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Software review: Medallion Gold property management series.

Software Review: Medallion Gold Property Management Series Timberline's Medallion Gold Series is the first property management software program available for the OS/2 operating system. OS/2 is important as IBM's multitasking, multiuser operating system for its PS/2 microcomputers.

With multitasking, your computer can do several things at once. For example, OS/2 allows you to run different programs simultaneously, such as word processing and property management, or to perform several property management tasks at the same time.

Using OS/2, you could be posting cash receipts as the system is preparing and printing several unrelated reports. With Medallion Gold, you can switch among the tasks at will. Apart from its multitasking capabilities, Medallion Gold has a great number of special features and functions, all of them available from convenient menus.

Medallion Gold Property Management Series has four modules--Property Management, Accounts Payable, General Ledger, and tS-Report. Modules are also available for construction and other accounting applications. The Property Management module smoothly interfaces with the other modules, although it can be operated independently of them.

The Property Management module allows the user to define each property as residential, commercial, or mixed-use. For mixed-use properties, the user defines each unit as residential or commercial. More data-entry screens appear for commercial unit types. The mixed-use capability can be an advantage over programs which provide separate modules for residential and commercial properties.

Residential properties

The current Medallion program is designed to be used in a central management office. However, an on-site module is under development, according to Timberline.

The system provides for up to 20 recurring charges per tenant, which may be charged on a monthly, quarterly, semi-annual, or annual basis. Each charge is based on a user-defined charge type, for example, rent. Each charge type provides for user-defined defaults for general ledger account numbers for debits and credits to the charge, payment, and cash-basis accounts.

Charges can be generated in advance for the correct charge dates. Advance statements can be provided for all tenants or only those with current activity or minimum balance due. If charges and statements are generated at different times for different combinations of entities, however, it can be a nuisance to redefine the groups for each step.

Ad hoc, or miscellaneous, charges are handled better than in many other programs. If not assessed until payment is received, the charge may be entered directly through the cash-receipts function. Open ad hoc charges may also be entered easily with an automatic invoice option.

Other special charge types are available in basic, but not advanced, variations in the program. Users who like to be aggressive on late charges would need to supplement the system. Only one notice is available; and there is no option to print it directly from the late-charge function. Late charges are assessed at the property level for user-designated charge types over a minimum balance. A specified amount is assessed after the grace period.

If all tenants who are not exempted from late charges have the same due date, the system works smoothly. If due dates vary, then a great deal of work must be done to prevent potential late fees from being dropped on those accounts paid between the due date and the date the late fees are run.

Returned checks are handled as a menu item. The original transaction is easily located and reversed, and a charge may be easily billed. The assessment of a system-generated late charge is unrelated to NSFs. Some would be included, some not, depending on the relative timing of the returned check and the date the late fees are run. No specific NSF notice is available, but the late notice could be easily adapted.

Closed deposit and application charges can be entered through the move-in or cash-receipt functions. But open deposit or application charges cannot be accommodated through the move-in function. They must be entered as miscellaneous, ad hoc charges.

Rent concessions of a consistent amount per month are treated as negative recurring charges. Uneven allocation of concessions requires more work. Reimbursable charges for residential units, such as the repair of a broken window, may be passed through to specific tenants as part of an invoice distribution in the accounts-payable module. Otherwise there is no pro rata capability for residential units.

Increases in recurring charges are provided for in different ways. If a charge for a known amount is to become effective at a future date, that data can be entered as a recurring charge and automatically made effective. Similarly, a termination date for a recurring charge is automatically handled. For planned changes of unknown amount, a date tickler system is available. Up to 10 user-defined date types can be activated to track next rent review date, birthdays, and so forth.

A specific menu function is available to adjust the rents on a property basis. The options enable the user to increase or replace the previous rent by a specified amount or percentage. Other options include rounding choices and concurrent adjustment of deposits. Tenants subject to a rent increase may be selected from the list or chosen based on specified characteristics, such as length of tenancy. However, the process works best if all tenants can be included at the same effective date and without having to make individual adjustments in the tenant records. No unit-type groups are provided. Adjusting base rent to market rent is not an option.

Cash receipts are easily entered and distributed. If the system is set up for batch controls, the total number of payments and total dollar amount is entered first. The receipts may be entered by tenant name or ID or by property and unit number. The payment can easily be distributed to open items, new charges, prepayments, deposits, or as an open credit. An option is provided to pay late charges first automatically. Tenant receipts are optionally available.

