The use of Property Management Systems (PMS) is revolutionising the real estate residential and commercial property management in Kenya.
It is helping real estate agents and landlords efficiently and affordably manage their rental units. Not only this, this software is helping property agents and landlords to better understand their tenants, their needs, their behaviours and expectations.
Even more important, PMS has reduced property management costs as everything is done virtually, from paying of rent, receipting of payments, to lodging of maintenance service requests by tenants.
The system processes rent payments in real time, into tenants’ accounts, and copies this to the agent’s accounts and landlord’s accounts. This saves on time, improves efficiency and is user-friendly and convenient for the tenant.
Property management firms, Fanaka Rentals and KenyaSoko Real Estate, use PMS to manage their businesses. Nicholas Ngatia, the business development manager, KenyaSoko Real Estate, says that the use of this digital software has made work easier.
“The use of PMS has replaced manual filing of records, for instance, which involved filing a lot of paperwork,” he says.
Before the firm installed the system in 2017, it had a file for each apartment they managed. It was cumbersome going through many sheets of data whenever they needed to access particular information.
This system has also made Fanaka Rentals’s job more efficient.
“This is especially so for communication, it gets done faster, and so does processing of rent payment, house bookings and vacant houses. The system has also eliminated the hassle associated with house-hunting,” says Moses Muriithi, the CEO of the property firm.
Tenants too are enjoying the efficiency that comes with these digital systems. Ignatius Opondo, who lives in Utawala, says that the firm that manages the flats he lives in uses PMS. Having been a tenant where everything was done manually, he says that all property managing firms should install this system because it has made life easier for everyone.
“Whenever I make a payment, my account updates automatically. I am able to access my rent payment statements and balances in real time,” says Mr Opondo.
In 2021, he used the system to switch to a new house without the exhausting and time-consuming process that comes with physically searching for a house.
“I could see from the system that not far from where I lived, there was a new one-bedroom house which was vacant. I just put a vacation notice and booked into the new house through the system,” he explains, adding that the software has also reduced the turn-around time it takes to get repairs done after reporting.
“For instance, a month ago, my shower stopped working, I just took a photo of it and uploaded it into the system and the agent immediately responded with a call and set an appointment with a plumber.”
Musau Kithuka is a former lecturer who has contracted an agency that uses PMS to manage his rental units in Mwiki and in Athi River.
“They have been using it since 2019, and it has relieved me of the pressure to have to force tenants to pay rent on time,” says Dr Kithuka, noting that the system is consistent and accurate.
The software has also disciplined his spending and helps him manage his rental income.
“Previously, I could access the rental income anytime, now, the system allows me to withdraw money just twice a month, therefore I am able to save, savings that earn an interest.”
Kithuka is now a happy landlord and does not regret selling his three matatus that operated along Jogoo Road in Nairobi and investing this money on property.
“My matatu income was a big feast for Mungiki, rogue traffic police officers, drivers, conductors and city council askaris. After two years of frustration, I sold them and invested in real estate.”
In 2007, he bought his first apartment in Athi River, which was already occupied, and in 2009, he bought another apartment in Mwiki, also occupied, and continued collecting rent. Then, everything was done manually, from collection of rent, issuing of receipts to maintenance. With the PMS system in place, every aspect of running his apartments is easier and more efficient.
Samira Hannif, a landlord in Utawala whose units are also managed by a digital system, is also a happy business woman.
“I am able to tell which units are vacant, any new occupancies and who has not paid their rent. This makes it easy to plan for my money as a landlord,” says Ms Hannif, explaining that the system can also be used to resolve rent payment disputes because it keeps accurate records and accounts for every cent.
Commenting on other benefits of the system, Fanaka Rentals CEO, Muriithi, says that investing in this system has given his firm the power to go beyond collecting rent on behalf of his clients to ensuring that investors get their money on time, and according to their subdivision formula.
“For families and groups that have invested on property together, the system is able to disburse the funds into their accounts according to the subdivision formula that they have given us,” he explains.
Besides, the system is automatically able to pay any statutory deductions that are due, making it easy for investors to comply with the law.
Still, for investment groups, the SokoSacco PMS is able to not only collect rent on their behalf, but to also disburse it into each investors accounts using an agreed on formula, while the KenyaSoko PMS sends reminders to tenants when rent is due, and gives an incentive, (Sh200 discount) to those who pay by the fifth of each month, as for those that pay after the tenth , the system penalises them 10 percent of the rent due.
Goodbye to manual records
The elimination of bulk record keeping is what motivated both firms to invest in this software.
“We had already ran out of space due to increasing paperwork. For instance, to trace a single payment for each housing unit, we either had to print M-Pesa statements or bank statements and then file them in that particular apartment’s file,” Ngatia notes.
Such bulk filing, besides being a time water, also poses a security risk, points out Muriithi.
“Most landlords do not like it because there is no privacy of their accounts, yet property managers have to do it for accountability purposes,” he explains.
With digital management systems, such payment records can be traced with the click of a button, and it is more secure as only the landlord or property manager is authorised by the system to access such data.
With the use of PMS, tenants are also able to request for house repairs from their interface, after which real estate managers send the appropriate technician at the agreed on time. Managing firms keep a database of construction technicians and contacts of service providers such as Kenya Power and City Water & Sewerage Company in the areas where they operate.
There is no doubt that these systems are a time saver, hence enabling property managers to concentrate on growing their businesses and improving their services.
“Initially, we would handle each house and landlord separately, now, the system has centralised all the properties that we manage. Due to this, we have reduced the number of staff yet are still able to serve our clients even better because we operate efficiently,” observes Ngatia.