Understanding Harmony: Do It Again (and again, and again)

Many of your units have recurring maintenance needs.

If you manage an apartment complex, you may find yourself replacing AC filters every 1-3 months. Condo managers may find themselves testing the fire suppression system quarterly. Managers of single-family homes may need to dispatch pool service each week.

No matter what your need for routine maintenance, Harmony has your solution.

For each listing, add routine maintenance items in the Maintenance view, in Appliances & Routine Maintenance. There are a number of pre-defined routine maintenance groups, like Safety Detector/Alarm or Lock/Access Control. There’s also a section for Other Items, where any routine maintenance can be added. Describe the item that needs routine maintenance, with its location. Indicate the last check/service, and the service interval. Service intervals can be any time period, from 1 week to 10 years.

When routine maintenance comes due, a work request is automatically added, and you’ll get an alert on your dashboard. Click or tap to assign the work and set the due date, and notify your vendor as necessary. When the work is complete, the last check/service date will automatically update, and you can relax until the next routine maintenance comes due.

Do you need to know when your vendor shows up to do the maintenance and when they’re done? As with all maintenance, routine maintenance offers the Job Log feature, so a vendor can indicate their arrival and departure by clicking or tapping the check-in/check-out of maintenance from the job site. This is logged in the workorder’s job log, which you can compare to the invoice if and when the vendor invoices for work. This also gives you the insight to answer the tenant call asking about the strange lady who’s knocking on their door asking to check their smoke alarm.

Do you have a multi-unit property that requires the same service interval on an item in all units? In the property’s Maintenance view, add the routine maintenance items and service intervals. Then, for each listing you add in the property, the maintenance items will be automatically added.

Do you have an idea on how Harmony could make your maintenance even easier? We’re all ears! While we feel that maintenance in HERO Harmony is borderline magic, it’s our mission to improve your life as much as possible when it comes to maintenance of the units you manage.

Understanding Harmony: My Owner has 100,000 Properties

This may be a little silly. But even sillier is the actual real-life limit of Harmony – each management agreement can have up to 390,451,572 properties on it. If you have an owner with more than 390 million properties, you either have time travel skills or access to a parallel universe, and we’d love to hear all about it!

This number underscores an important reality: HERO Harmony was designed from the ground up to handle the craziest and most complex arrangements in property management, and do it simply and smoothly.

In reality, your largest client may have a few hundred properties. But they may also own an 8-plex with their brother, and they may own a 68 unit apartment building with another partner. All of this is made simple with Harmony, where an owner is an owner, a unit is a unit, and a management agreement is a management agreement.

Unlike other property management software that uses flat, two dimensional arrays to correlate owners and tenants with their units, Harmony is structured with three dimensional arrays. We haven’t taken somebody else’s software and re-labeled “sellers” as owners, “buyers” as tenants, and “products” as units. Harmony accommodates the real-life nature of the relationships that you have with your owners, tenants, and vendors, and the relationship that each of them has with their units and money. You’ll see the power and flexibility of the third dimension as you work in Harmony – it works the way you do.

Adding one dimension doesn’t seem like much, but as you experience it, you’ll realize that it’s like living in a house instead of living on a sheet of plywood. It’s this third dimension that really brings security, comfort, simplicity, power, and flexibility to a property management business. The industry has offered plywood-sheet software for way too long; we felt it was time for someone to build a box (and then insulate it, add windows and doors with locks, shingle the roof, and tile the floor, and add some furniture…metaphorically, of course).

You may be okay managing your property management business on a sheet of plywood – right up until you hit about 40 units or 40 years of age. Then it’s simply too exhausting to do anything but upgrade – and you’ll wish you’d done it a long time ago! If you’re currently over 40 units or over 40 years old and still using two dimensional software, you’re working way too hard! HERO has more years of experience in cloud-based property management software than any company in America, and it shows in the design of Harmony. Put three dimensional software to use and bring Harmony to your company and your life!

Understanding Harmony: Atrocious Estimates?

Accurate vendor repair estimates are essential for property management. Which vendor you select, what you say to owners, and when the work is done are all affected by the estimate.

So how close are invoices/totals to estimates? Harmony makes it easy to see, at a glance.

Simply run your Completed Maintenance report with detail. You can run it for an individual vendor, or for all vendors. A visual graph shows how close each repair total is to its estimate. You can easily see if the total exceeded the estimate, or if the estimate came in higher than the total. You can also see the percentage of workorders where the total was more than the estimate, and by how much.

This handy report also tells you how many workorders have been completed on each of your units in the selected date range, and how much you’ve spent on each unit. You can also easily see how your vendors are performing in workorder completion time, by percent, hours, and individual workorder time to resolution.

