- A property’s software was so antiquated that the manager couldn’t even use it
- Management needed a way to monitor the validity of vendor licensing and insurance
- The property installed TOPS to update and automate management functions
- The property utilized TOPS’ vendor feature to track license and insurance information
— Ralph Waters
Barbara Waters and Ralph Waters, LCAM, CMCA have many TOPS credits to their names. Barbara was one of the company’s very first customers, starting with the DOS version in 1989. Today, the couple is among TOPS’ biggest promoters. Each has brought TOPS on board at several places of employment (including a company they owned together), and Barbara has taught many people how to use the program.
”Anybody who knows me in property management knows I love TOPS,” Barbara says. “I’m currently telling one of my good friends to buy it. He loves QuickBooks and he’s very skilled with it, but as great as he is with it, TOPS would save him so much time.”
Currently, Ralph and Barbara are using TOPS to manage the Brighton at Bay Colony in Naples, Fla., a 22 story, 75 unit condominium.
Ralph became the resident manager there in January of 2004, while Barbara came on board as the assistant property manager in August of 2005.
In the beginning
When Barbara first set out to find property management software in 1988, she and her partner researched a dozen software packages. “TOPS was the end choice, and I have been very happy with it. We have promoted it to several communities around here. It’s a wonderful program.”
Of the many TOPS virtues Barbara extols, check reconciliation is at the top of the list. “What sold me on TOPS was the check reconciliation,” she says. “This feature is what made me a believer. I really like that part of it.”
Barbara also really likes the other aspects of accounting that are automated. “I am so thrilled we don’t have to type codes in every time we want to make a general ledger entry,” she says. “For example, our payroll is the same week to week. I don’t have to do a thing except change the date.
“I also use the recurring feature when we do the quarterly billing for the master association we belong to, and for our prepaid insurance,” she says. “It’s so easy – you just have to know what code to use to set it up.”
The couple considers the vendor section of the AP module to be their rolodex. “We use it to look up licensing and insurance information and phone numbers as well,” Ralph says. “We require a valid license and current insurance, or we won’t let them in the building.” Owners can get upset when vendors are delayed for this reason, so the Brighton has a system in place for proactively monitoring vendor compliance.
Because many of the owners at Brighton are snow birds, the complex has to have quite a few systems in place for monitoring the condos when they are not occupied. For starters, Flex Data contains information on which parking spots belong to whom, and which storage unit is assigned to each condo. “It’s really nice that we don’t have to go to a notebook and pull out a sheet of paper to get this information,” Barbara says.
Visitors and vendors
Brighton uses TOPS’ gate system to keep track of visitors and vendors who come to the property. Security desk personnel record the person’s name and the unit he or she will visit. If the person is not on the owner’s list of approved visitors, security is required to call the owner. “I can’t tell you how many times we’ve had to go back and look at this log,” Barbara says. “For instance, instead of walking upstairs to a unit, we can just look at the computer to see if the vendor came in. Or we can verify that a housekeeper is coming on her regular schedule. It’s really helpful.”
Recently, an owner mistakenly had a package sent to Brighton. Barbara was able to look in the notes section of the Owner’s Database to see whether the owner had authorized the acceptance of packages.
Both Ralph and Barbara use the Work Order function. If the overnight security team notices items that need attention, they print service requests, and in the morning Ralph converts them to work orders for the maintenance staff or housekeeping.
Although the Brighton doesn’t generate a ton of code violations, Barbara remembers actively using the CCR module at another property. “I couldn’t tell you the number of letters we printed,” she says. “I had a fulltime person dedicated to just that. I also had a full-time inspector. I don’t know what I would’ve done without TOPS.”
Ralph likes the historical data TOPS keeps. “If an owner says the color of his house has been the same the whole time, you can go back to the beginning of time and prove him wrong,” he says. “It’s quite a system.”
The system that was in place at Brighton when Ralph arrived was antiquated at best, and Ralph says he didn’t use it at all. “In fact, when I first interviewed here, I told them that if I were hired, I would show them that TOPS is the way to go,” he said. “That’s how much we believe in it. TOPS is the property management software.”