How to self manage accounting/ balancing the books for 23 units

12 Replies

Hi everyone,

Just looking for some advice on how to manage finances. We are set to be closing on a deal that would put us at 23 units total spread across 3 properties that we are self managing. We will be using Cozy for rent collection and maintenance requests, but are trying to figure out the best way to manage the financial side. 

Since we are still small it does not seem cost effect to use one of the online softwares like appfolio or buildium yet. What do you all use to balance the books? Just a simple excel spreadsheet? If so, would anyone mind sharing a copy of the excel that they are currently using? 

One thing we are really wanting to do is to set systems in place so we can scale with them, and not have to constantly change our systems as we grow. 

I would love to hear from those in a similar situation as well as those with 100+ units, to see what they would do different if they were to go back to when they were just getting started. 

Thanks so much for all the help, 


I’m not a property manager but wouldn’t a simple copy of QuickBooks do the job? You set up each property as a job and you can run all the expenses and income through each property. 

QuickBooks grows as you grow.  My husband and I owned 40 rental properties which ranged from apartments to single-family homes.  I have been using QuickBooks Pro since 1998. 

As you grow in your company, and I mean you have to get huge to outgrow QuickBooks Pro, you would then want to move up to QuickBooks Enterprise Solution.  The BIG DADDY of QuickBooks that we don't talk about much on here, because you have to be a BIG DADDY in order to want it.    I believe QuickBooks Enterprise Solution is about $5,000, not sure anymore at the price. 

I have been involved with Real Estate Companies, big Real Estate Brokers who use QuickBooks Pro or Premier.  If they can use it with all their properties, you can use it for just what you plan to purchase.  

As Kevin above states, you can track all your properties via the Class Feature.  It gives you a break down of income for that property, less expenses for that property, giving you your bottom line for that property. It just doesn't get any better or simpler than that. 

Foot Note:  

Just my opinion.  Do you know what the best rent collection system is on the market?  It's called an Envelope and a Stamp paid for by your tenants.  

Why pay extra money to collect rents from tenants who are supposedly adults and who you CHOSE because they paid their bills on time.  (Or you should have chosen those types of tenants, and they always should be COLLECTIBLE.  If not always get a CO-SIGNER who is also COLLECTIBLE)

In today's society, we take away the responsibility of others by making their life simpler but adding extra burdens to our own industry and ourselves.   It cost money to pay someone to collect rents when it's the tenants' responsibility to pay their rent on time. 

Time is of the essence when it comes to our industry.  Banks, rent collection agencies are closed on holidays, and weekends or and sometimes, they make mistakes.  Why do you think our Mortgage Lenders don't send someone to us to collect our mortgage payments? Or hire a business to collect the mortgage payments for them from us?  Because it would cost them to do so, and because we SIGNED A CONTRACT, that had a due date, and because we QUALIFIED for the money as ADULTS which makes it OUR RESPONSIBILITY to make sure we get our payments to them on time or pay a late fee.  Life is really simple if we just trust in the system of people being responsible for their own actions.   Don't treat your tenants like children.  

Landlords have invested tens of thousands of dollars in their homes and yet we treat out tenants like children under the guise that we are just making it easier for them to pay their rent.  Competing with the competition, by offering them such a service since everyone seems to be doing it.   

Let me tell you.  If you have good rentals, having a collection agency or another way for them to pay their rent will not make them rent from you if you have a dump just because you have an easier way for them to pay their rent. 

Just my opinion.

Nancy Neville

@Account Closed I see the point you are making, but having tenants pay by mail comes with it's own problems as well (i.e. lost checks, delayed mail, etc.). Cozy is a free service that allows a tenant to setup free online payments to their landlord. I view it as providing a perk to a tenant as they can setup automatic payments and not have to worry about mailing rent each month. 

In addition, don't most banks offer ACH/Autopay options so their customers don't have to send in checks every month? Just like landlords, banks are trying to reduce their cost and risk by decreasing the amount of customers they have sending checks. By offering other payment options (ACH, Autopay, etc.), banks/landlords are not only reducing their handling cost, but also reducing the risk that their customers will default.

Josiah, once again we must remember that time is of the essence.  When you have other "hands-in-the-pot-(so-called "Perks") handled by other entities, then the tenant has an excuse to tell the landlord the reason their rent is late or has not been received is due to the party handling collecting their rent payments.  That, the Collection Agency lost their payment.  Therefore, they are not responsible for their rent being late.  And they would be absolutely correct.  Which means you must wait for the collection agency to find their error, which could take days or weeks before YOU receive credit for the rent the tenant paid. This means that if you had to evict this tenant for non-payment of rent, you cannot do it until proof has been given to you that the Tenant DID NOT PAY THEIR RENT.  

