DIY accounting options for your rental business

Posted in Blog  
  on Oct 21, 2015

As your rental or property management business is expanding, it's easy to get bogged down in paperwork. If you're dealing with just a small property, though, you may not handle enough transactions to want to hire a full-time accountant yet.
Get your paperwork on track as soon as possible with some of these DIY accounting solutions. Some are general accounting programs, while others are specifically designed to tackle the needs of property managers, rental businesses and real estate companies.

GnuCash runs on most modern operating systems and even has a mobile app, if you need it. GnuCash is free software, so there's no cost to you to try it out. While GnuCash works fine for most businesses, be aware that it has no specific options for rental companies or property management. You may need to manually set up accounts within the system to reflect your business' unique needs.
While GnuCash is free and versatile, be aware that it uses what's called a double entry accounting system, which many novices find confusing. Double entry bookkeeping means that all transactions are recorded as being a deficit to one account and a credit to another account. While GnuCash's documentation helps smooth the transition for new accountants, you may find the adjustment period difficult. Unfortunately, GnuCash offers no options for the single entry accounting systems that most novices find more intuitive.

Wave is a free, online accounting system. Because it's online, you can use it anywhere. All the data is saved on the cloud, and all you need to do is log in.
Its online and mobile options extend to an invoice-creation app, which also tracks payments based on when they're due. This may not be useful for rental payments, but this system works well to track rental deposits. Wave can even take credit and debit card payments, if you allow your tenants to pay their rent that way.

Quicken offers a specific Rental Property Management program that handles specific needs like tracking rent and security deposits.
One of Quicken Rental Property Management's more unusual features is that it makes it easy for property managers to find tax deductible expenses. The program also integrates cleanly with your bank accounts and comes with mobile options. The program is not free, and due to its features that deal with taxes, you would need to buy a new version each year to have the right updates.

FreshBooks is a cloud-based program, and its primary selling point is its ease of use. It boasts a clean, simple interface that many users describe as intuitive. FreshBooks also provides rapid customer support for users who need help with the program (or with accounting in general).
In addition to accounting features, the program also offers online billing and invoicing, along with importing of expenses, ability to accept online payments, and tracking timesheets. FreshBooks is a subscription-based service, but offers a free trial.

Intuit QuickBooks
QuickBooks is a software program designed to handle accounts for many kinds of businesses, including property management companies. In addition to all vital accounting functions, it allows easy synchronization with banks, online invoicing, and bill payment, and so forth. If you need extra help, you can hire an accountant or financial adviser from their site directly.
QuickBooks is a subscription service, although there is a free trial for the program. However, many professional accountants use QuickBooks, so if you choose in the future to hire an accountant to handle your finances, you'll be able to simply hand them your QuickBooks files with no need to convert.

Sage 50
Formerly known as Peachtree, Sage 50 is an accounting program specifically designed for small businesses. While a lot of the program's functions are for retail businesses, there's plenty for property management companies as well. Unlike many of the programs listed here, Sage 50 is a subscription purchase that's paid for by the year. That yearly fee is in the hundreds of dollars, so if you have the luxury of time and are looking to convert to Sage 50 you may want to wait for them to hold a sale.
Sage 50 offers multiple tiers of their software for different purposes. The higher tiers allow more individuals within your company access to the software, and provide more sophisticated options. For instance, the Premium version handles audits and automation, while the Quantum version is specifically designed to handle large amounts of data, and offers plenty of options that are specific to various industries. Sage 50 offers free trials for its software, so you can test your desired version and explore its options before paying.

There's a wide range of accounting programs available to property managers. The simpler ones are generally less expensive and focus purely on general accounting. More complicated programs are usually subscription-based and offer options tailored specifically to the needs of individual businesses, including property management companies. Many of these services offer free trials, so you can decide if you like their product. Take advantage of this period to decide if they're useful to your business before making a choice, and you'll walk away happy.


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