional platforms. The software is easier to learn and use and significantly easier to manage and maintain. Web-based applications and ASPs together create a web-based solution as a service for rental property managers and owners and reduce the financial impact of technology.

Many of the first web-based property management systems to appear on the market were applications ported from older platforms to the web. Finally, software companies developed property management software for the web built from the ground up. These systems run solely on the web and are accessed through a browser (Software as a Service).

Prior to the emergence of Software as a Service, small to medium-sized owners and managers were locked out of the benefits of high-end property management software due to cost and complexity. Software as a Service levels the playing field for property managers and owners giving them a competitive edge that allows greater control over their properties, access to real-time data, ability to respond more quickly to market changes, and, perhaps most importantly, gives them the most complete and current status of their property available.