Bank accounts are tied to the charge codes related to all receipts. Deposit slips are not available. An "additional" name can be maintained in the tenant record; but "received from" information is not provided for cash receipts.

Interest on deposits can be treated in different ways. Each type of user-defined deposit accommodates an associated interest rate and calculation timing at the property level. The alternatives are year-end, lease anniversary, or at move out. A specific menu option provides for calculation and posting of accrued interest to selectable tenant accounts. A different menu option provides for calculation and payment of interest. That function creates appropriate invoices in accounts payable.

Move in, move out, and move to a different unit are specific menu options. The move-out function has a sophisticated proration feature. Deposits and open credits are easily credited or refunded. A specific move-out reconciliation statement or statement of deposit accounts is not available.

The property and tenant records all contain a large amount of user-definable, miscellaneous information. For example, notes, dates, accumulating amounts, percentages, and codes may be recorded. Unit records contain 15 predefined characteristics such as carpet, drapes, and so forth. Tenant records include a work phone, but only the home phone can be included on delinquency reports.

Management fees can be set up separately for the property manager and management company. The calculation is a flat fee plus a percentage fee based on rent payments or other user-definable amounts, such as late fees. Some programs provide an option for management to receive late fees. This program does not permit this assignment. The system creates AP invoices for the desired frequency.

Reports can be produced from the property management module in three ways: automatically as part of processing, on demand by menu selection, and by using the TS-Report module for user-designed reports. The menu-selected reports include transaction report, tenant ledger, aged delinquency, vacancy, lease expiration, deposits, and prepayments. Variations on these reports may also be created.

The Vacancy Loss Report shows the accumulated loss of market rent or current rent based on the actual unoccupied days. The rent roll report can be printed for occupied units, or vacant units, or all units. It can show gross potential income in addition to other details.

The Revenue Projection Report is a rarity. It prints projected revenue for 12 months or quarters into the future. It takes scheduled move in/move out dates and rent increases into account. The Square Foot Projection projects future vacant space.

Commercial

Tenants and properties that are set up as commercial types have all of the features and functions of residential, plus more. The additional elements are primarily related to special charges for commercial tenants, such as common area maintenance, recoverable expenses, charge backs, pass throughs, and percentage rent. Commercial late charges have the same structure as those for residential but may be set at the tenant level and have the additional option of percentage charges.

The CPI function provides for user-defined CPI or similar indexes. National, regional, or metropolitan indexes can be used. Calculation parameters at the tenant level include base/previous year, percent or amount method for stop and/or cap, greater of percent of potential increase to apply versus minimum required increase, rounding level, frequency of adjustment, and retroactive distribution options in the event of late adjustment.

Invoice charge backs, recoverable expenses, common-area maintenance, and percent rents are all available through menu options instead of requiring cumbersome coding methods.

Ad hoc invoice charge backs from accounts payable can be distributed by percentage of units, rentable or usable square feet, or user-specified ratios or percentages. Up to five recoverable expenses can be specified for each property. Parameters at the property level include general ledger account number, such as for taxes and insurance; reconciliation frequency; actual or estimated basis; percentage escalation; rounding; and retroactive treatment. The tenant parameters include base amount, percent, stop, and cap.

Some shopping center managers prefer a stronger CAM function. The program's CAM function works the same as the recoverable expenses function, but with some capability to group general ledger accounts into CAM categories and with up to 40 user-designed categories available per property.

Percentage rents are defined for applicable tenants with up to 10 breakpoints, a ceiling, and a choice of charging frequency. Percentage rent by departments is accommodated. Reports available are montly sales, sales comparison, and unreported sales.

Accounts payable

Using the Medallion Gold Accounts Payable program merely to keep your outstanding payables down to zero would be like using your computer just to keep track of the date and time. In either case a great deal of power and functionality would be going to waste. Instead, the best use of Timberline's Gold AP is to manage and control payables, instead of simply tracking them.

The payment selection process in the program is supported by four primary reports--cash requirements projection, aging analysis, payment selection preparation worksheet, and payment selection edit and approval report.

The cash-projection report shows the cash required for each of five weeks after the report date. You may base the projection on the planned payment date or the discount date. You may also incorporate the number of float days attached to each vendor's record. The aging analysis allows you to compare the invoice date or the planned payment date to the aging date. And you may select 30-day increments or end-of-month periods for setting due dates.