 If a tenant pays YOU directly via mail and the rent gets lost in the mail, then it is up to THE TENANT to research what happened to their rent by going to the bank and having a search placed on the money order or check.  But this doesn't relieve them of the duty of their rent being due now!  They must pay you for the rent that is due while they wait for the bank to research what happened to their check or money order.   

The difference, of course, is that the tenant still owes you the rent for this month and is due now, because it is just a "he said, "She said" type scenario.  They could have canceled the check and kept the receipt and therefore the receipt is a lie.  They didn't send you the rent at all.  It is a Stall Tactic that is used by some tenants to stall the eviction process. Therefore, you tell them they still need to pay their rent that is due now, and they will be reimbursed by the bank once the research is done.  (This has happened quite a bit when a tenant starts having financial problems)

 If the Collection Agency lost the rent, then YOU have to wait for the people YOU HIRED to find the error and therefore the Tenant is not responsible for the rent that was lost, as they will have a receipt written to them from YOUR COLLECTION AGENCY, and therefore you know that the Collection Agency did in fact accept their rent) Therefore the Tenants will not have to pay their current rent now, because the receipt shows they did and they paid it to YOUR COLLECTION AGENCY.

Now, I want you to repeat everything I said, three times real fast, as it is quite a tongue twister.  LOL Whew!

Nancy Neville

I self manage nearly 200 doors. I offer cozy for payments and also they can mail checks to my po box. I had buildium for a short while and looked at others but QB has done the trick for us. Each unit is a class and each tenant is a customer. At the beginning of the month my AR shows my balance of rent due.

We had three mortars payments get lost in the mail just this month. As a result we had late fees we had to pay. 

We use ACH or web bill pay for collecting rents. The night of the 5th we had one tenant who had not paid yet. I called her and she was able to pull up and screen shot in less than 5 minutes that she had paid the rent on time, and the check was in the mail. 

Skip the mail, any bank or credit union worth using has this feature. If it gets "lost" they quickly have documention that have done their part. 

Our bank didn't care that the mail got lost. Late fee paid, new check written, cancelled check $28. 

We have gotten two of the lost checks back in the mail. One didn't have a stamp, one had M. Street instead of Main Street. Still haven't seen the other. 

@Tip Lee Check out *************.com It's a website for a group called Nomad Investors. I have no affiliation, but there is a wealth of REI resources on there, including a free bookkeeping spreadsheet you can download.

I use QuickBooks Pro for my 6 units, combined with Cozy for rent collection.  It works well, I just have to enter the data on rent payments.  Once you learn QBs, and get set up, it is easy.

QBs does have a learning curve, and all the tutorials are set up for simple service business, so you need to wrap your mind around using QBs for landlording. I wish I have read Nancy's book on QBs for Landlords, or taken the Udemy course before setting my system up, as I am probably not using all that QBs has to offer. Setting your system up correctly at the beginning allows you to run meaningful reports on your data, which will help with keep/sell/refinance decisions in the future. Being able to provide professional, real financials will help immensely when you sell your properties in the future. I did purchase the video tutor on learning QBs and the Missing Manual for a quick reference, which was very helpful. Decide if you want to use classes for your various properties BEFORE you set your system up. I have one six unit apartment building. I have my tenants set up as customers, with each apartment as a separate job. My Airbnb is set up as a separate company (different property, not in my LLC) , as the Pro version allows me to run 5 companies. Even though I do not use classes, the reports I can generate are impressive and very helpful.

I started using QBs upon the recommendation of my CPA.  The biggest advantage is at tax time, you can just send your QB records to your CPA via either email or thumb drive.  Easy Peasy.

@Tip Lee I like Rentec Direct for software. It has all the abilities of the big software packages but costs much less. Unlimited tech support. Help with advertising, applications, website. I pay around $40 a month for 25 units. I’ve tried just about every method for online rent collection. I really like Zelle (directly through Chase, Wells Fargo, Bank of America) and Venmo. Sometimes when tenants pay through PayPal, I get hit with huge fees. Cozy takes a couple of extra days but I’m sure it’s fine. DependIng on your bank and accoubt type, ACH transfers may not be aorth the hassle amd expense. I’m going to start offering a “discount” for online payment (really a fee for checks and money orders) to encourage it.

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