Property Management Time Travel

A few of us “oldies” (20 years or more in the industry) had a discussion the other day about the way things used to be in Property Management, in the 90’s.

Our lease agreement was typed on a typewriter, with duplicate carbon paper, and was 2 pages long.  We had a backspace button on the typewriter that would NOT backspace, no matter how many times you pressed it (or how hard).  While typing one lease you would go through about 2 rolls of the whiteout “thingy” per lease agreement.  There was none of this pay way – credit cards were rarely used and if they were, we had a manual swipe device that was the size of a keyboard.

Cash was ALWAYS taken, and the poor receptionist usually had to walk up the road with countless thousands of dollars of cash in a nice calico bag that was in no way shouting: “I have a thousand dollars please mug me today”.  Then, as you would arrive at the bank, you would generally line up for half an hour as EVERYONE had cash to bank at 4pm daily, and heaven forbid if you did not have your notes exactly, the same way – the looks the teller would give you as she would spin them around to all face the same direction.  

Now let’s talk technology – dot matrix printers and the good old DOS system.  If a tenant needed a receipt *(no they were not just handed out back in “the old days” it was a real annoyance).  $1000 bond received – counted in front of the tenant – all bundled in $50 notes facing the SAME way with a rubber band around them, in piles of 10, and then the tenant asks .. …wait for it…..”a receipt”.   So off you go cursing under your breath, and spend 15 minutes out of your day finding the receipt book. “Has anyone seen the receipt book?  Angela the receipt book; do you have it?”  Once the book was found, another 5 minutes is spent writing (yes, with a pen) out the receipt for this painful tenant whom has requested a RECEIPT!  How dare he.     

Which brings me to pens.  We used to handwrite everything, except for the 2-page lease agreement, purely because by the time you got the typewriter setup for a one-page entry notice it was quicker to handwrite – entry notices, bond lodgement forms, breach notices.  That is why so many of us have RSI and carpel tunnel now (or just didn’t breach tenants as it was too difficult to write).

Back in the 90’s not everyone had a car, and public transport was not as easy – definitely not UBER, and taxis were so expensive so we used to allow the prospective tenants to “ride with us”.  I refer to it now as Property Management UBER.

Rental payments – well they were fun. None of this fancy software that does all the calculating for you, even if they over or under pay a week’s rent.  We used what was called “an index card”.  Yep – a simple little card that had a name, a property, and a running ledger of payments made and paid to dates – all worked out with our brains, and a calendar.  No such need for a calculator, and if you did have to use a calculator it came with yet another BIG roll of paper attached to the back of it and made the loudest noise. It was easier to work it out in your head or with a piece of paper and tally marks!

End of month was fun – and I say end of month because there was none of these owners wanting mid or weekly payments – it was just too difficult.  Everything was written by cheque, handwritten to the majority of landlords, as EFT disbursement was so expensive (not that it has gotten much better however). But if you were that lucky person that had the job of writing out the 50 plus cheques, you always said to an owner “NO, we only pay you at the end of the month, sorry there is no other option”.  

Which brings me to the Kalamazoo Accounting system.  I can say I was fortunate enough that a dear 70-year-old lady in our office had this job but, I can tell you one thing, I have never heard a 70-year-old say so many “naughty” words in one day.  I did love going in, on end of month day, just for the cussing!

Stationary orders – easy you may think, all done online these days.  Well, not back then.  We had to phone the stationary shop and order by telling them we need the white, carbon thingy for the typewriter that is supposed to remove the letter on the typewriter when you press BACKSPACE, or the staple puller outer thingy, or the big, noisy, paper thing that goes into the calculator.  

Should we mention backing up to a floppy disk…or 3. Don’t even get me started on “spell check”, I was an oxford dictionary girl myself.

My point to this epic travel through property management time is not to say, “how hard we had it” but to say, “how hard it has become” due to legislation, systemisation, and procedures. Technology had no option but to increase.  I am still in the industry, and have been for many years now, as a Property Management trainer and honestly, I am unsure which was easier?  No technology or so much legislation requiring so many procedures.  

Lauren Kropp

Director – Real Strategix