With this and all the other maintenance tools built in to HERO Harmony, managing your maintenance is smooth and simple. If you have other ideas for how we can make your maintenance headache-free, please drop us a line.

Understanding Harmony: The Complicated Owner

Do you remember when you had your first owner, they had one rental house, and life was incredibly simple?

Growth in property management usually involves some increase in complicated situations. Your owner may have bought a four-plex. Then she may have gone in 50-50 on a duplex with her mom. Then she joined with a group of other investors to buy a 16 unit building.

Harmony makes the complicated simple. The foundation of your relationship with an owner (or a group of owners) is a management agreement. Each management agreement can have as many units as you want. Each management agreement can have multiple owners. Each owner can have as many management agreements as you want. You simply set up the owner and unit once, then set up each management agreement to reflect your actual, real-life agreement.

This is where the power of Harmony comes in. Do you want to send a birthday email to an individual owner? Just select them and send it. Do you want to send an official notice to all the owners on the agreement? Just add it to the agreement and send. Do you want to see all transactions for an owner? View them. Want to show only the transactions for one of the management agreements they’re on? Select the agreement and you’re there. Generating a financial report for everything an owner is on? Simple. Or just for the units on a single management agreement, even when the owner is involved in multiple different partnerships? Also simple. And this owner can see everything they need in their portal, too.

Perhaps one of the owner’s units needs an air conditioner replaced, but the tenant hasn’t paid the rent and the reserve doesn’t cover it. If they’ve received the rent on another one of their units, it’s no problem paying the invoice – it’s no problem in trust accounting, and it’s no problem in Harmony.

Viewing, tracking, filtering, communicating, processing…it’s all simple in Harmony no matter how complicated your owner’s arrangement is.

What makes Harmony so powerful? In simple terms, where other property management software is flat, the underlying structure of Harmony is three-dimensional. It’s not just that we offer more features, it’s that the core structure is designed for the way property management actually functions. Two dimensional, flat structures work well in retail and most other product and service businesses, but they simply don’t work for the way that a property manager transacts and communicates with owners, tenants, vendors, and units.

You’ll see this throughout Harmony. Where other software re-labels flat software with property management terms, Harmony reflects your real experience as a property manager. You won’t find us calling a unit an “owner” or calling a tenant a “lease”; in Harmony a unit is a real unit, a tenant is a real tenant, an owner is a real owner, and a lease is an actual lease.

Understanding Harmony: Who Dunnit?

In your property management business, some things go exceptionally right and some things go exceptionally wrong.

In Harmony, it’s easy to find out who did the right thing, and who did the wrong thing. Every action taken by every user is tracked and logged. From any item (like an invoice, a bill, a receipt, a workorder, or an activity), simply select the history/change log icon and the entire history of changes to the item are displayed – the time it happened, who made the change, what it used to be, and what it is now. For a person, listing, or property, select their Notes view for the change history.

It’s also important to give everyone exactly the authorizations they’re qualified for. Not only does this keep an untrained person from doing something they shouldn’t, it gives them more confidence to do the things they should – knowing the system won’t let them make a mess they don’t understand.

For each user, you select their authorization level and role. When they log in, they’ll only have access at the level you’ve specified. For your power users, you can give them administrator privileges for the functions they’re responsible for. For example, allow your maintenance administrator to uncomplete a completed workorder. Or allow your financial administrator to disburse money on a management agreement that’s complete when the tenant pays off their judgement two years later. (Sorry, there’s no provision in Harmony to prevent heart attacks, you’ll have to learn another way to keep your ticker from stopping when this occurs.)

Do you have other ideas on how we can help you track everything in HERO Harmony, and keep everything on track? Send them over!

Understanding Harmony: How’s My Growth?

Property managers like you often want to grow their business. There are a few different numbers you’ll likely want to keep an eye on to determine your company’s growth.

The simplest number, but the one that tells you the least, is the number of units managed. In Harmony, you can see this number quickly by simply looking at your listings.

A more valuable number is the net income or profit per unit, or the number of units managed per $1k in labor dollars spent. If you’ve doubled your expenses to manage 75% more units, you haven’t really grown in a healthy way, you’ve simply bloated. (Disclaimer: Any good analyst will tell you that there are scales of economy in property management, and sometimes the numbers along the way don’t tell the whole story of your growth.)

A good quick check for growth is the number of people you collect money from and remit money to – your tenants and owners. As this number increases, all other things being equal, you are growing. In Harmony, go to the Company profile and you’ll see how your people count is growing over time. However, even this number can be deceiving – you might take on a $650 townhome with 4 tenants and 3 co-owners.

For most property managers, the truest number indicating growth is the number of active agreements. Agreements are where you do business and make your money. By viewing the aggregate total of agreements over time, you see a clear indicator of your growth trend. In Harmony, do this by viewing Agreements.

