I used Numbers for a few years when I was starting out (that is Apple’s spreadsheet application). It worked well enough with a few properties, but beyond 3 or so the expenses and accounting get to be so much that it is better to go with a full scale accounting package. I use QuickBooks online and it works great for accounting and property performance reports, but it isn’t made to manage properties. There are a lot of other applications for that and I would suggest you search here in the forums for them.
For the spreadsheet, I had a different page for each property. Each page (property) had details of expenditures and a summary ‘property scorecard’ that summarized performance and expense categories. You get all this and much more with QuickBooks.
If you go with QuickBooks, definitely spend some time with your accountant to get it set up. It is great for generating financial documents, reports, tracking depreciation, travel exoenses, etc. The key is getting it set up right in the beginning.
Look for a property management software solution. These programs are essential QuickBooks for landlords, but with way more rental specific features. Starting with a program now, when you only have a couple properties makes it much easier to learn. There are several free versions available, and as your portfolio grows you can decide to explored paid options that give you more advanced features.
Is Landlording a business or a hobby? There are several reasons landlords need a robust software program, and one of them is to see where we stand financially. If we are making money or not. But what most landlords don't seem to understand, is that a professional Financial Software Program, can mean everything in winning a case when it comes to an eviction or not, and provide evidence, when a tenant says that you never took care of those repairs. Or that they paid their rent and you didn't give them credit for it. Or that their Security Deposit was $1000.00 when it really was only $550.00. An Excell Spreadsheet is just a summary of things, but it isn't a true documentation of the facts.
When I would go to court I printed out the Tenant Ledger Sheet (History of their payments and what they were billed for, whether it was for damages they did, late rent, whatever it may be,) and I printed out their History from QuickBooks along with phone messages, left on my machine, letters I wrote them, their lease agreement and everything that transpired from the day they filled out an application to the day I had to go to court.
When the Judges saw how prepared I was, the evidence I provided, they knew that I was a professional and they respected that. The tenant's had better now prove their case and provide their evidence, which they couldn't do because they didn't have an excuse, they didn't have any evidence to counterclaim my evidence.
So, having a Software Program like QuickBooks, can really save you a lot of money.
Try giving a Judge a print out of an Excel Spreadsheet. See how far that goes. The Judge's eyes only want to focus on the tenant in his or her courtroom and not have to look at everybody's stuff stuck together on a spreadsheet.
In the 13 years I was a landlord I did my own evictions and I never lost a case. Why? Because QuickBooks was my very best friend. Plus I had Vonage Phone and I had Stamps.com. All these things provided me with evidence that won my cases for me in court. I very rarely had to say much of anything. All I had to do was to hand my evidence to the Judge and he or she took it from there.
I took on DTE Energy and won. I won my case because I had QuickBooks. I had proof that the Tenant was still staying in my home and the light bill belonged to her. It was all documented in Quickbooks.
I took on the City of Detroit over a Trash Case, and I won despite the fact that the prosecuting attorney told me if I couldn't prove my case I'd get 90 days in jail. I did win the case. When the Judge took the stand and they called my name, the prosecuting attorney, told the Judge that the case was dismissed.
I'm not a lawyer, but I have common sense. I document everything under the sun. I make sure I have backup to win my cases and that was QuickBooks, Vonage Phone and Stamps.com, and of course the Lease Agreement, letters written to the tenant and anything they wrote or said to you.
So, you may start out with one house and think a spreadsheet is fine. But you can be sued whether you have one house or 100 houses. You better be prepared.
We use QB and Buildium (great PM software program)
You can use Brandon's
Here's a link to a google spreadsheet I use. Even have my mom using it for her rental properties. Just save a copy in excel if you prefer that. Sorry to mod's if I'm not allowed to post these kinds of links.
@Frank Mowatt I twisted myself in knots trying to use QB for my 2 multi-families and I found it to be very inflexible and unforgiving. I use Excel and I love it. I use have made a number of spread sheets which handle my loans, rent roll etc. I also made one that instantly breaks down the tax increase every year to correspond to each units percent increase based on square footage.
As for record keeping I recommend this one to start out
You will have to modify it to your property, but I use it for my 2 buildings and it works like a dream. Good Luck