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Why use lettings software?

A good lettings software package can hold the key to rentals success, says Marc Da Silva.

Property Drum

002-software-27If you run a lettings agency then you’ll know the immense time and competition pressures your businesses and staff face, but can software really help you stay ahead of the game?

Lettings software is designed to help letting agents and property managers run their operations smoothly, cut costs, replace paper processes and increase productivity; saving time and money by cutting overheads and being more efficient.

“The incredibly fast paced and highly competitive nature of the letting industry makes it hugely important for agents to have an effective software solution in place, while ensuring the highest levels of compliance that are so vital,” said Gary Barker, Director at Reapit. “The ability to automate processes, store and quickly access key information and effectively match applicants with properties is invaluable.”

Co-operation

“High quality lettings software manages high levels of complex and fast changing information. It helps agents manage their landlords and tenants much more efficiently.” Mark Freeman, Jupix

Reapit, like some other letting agent software providers, offers a consolidated database solution that connects sales and lettings, with a view to improving lead generation and cross-referrals. “These two teams should feed off each other, not work in isolation like so many agencies do,” Barker added.

002-software-27-mug2Ben Robinson of ETSOS goes a step further by arguing that a single software support package should be used throughout the business to ensure that everybody is on the same page.

He commented, “It is hugely important for an agency to use software support packages throughout the business. Whether its back office process, marketing, outsourcing or regulatory compliance, technology can help the agent to save time and money as well as introduce new revenue streams.”

Major benefits of lettings software

“Good software increases efficiency, drives productivity, reduces stress and optimises a business to comply with regulations and best practice.” Mark Howlett Propco

High quality letting and management software packages should always provide easy to use features, designed to support all areas of the letting agency business. But there are three main areas where software packages can really help letting and managing agents in the day-to-day running of their business, according to Mark Howlett of PropCo: accounting, marketing, and record keeping.

002-software-27-mug1“Good software increases efficiency, drives productivity, reduces stress on staff, and optimises a business to comply with regulations and industry best practise,” Howlett said.

He added, “It simply is no longer necessary to rely on spreadsheets or paper records to keep track of a lettings portfolio, client and tenant correspondence, property management, and, of course, the complexities of lettings accounts.”

Property management

Property management tools allow agents to perform a wide range of tasks; book maintenance jobs, request tenant references, order gas safety certificates and EPCs, set inspection reminders, monitor rent payments and agency fees, upload tenancy deposit registration details to TDP schemes and retrieve end of tenancy refunds, produce risk management reports, send messages, create documents, among other features. Crucially, a full audit trail is usually recorded against each property to act as a historical file, supported by a dedicated account manager.

“Good letting agency software manages high levels of complex and fast changing information, making it essential to the smooth running of a business. It helps agents let their properties more quickly and easily by automating once complex processes, and helps them to manage their relationship with their landlords (and tenants) smoothly and efficiently,” said Mark Freeman of Jupix.

CFPwinMan, one of the longest established lettings packages, supplied by Property Software Group, is filled with outstanding features to help agents gain that competitive advantage. Mark Goddard, CEO, says, “We are launching a new lettings portal, which will be a real game-changer for many agencies.

“The portal allows landlords, tenants and contractors to login securely through the agent’s own website, see relevant information and it will manage all communication for the property maintenance side of the business. This means that the applicant can report a fault through the portal, the agent can ask a contractor to quote, they can then either instruct the contractor to proceed or seek approval from the landlord through the portal; the contractor can notify the agent when the work is complete and finally when happy, the tenant can sign the job off; making the whole process stress free for all parties involved.”

Legal compliance

Letting agency software packages provide a comprehensive collection of legally approved letting template documents and practices, which are fully compliant with industry standards. These packages allow agents to arrange full photographic inventories, gas and electrical safety checks, EPCs, tenancy agreements, offer letters, anti-money laundering checks, risk management reports, an audit trail, landlord tax returns, legal notices, among other essential items.

Steven Barker, Sales Director at C.A.R.L., says that as a lettings business grows, you have to keep a very close eye on compliance. “The opportunities for things to go wrong increase proportionally and that has the potential to result in either a sizeable fine and or a prison sentence. With this in mind, one of the most common areas an agent is looking to address when they invest in a property management system is compliance.