As with anything, no single number tells the whole story. But by keeping an eye on the simple numbers over time, you’ll keep your finger on the pulse of your business day-by-day.

As you grow, don’t forget the value of beneficial systems and their corresponding efficiency. With Harmony, you get the most efficient platform and no per-unit fee hit as you grow. With consistent office policies and procedures, each property manager in your office should be able to easily manage 250-350 units or more. Proceduralize and systematize when possible, automate when beneficial, and always keep an eye on the numbers that are a little harder to quantify, like effective marketing, efficiency, retention, and employee satisfaction, and you’ll find yourself with a strong and growing business!

Have ideas for additional insights into your business that Harmony might provide? Or ways Harmony can further increase effectiveness and efficiency? Just drop us a line – improving your life is what we’re all about.

Understanding Harmony: Who’s Asking?

When someone is asking for work to be done, they’ll normally submit a work request. From this request, you’ll create a work order that assigns a vendor, sets and tracks the stage of work, and sets the cost limit according to the management agreement. (You can always set a workorder as Client Approval Pending, which allows your owner to review and approve a workorder that’s over the limit, but that’s a different topic.)

When you have a work request, you can create as many workorders as are required to fulfill the request. Once they’re all done, you’ll be prompted to resolve the request, where you can easily send a system message to the requester to notify them all work has been done.

Sometimes you’ll find yourself skipping right past the request and starting with a work order. In this case, the person you select to add the workorder for becomes the requester. If the tenant is requesting a repair, start from the tenant. If it’s the owner or the company, start there. The workorder will always show where you started from, so you know who asked for the work and can go back to them when you have new information, or need additional input.

In the workorder, you can set Requester Notification instructions for notifications expected of the vendor. This is free-form, allowing you to say something like, “Text the tenant when you arrive on-site and when you leave,” or, “Call the tenant at work to get buzzed in”. These instructions appear alongside the requester’s contact information in the workorder.

Maintenance in Harmony is simple and powerful. In fact, some managers use Harmony just for its impressive maintenance features. If you have ideas for how we can make your maintenance smoother, please drop us a line.

Understanding Harmony: Ugly Emails?

Life’s too short to send ugly emails, or let your software determine the look and feel of your company’s communications.

Harmony gives you full and complete control over the appearance and content of all emails you send and documents you create, and it’s really simple to customize everything to your liking.

Most messages are customized from the Messages & Letters option in your Settings. There you’ll find two lists of messages: System Message & Letter Templates, which correspond to different actions you’ll take in the system; and Custom Message & Letter Templates, which can be selected as templates when you’re composing a custom message or creating a custom letter. Once you select your message, you’ll see an easy-to-use editor where you have full control over formatting, including changing the layout, colors, fonts, content, images, and more. On the right, you’ll see a list of merge field. Insert a merge field and the specific data for that person or function will be merged into the message or document.

You’ll also find customizable templates in Agreements and Applications. In Agreements, you can customize and add templates for all of your agreement forms, addendums, and notices. In Applications, you’ll customize the templates for applicants starting and finishing an application, and being accepted or rejected.

Before you get too creative, remember to Backup your current template from Template Options. With a saved backup, we can help you get back to any previous version of a template.

If a default template is available for any specific template, select Replace from Template Options to go back to the system default.

Some templates can be loaded from a template library. When this option is available, you’ll see the Library button in your Template Options. Click or tap it to load the library, and select from the available templates provided by third parties.

Make sure your messages and letters are always wearing their best outfit, and say exactly what needs to be said, to spark joy in the inboxes of your owners, tenants, and vendors. If there’s anything we can do to help you look your best, just let us know.

Understanding Harmony: Serial Adder

Some managers do things one-at-a-time as they come up. Others prefer to roar through a pile of things all at once. Harmony has the solution for both.

In functions where multiples might be added in sequence, Harmony places an Add Another icon beside the Add/Save/Submit/Post button. Instead of adding a single item and then starting over with the next item, the Add Another function brings you directly to the screen for another related item, pre-filling and pre-setting values that make sense.

Depending on how you arrive at the function, Harmony will assess whether it makes more sense to add the next item to the same person, or to a different person. Where it’s likely you will want to add the next item for the same person, the icon will show up as a plus sign. Where it’s more likely that you’ll want to select a different person, the icon appears as ⚇ (select a person and add).

For users who find themselves preferring the keyboard over the mouse, after tabbing down to the Add button, simply tab once more to get to the Add Another icon, and press Enter or Space to move on.

Harmony allows you to cruise through the functions you perform every day. If you have ideas for how we can make the road even smoother and faster, just let us know!

