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What you need to know about real estate and lease management software 

By Paul Sharp

How many times have you found yourself frustrated with the longwinded approval processes in your role? Higher education facilities are notorious for this – making sure everything meets strict compliance standards. 

That’s absolutely fine, but we need to ensure these aren’t to the detriment of our time or money. That’s where real estate and lease management software helps – getting better value from your lease. 

How does real estate and lease management software work? 

As facilities managers, we have some degree of flexibility when it comes to managing operational costs – choosing the best value suppliers, for example. But with the fixed costs of month-to-month leases, there’s little room for negotiation. Instead, we need to find ways to get the best out of our leasing costs, which is exactly where software comes in. 

The three pillars of real estate and lease management software 

Broadly speaking, there are three main services provided by real estate and lease management software, which offer multiple benefits:  

  • Accounting 
  • Operations 
  • Management and leasing. 

So, what can the software do with each of these? 

Accounting features 

The best way to get more value out of your lease agreements is to have full visibility of them. With a potentially vast portfolio of academic institutions, you’ll need to have all your costs in one place. Software can provide comprehensive cost breakdowns to help you understand where your funds are going. 

Within this, expect balance sheet integrations and export options, as well as cost data for integrated workplace management systems. Essentially, lease management accounting software helps you to break down your costs in the context of the lease – and it can make this easier by integrating with any ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) software you may use. 

As such, you can also expect simple features such as electronic funds transfer, tax filing, bank reconciliation, and income and outgoings. 

Operations features 

The operational features of this software should give you an insight into your macro property data. You’ll find it often comes with your IWMS, which again, helps to give you context with the buildings you manage. 

When we say, “macro property data”, we’re looking at the details of the buildings – for example, the total square footage of a university lecture hall. We’ll also consider the workspace allocation and how the space for users is allocated throughout: number of floors and rooms, for example. Finally, a general floor plan tells us the location of any on-site facilities, with total occupancy and capacity.  

This kind of detail can help you to understand where the costs are allocated for each part of the building. You can look at workstations, how many people are using which areas, and how many staff members there are in each – helping you identify inefficiencies or opportunities to find better value.  

Other useful operations features make comms easier, including: 

  • An owner portal
  • Remote access for unlimited user accounts
  • Document sharing between owners and tenants 
  • Tracking for repairs and maintenance 
Management and leasing features 

These features cover the admin and marketing side of lease management – for example, rental applications, property marketing, document storage and electronic signatures for contracts. What’s really important here is security. For example, in today’s remote working world, we’re relying more and more on tools such as electronic signature and verification. 

Likewise, we need to make sure our documents are stored securely, which is made easier thanks to cloud connectivity. Plus, it’s not just about storage – it’s also about sending files. A good real estate and lease management tool should be able to export files and transmit data safely. 

The key challenges of real estate and lease management 

Managing educational properties presents a huge number of challenges, which are growing with market changes. When choosing real estate and lease management software, you need to be assured that you can solve all of the following problems in one place: 

Increased management scrutiny 

With increased pressure around compliance, facilities managers must be prepared to be audited at any time. Strong software helps to provide full visibility of your operations, identifying any irregularities before they turn into problems. 

Shifting market influences 

Changes in customer demand present challenges for facilities managers who need to move with the times. By viewing all data in one platform, these managers can identify areas of falling or growing demand, and shift their service offerings cost-effectively. 

Increasing costs 

Fixed costs such as leasing agreements, as well as operational costs including energy bills, are only going to go up. Good software helps to identify the areas in which managers can find better value for money. 

Real-time reporting 

Circumstances can change at a moment’s notice, particularly with data such as portfolio costs and space planning. Your software should enable you to find data and change plans in real time to respond to demand. 

Operational improvements 

As costs increase, we find more ways to look at improving efficiencies across the board. Your software should be able to give you full visibility over all your operations. Consider factors like your property portfolio analysis, lease administration and general work management. This should start from the moment of acquisition, right through to ownership, leasing, maintenance, and disposition.  

What should you look for with your real estate and lease management software? 

So, in order to solve these problems, you need to identify what your property management challenges are, and look for the key solutions within the software you choose. We can categorise these into four ‘must-haves’ for buyers: 

  1. Compatibility 
  2. Pricing 
  3. Scalability 
  4. Ease of use 

Let’s take a look at each of these to help them guide your purchasing decision. 

Compatibility with your existing systems 

Whether you’re using the most cutting-edge admin software or a legacy system, you have to find software that integrates with your current setup. Otherwise, you risk two things: firstly, that your users become frustrated with the system and reluctant to use it. Secondly, you will invariably incur further costs as you try to upgrade existing software or hunt again for something compatible. 

Look for a software provider that offers simple data migration services – this will save you time exporting data manually and could minimise security risks. You’ll end up with a seamless integration and happier users – which adds up to more value from your property management.  

Price models 

No two pricing models are the same, so make sure you pick software that suits your needs and your cash flow. For example, you may find software with a cheaper annual plan, or a simple monthly pay-as-you-go service. 

What’s important here is to understand exactly what you’re getting for your money. For example, have you looked at the features you’ll be getting as part of the package? Generally, you’ll find prices scaled up in line with the number of features available. Check that you’re only paying for what you’ll actually use. 

A key feature or bolt-on to be aware of is training. This also includes general support – for example, is the vendor willing to provide training from the off, and what can you get for your money in the long term? Will you have to pay more for onsite software than cloud-based? Make sure you ask these questions at the enquiry stage. 

Scalability 

Ideally, you’ll want to choose a software that makes communication simple. This means giving both owners and tenants access – making sure that you, as the facilities manager, have full visibility of all costs and income.   

This is where scalability becomes important. If you have long-term plans to expand, you need to make sure you’re not impeded by user limits. Ask about this at the enquiry stage – you may find, for example, that there are pricing plans with user limits, but these are in the scope of your plans.  

Ease of use 

This one is arguably the most important, because it concerns people! You need to make sure your software is usable for everybody on the team, including property owners, facilities managers, and tenants. 

A good way to test this is to use the demo feature – if you can show others how to use it, this demonstrates its relative ease of use. Do your homework and read reviews or ask others who’ve used it how they’ve got on. Ask them about any pros and cons. Again, we want to save frustration and potentially higher costs – so don’t overlook the ease of use for everybody. 

Key takeaways

Lease management in the educational sector is undergoing ever stricter scrutiny, so facilities managers need to be prepared with the most up to date information. In tandem, this visibility can help us to save costs or find better value from the properties we manage by understanding how the space is managed. 

When choosing software, you should make sure it is simple, compatible, and offers the accounting, operational and management features you need. Save money and add value where you need it most. 

If you have any more questions, please contact the higher education team at AssetWorks and we’ll be in touch. 

Tags: real estate and lease management

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