As anyone with a smartphone, tablet or laptop knows, technology makes life easier in countless ways. The management of co-op and condo properties is no different, with new digital tools emerging all the time to streamline, facilitate and improve ease of use for property managers, residents and shareholders alike. And all this has changed in a relatively short period of time, evolving quickly over the last decade and a half to a point where digital solutions are a must for almost all property management teams.
“Just 10 years ago, property managers kept track of resident and property information on index cards, and got their phone messages from carbon-copy memo pads,” says Michael Mullin, president of Integrated Business Systems in Totowa. “Today, communications, billing and payments, and maintenance requests all take place electronically. In such a brief time, we have gone from a paper business to a totally automated business – and these once-manual functions are handled via a central property management and accounting system of record.”
Much of today’s digital solutions stem from a need for greater efficiency and cost effectiveness by property managers. “In order to satisfy the needs of a property manager today, we have to deliver solutions that automate most back office processes,” says Adam Friedberg, president of MDS Property Management Software, based in Hauppauge, New York. “If there is a procedure that requires significant manual data entry...technology should be able to drastically reduce, if not eliminate, the cost associated with that process. These days, the work of several full-time employees can be done with a desktop check scanner, as long as it’s running the right software.”
Sarah Sutka of the Gilbert, Arizona-based eUnify software firm agrees on the value of automation for property managers. “Many property management companies are realizing the competitive edge software can provide by simplifying operations and providing better service to HOA clients,” she says. “Firms adopting software can reduce time and overhead while managing more communities, serve more homeowners while fielding fewer calls, and work more efficiently while decreasing their margin of error.”
Many of the digital expectations held by property managers stem from their own experiences with technology in their everyday lives, says Zachary Kestenbaum, principal at BuildingLink, based in New York. “In their personal lives, property managers are used to being able to do everything from their phones or computers, and they now look for that same level of convenience and automation in their jobs.” The same is true for unit owners and shareholders, who are used to self-service and having everything they need at their fingertips, says Kestenbaum.