There are a lot of 'expert' guidelines and textbooks about how to use QuickBooks for Property Management and Real Estate administration, but sometimes we get questions that can be easily answered by just making certain that users simply set-up QuickBooks to track 'places' as the priority, rather than 'people' as the priority.
The most important thing to remember is you must set-up QuickBooks in such a fashion as to always track the relationship between Property Owners, the Properties themselves, and the various tenants who are leasing/renting the properties. For the most part if you consider the QuickBooks lists of Customer:Job and Class properly, you can track almost any configuration of these three relationships.
Two methods for Property Management
Most experts in Property Management / Real Estate administration who use or support QuickBooks recommend one, if not both, of the following methods depending upon the exact specifics.
This discussion only presents the issues associated with Customer:Job and QuickBooks Class as they apply to Property Management, it does not discuss any accounting principles related thereto.
Method One – Many properties, relatively few owners (some properties have multiple owners)
If you have a relatively limited number of owners, even if some properties have more than one owner, consider using the QuickBooks ‘Class’ feature to identify and track all transactions associated with an owner (or group of owners). Class should be recorded on ‘every’ transaction related to properties. The advantage to this method is that it permits ‘balance sheet’ items to also be tracked to the owners, where applicable.
In this method every Property you manage is recorded as a ‘Customer’ in QuickBooks, if you are using QuickBooks Enterprise 2013 and newer, you can elect the option to ‘track Class by Customer’ this allows you to pre-configure all your Properties as Customers to their associated Owners. We recommend this option if you are going to be tracking more than 250 properties.
Once all Properties are set-up as Customers, you will then record all ‘tenants’ as Jobs under the associated Property/Customer. In QuickBooks a Customer record can be associated with an unlimited number of ‘job records’. Using Jobs for tenants has some great features, jobs allow you to set-up the starting and ending date under the ‘jobs tab’, this will allow you to track lease/rental documentation and occupancy start/ending dates. You can also have job types, consider using terms like Tenant, Sub-let, etc. When a tenant moves out, the QuickBooks ‘job’ is closed within the job record and made ‘inactive’. The next tenant will be created using a new job under the Property/Customer record.
Note: When an actual property has more than one physical location. You might be responsible for managing apartments or commercial property in which there are different ‘sub-addresses’ for each physical property. When this occurs, use the ‘job’ layer in QuickBooks to create each ‘sub-address’ and then create a ‘sub-job layer’ under each sub-address’ for every tenant.
Method Two – Many Owners with Many Properties, including Multiple-properties per owner
If you have many individually owned properties, but many of these owners own multiple properties, then you may want to take the same approach as in Option One, but add an additional layer at the top with that layer being “Property Owner” as Customer. Property addresses would be Jobs, and tenants would be recorded at the sub-job level (or sub-sub-job level in the case of multi-unit properties).
The problem with Method Two, in my opinion, is it can get overly cluttered and complicated very easily. Some property owners may be made up of individuals who have partners. That’s no problem, but how about when those partners are also partners with other property owners in other properties, you begin to have the same individuals listed multiple times with different parties in the Customer List. You will have the same arrangement in Class, but at least in Class the list is isolated from the properties and tenants, not combined with it. Still some QuickBooks professionals always recommend taking this approach; while others recommend and follow Method One almost exclusively.
So How About You?
Which of these two methods do you use, set-up and/or teach to your clients who are in property management or real estate administration? Maybe you have even worked out a new and better way; if so, let us know. We encourage you to post your methodologies in the comments section of this article.