Property Management Considerations Concerning COVID-19

As we all make efforts to flatten the curve of the spread of Coronavirus, ensuring sufficient resources are available to our vulnerable and at-risk neighbors, there are things we might consider changing in the way we conduct our property management business. Please read on for various recommendations and practices.

General Guidance

The CDC provides specific recommendations for employers and workplaces, which can be found here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/guidance-business-response.html This is a comprehensive summary of policies and procedures that you should be enacting, and includes items for future planning that you may not have considered.

Office

  • Per the CDC guidelines, sick employees should not be coming to work. Ensure that you are enforcing compliance with an abundance of caution to preserve a sick-free workplace.
  • If you have a work-from-home policy, expand it. If you do not have a policy, now is the time to create and implement it. Many property managers have been working in an office-less environment for years. It’s possible, but requires flexibility and a little creativity.
  • Consider closing your office to all walk-in traffic, both public and current residents. Post a large, clear notice on your door with instructions for all walk-up visitors to call, text, or email your staff. Monitor the provided contact methods in real-time to provide quick responses.
    • Consider meeting walk-up visitors outside your office, with sufficient social distancing, in cases where an in-person interaction is required.
    • Consider requesting that walk-up visitors, including delivery personnel, leave any correspondence or packages outside your door when they are bringing something to you. Once an item is dropped off, collect it to bring it into the office.
  • When receiving a package, payment, or correspondence, handle it with gloves and disinfect it with spray and/or wipes where possible.
  • Frequently disinfect anything that may be touched by multiple people, including door handles, light switches, phones, etc.

Showings

People need to have a place to live, and we are the people who facilitate that for millions of Americans. During the pandemic, many things will slow or stop. However, there will still be people who find themselves needing to locate and secure housing.

We should consider limiting showings based on need. If you are performing a showing, keep these guidelines in mind:

  • Enact policies on protective measures, including using gloves, sanitizer, and masks as necessary.
  • Keep a barrier of physical distance between yourself and your prospects. While it may seem awkward, inform the prospects that your company policy currently dictates that you keep a minimum distance from all other people.
  • Avoid touching, and instruct your prospect to avoid touching, anything that does not need to be touched. We impulsively feel things to sense them, so it requires conscious effort to keep our hands out of contact.
  • Disinfect all items that are touched, like light switches and door handles, both before and after contact.
  • Disinfect surfaces that could come into contact with airborne droplets from coughs or sneezes.

Common Areas of Properties

Indoor common areas should be closed, including clubhouses, gyms/exercise rooms, and any other area where people would congregate.

Common area pools, hot tubs, and play/recreation areas should be closed.

Outdoor park/sitting areas, designated smoking areas, and the like should have notices posted advising of social distancing recommendations.

Maintenance and Repairs

It is imperative that we keep our residents’ homes in safe working order. However, with people staying home more than ever, they may find non-essential repairs that can wait, or may feel this is an ideal time to request maintenance that they’ve put off because of scheduling difficulties. Consider enacting an essential maintenance only policy, and informing your residents. Be sure to record all maintenance requests regardless of urgency, but postpone those that are not immediately necessary to ensure safe and healthy habitation.

  • When maintenance can be postponed:
    • Assure the resident you have received and recorded their request, but you are postponing scheduling at this time because of the pandemic.
    • Advise the resident to turn off, disconnect, or stop using the affected item as necessary to prevent further problems and/or damage.
    • As necessary, inform the resident that they are encouraged to contact you to escalate the issue if it becomes something that interferes or threatens to interfere with health and safety, or threatens further damage to the unit or property.
  • When maintenance must be performed:
    • Ensure that your staff and vendors maintain distance between themselves and the resident.
    • Have your staff and vendors use gloves, and face masks as advised.
    • Disinfect anything that is touched, both before and after contact.

Legal Issues Including Notices and Evictions

  • Check with your attorney before making decisions regarding posting of notices and/or filing of evictions.
  • Be aware that many courts are closed, while those that are open may not be processing or enforcing evictions.
  • Understand that we are in an environment of fear and uncertainty. Make every effort, in all of your interactions, to promote peace and calm where possible. Understand that when your tenants and owners act with you out of fear, it rarely promotes your mutual best interests.
  • Consider creative and alternative methods to deliver or delay bad news, with an eye on the big picture, understanding your fiduciary duty to your owner.
  • Keep your owners and staff closely in the loop – now more than ever.
  • Remember that we are all in this together, and together we win or lose. Take the high road, and work to agree with your owners that sometimes we must make short-term sacrifices for the long-term outcome we desire.
  • If all this feels brand-new, consider consulting with a property manager who has been through a natural or other disaster to help you gain perspective and learn creative approaches to problem solving in a high-stress environment.