Recommendation for Bookkeeping?

9 Replies

Hello Everyone, 

I hope everyone is having a Merry Christmas! 

I'll give a bit of back story before posing my question in order to get the best response to my situation. 

I have been doing all of our bookkeeping for our real estate business. We have been doing BRRR deals and I have been able to handle all of the bookkeeping so far.

We are looking looking at a few areas to expand our current operations. I have been talking with a few non performing note investors as well as some flippers. We are entertaining the concept of doing a JV in the near future. In both cases it will be equity deals.

I can see either path will most likely be just beyond my bookkeeping abilities.  I'm looking to hear what others have done to get over this hurdle without breaking the bank.

I currently have a CPA, but he is only involved at year end and takes forever to get back to me on any bookkeeping questions I have. I'm not sure if this is normal or if it's not really his lane.

So what sort of bookkeeping / accounting systems or arrangements do you have with your financial advisors? National firm or Local? Bookkeeper or Accountant? Frequency of contact: weekly, monthly or quarterly?  What should one expect to pay for a relatively small amount of bookkeeping for a new operation? 

If you have one that is taking clients and has affordable rates I would be interested in their contact info or company name as well.

Currently looking for a solution that is scalable. I currently only spent about 1 - 2 hrs a month doing the books. Time isn't the issue though, it's the complicated JV accounting that I'm just not sure how to properly account for.

I may be over complicating things but I'm interested in hearing what others have done.

Thanks,

Jeff V

@Jeff V.

I use Quickbooks used to use excel decades ago, I asked my business friends and accountants for recommendations for book keepers. Each property, note, and JV is a seperste class in QBs. If JV is big enough it becomes its own company. When notes are performing I use a servicing company such as FCI because of federal law and liability associated with note servicing-$15/ month per note. .

Your CPA  can help set up or tweak your QB structure as required  I use my Bookeeper 2 days per week for one business. You can expect to pay $15-30 per hour. The more they work the lower $/hour and location  also plays a factor. Cali will be higher than Ga   

My bookkeepers are local because they pick up mail and do a few other administrative tasks such as bank deposits, meetings with accountant, searching for better vendors, etc. I do my books locally but am considering going to the cloud for ease and access for accountant , book keeper, and me.  I would also get a CPA that will help you organize, develop strategies, and  provide support during the year as needed. I talk and meet with my accountant 4-6 times a year but I have been working with him for 2 decades. 

Merry Christmas to you and your family. I wish the best for you in the new year  

@Jeff V.
I am a note investor and have a book keeper who is taking on clients. Email me offline and I can give you her info

@Jeff V.

I'll start with CPA involvement. Each accountant has his own business model. Those who only prepare tax returns charge you for that service specifically. Expecting him to include year-long support and tax planning for free is not fair. Those accountants usually offer tax planning consultations throughout the year, in addition to tax preparation. Again, it's another service, and it is usually charged separately. This should make sense if you compare this to how doctors charge.

Then, there is a continuing service model. You pay a monthly subscription fee, and it covers tax preparation, tax planning, help with IRS issues, and a variety of other services - for example, bookkeeping is sometimes part of the deal. Several accountants here on BP operate on this model. My firm is among a few that offer both models.

Next, bookkeeping. Finding a competent REI bookkeeper is ridiculously hard. I know, because I've been continuously looking for them myself, and have found very few. The problem here is that REI bookkeeping is VERY different from traditional bookkeeping. If you're a consultant, a Realtor, or a retailer - the bookkeeping is a straightforward task. You can use various accounting software out of the box, like QuickBooks or Xero. You can use a variety of emerging cloud-based solutions that provide a cheap bookkeeping platform, often with backend support by accountants a phone call away. And, of course, you can hire any traditional bookkeeper and expect the job taken care of.

Not so with REI bookkeeping. Traditional bookkeepers, including those with the high-end credentials and certifications and years of experience, attempt to handle REI business as any other business - resulting in a total mess, unusable for tax preparation. I taught a 2-day (that is 14 hours) seminar on bookkeeping for investors and their bookkeepers, and we only cover fundamentals. Yes, it is that complex if you do it right. 

Even core REI stuff like rental properties, repairs, escrows, etc. stumps most bookkeepers. Add to that hard money, JVs, owner financing and especially notes - and you should not be surprised why finding a good REI bookkeeper is more difficult than finding a good REI accountant or lawyer. The real good ones are super-busy and expensive. Most others are waste of money, frankly. Speaking from (extensive) experience.

To make things worse, there is almost unavoidable disconnect between bookkeepers and accountants - unless they have a business relationship and worked out their differences one-on-one. 

Recommendations? Your best bet, in my opinion, is to work with a REI accountant who provides bookkeeping services in-house - either an actual day-to-day bookkeeping or an ongoing review of your books. The second best option is to find a REI accountant who has an established relationship with an independent bookkeeper and endorses that bookkeeper's service. The remaining third option is to pay your current accountant (or whoever you choose as his replacement) for a detailed review of how he wants your books organized, and specifically your more complex deals - and then try to carefully implement his blueprint either yourself or thru some bookkeeper.

There is one unacceptable option, practically guaranteed to lead to frustration and an enormous waste of resources. It is to adapt someone's bookkeeping system (there're several on the market) and then expect that your accountant will be able to work with the results. Chances are - he won't be able to, unless you go to the same accountant who created the system in the first place. Which happens to be my recommended option that I already mentioned anyway.

I realize this message is not what you want to hear, but it is the true state of the industry. 

Maybe it's not the best analogy, but looking for "the right bookkeeping system" without having it approved by your CPA beforehand is like picking the best furniture for your house without consulting your wife. :)  Good luck.

Thanks for the advice everyone.  Great information.

I really appreciate the time that each of you took to respond to my questions, it has been most helpful.

I learned the basics of bookkeeping for rental properties from a book at https://landlordaccounting.com/ and it really helped me to get the ball rolling.  Where it fell short was accounting for rehabs...  though I figured it out because each line item was either a repair or an improvement to the property which was covered in the book.  It didn't cover anything about Notes, joint venturing, having multiple entities and moving money between them ect...  all of the things that I'll be dealing with shortly.

Figured I would share that in hopes to help someone else out to at least learn the basics of doing their own books in the beginning.

Again, thanks everyone and hope everyone is having a Happy New Year!

Jeff V

PS Moderators, I have no affiliation with Landlord Accounting site...  just an tip to give back to those who may be looking to learn the basics.

When we started we hired a book keeper to come out to the house every month.  It was a hundred bucks an hour but only 1-2 hours split across a few entities.

1st few months were setting up the rentals and notes, once these steps were done I started doing the entries and using the account "ASK my Accountant" for anything I was unsure of and we wold review those when she was out.  Then we went to her bing out every other month so that everything would be rolled up and ready for year end.

They no longer do house calls but I now only have a question every month or two (usually with the equity accounts for  partners) so my wife takes my laptop in and any paperwork and goes over everything.

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