“C.A.R.L. enables an agent to streamline the processes around compliance, producing relevant documentation in a timely and professional manner, ensuring the agent can not only meet, but exceed their customers’ expectations.”

Peter Grant, CEO at VTUK, agrees, “When it comes to compliance, the system should manage this process and keep you constantly updated as requirements change. Without this, the entire business, including any associated sales operations, is seriously at risk.”

Accreditation

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When it comes to compliance, the system should manage the entire process

CFPwinMan led the field some years ago to gain accreditation for lettings and property management software from the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) and the National Approved Lettings Scheme (NALS). Other suppliers followed suit and it’s a hugely important accreditation, so it’s worth checking whether your current software is similarly accredited. “We are also avid Safe Agent supporters and recently, CFPwinMan received approval by Francis Clark Tax Consultancy Ltd for its calculation and returns module, which accounts for tax on Non Resident UK Landlords. Our accreditation and support of industry body schemes assures our customers that their agency is in safe hands,” says Mark Goddard.

Leading letting products

AcquaintCRM, Aspasia, C.A.R.L., CFPWinMan, EstatesIT, Dezrez, Expertagent, PropCo, Reapit, Rentman, Rentpro and GEMINI are just some of a wide variety of packages on the market, with each product aimed at agencies of all types and sizes.

“Choosing the right lettings software package can make a huge difference to a letting agent’s business,” said Gary Whittaker of Rentman. “Controlling finances, adhering to regulations and communicating effectively are paramount. Errors can be costly, if not disastrous for an agent, so an effective and cost effective software solution is vital.”

Keeping up to date is important too, Steven Barker at C.A.R.L. adds, “Agencies are also looking for a company that is more than a software supplier, but a software and services supplier, giving them a range of products and services designed to save (or make!) the agent money. We’re launching a range of new products and services throughout 2014 to add even more value to our proposition.”

Because selecting the most appropriate letting agent software package for your business is not always easy, we offer the following insight into some of the leading letting and property management agent software support products available, in order help make your decision that little bit easier.

Software providers:

Aspasia
Part of the Qube Global Software suite, the Aspasia Web and Aspasia Cloud products are based on Oracle, widely considered to be one of the world’s most powerful database engines. It supports the entire letting cycle, enables agents to share common information without any data duplication, and provides comprehensive client accounting and property management features, while tenants can register maintenance requests online 24/7.
www.aspasia.net

C.A.R.L.
C.A.R.L. software is designed to make a difference in the lettings sector. Along with compliance, another key area for agencies is the management of the accounts; to include rent collection, the production of detailed rent statements and reconciliation of the client and deposit account. C.A.R.L. enables the agent to produce detailed rent statements to include the appropriate agency and contractor deductions, contractor, agency and deposit statements in a seamless workflow for single or multiple landlords and properties. www.propsoftware.co.uk

Estates IT
The main letting and property management benefits of Estates IT’s PCHomes Plus are the production of window cards and property lists, applicant and property matching, email, text and email shot tools, management reports and multi-branch interfacing. The software also offers off-site backup, a diary for viewings, valuations, appointments, meetings, gas checks and management visits, while the Property Management Suite handles all admin and client accounts. www.estatesit.com

ETSOS
ETSOS offer an online platform which allows agents to manage properties, easily comply with legislative changes, instantly order various products, make anti money laundering ID checks, outsource payments, track jobs and tasks, access a free quote and referral system and issue branded compliance packs. These packs are customisable to the agent and so can contain any of the following: electronic property information questionnaire, environmental hazard report, register of title, title plan and copy of the lease. www.etsos.co.uk

Jupix
Jupix is a web-based property platform that covers every aspect of the letting process, property management and accounts. Main features include property matching tools, dedicated client interaction, easy applicant viewings, appointment reminders, dedicated property reports, monitors the number of website hits and property viewings. Jupix has also partnered with Van Mildert, to enable agents to request tenant referencing at the
click of a button. www.jupix.com

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“Errors can be costly, if not disastrous for a lettings agent, so an effective – and cost effective – software solution is absolutely vital.” Gary Whittaker Rentman

June 29, 2014

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