Payment selection is accomplished by first narrowing the list of payables and then selecting payables from the narrowed list displayed on the screen. The methods to control the size of the selection list include: only invoices with payment date and/or discount date, on or before specific dates; only discounted invoices; or only invoices from certain vendors, and/or related to one of three entity types defined by the user in the general ledger (for example, owners or properties).

The specific vendors or entities to include can be further narrowed by the use of ranges and conditions related to some of their characteristics. For example, a preference code can be defined for each vendor.

The resulting list of displayed payables reflects the results of the previous selection session. Color variations and highlighting make it easy to see which items have been included for payment and which are excluded. You may elect to display included items only or excluded items, or both. You may also elect to display the payables at the vendor level (with no invoice detail), the invoice level (with no distribution detail), or the distribution level.

To select (or deselect) an item for the payment list, you merely move the cursor to it and press a function key. You may chose to pay at the vendor level (all outstanding), the invoice level, or the distribution level (a partial payment). Or you may make a partial payment in the amount entered from the keyboard.

Several other options are available through function keys and submenus, while looking at the payables selection list on screen. These options typify the excellent ease-of-use features of the Gold Property Management modules. For example, yoy may perform some important tasks that in other programs usually require leaving the payables display and calling several menu options, followed by having to regenerate the payables display.

In Gold AP, you may view vendor file information, change the control settings that narrowed the payables down to the list on display, change the display level and inclusion options, display a tally of included vendors and invoices and net dollar amount, and print selection report, all without leaving the payables display. You may also place (or remove) hold status on any vendor, invoice, or distribution.

Other elements of accounts payable include the ability to use separate bank accounts, a common account, or a separate entity's check writing account that creates "due from" and "due to" transactions automatically. Because of the structure of the program, these options are more easily accomplished than with many other property management systems.

Invoice entry and distribution is clear and easy. The program provides for pass throughs or charge backs to individual tenants or properties. Other functions specifically provided for include recurring invoices, temporary vendors, new vendor set up directly from invoice entry function, approval/authorization option, and joint vendor situations. Sales tax and discount calculations may also be automatically handled. Purchase orders are not accommodated, however.

A checkbook reconciliation system is provided. A 1099 may be provided for vendors, owners, and tenants (interest payments). The system can keep track of the complexities involved in vendors serving multiple properties with different ownership combinations. The vendor can be sent a 1099 from each owner. These forms are closed on a calendar-year basis, which may be different from the AP year end date. A magnetic media option is available.

One of the specialty reports produced is the "discounts lost report." Check stubs may be almost fully custom designed by the user. The user may also decide whether or not to spell out the amount on the check, depending on whether or not a check-protect machine is used.

Financial accounting

The Medallion Gold Property Management Series is fully integrated, and the modules all operate in the same manner. Most of the features that are found in one module are also found in the others.

The Medallion Gold Series has a high degree of design integrity. It has a cohesive and well-conceived structure that make it both functionally powerful and easy to use. It does not have patchwork improvements that are awkwardly appended to the original design, as so many others do. There are no obvious afterthoughts in this program.

The basic organization for set up is called the "company." Different companies can be set up, but no intercompany features are specifically provided. Within a "company," up to three different user-defined entity types can be maintained. For example, owners, properties, divisions, departments, buildings, funds, or programs may all coexist in the same company. Interrelated companies could also be set up as one of the three entity types.

The company accounting may be cash, accrual, or both simultaneously. Different fiscal years can be maintained for the primary entity type, for example, owners.

The chart of accounts and numbering system are very flexible. Different charts of accounts are developed by drawing from a common pool of user-defined accounts. It is a unique and useful method. The chart of accounts is not used to determine subaccounts or financial statement formats.

Up to 99 journals can be created by the user. The available types include auto-reversing and recurring transaction journals. The user can specify default accounts and default debit or credit entries for each journal. During transaction entry, the operator may use a default account, reselect one from a lookup list that pops up at the press of a function key, or create a new account without leaving the screen.

Posting may be set for automatic or as a user-controlled menu option available at any time. Transactions to be posted to an unknown account are automatically posted to the suspense account for the opeator's later attention.

Prior periods, even back into the history files, can be posted or not, depending on permission or prevention options provided in the company set up. Prior period transactions may be either edited or adjusted, and reports may be rerun. In addition, the audit trial options may be set up to reduce the error risk considerably.

Formal closing is required to obtain complete and accurate period reports. If all fiscal years are the same, all entities close together. If not, then different primary entities, for example, owners, may be closed at different times. The closing period is set in advance of each closing by specifying the number of months before the next closing. Closing at year end generates a default posting of net income to the retained earnings account.

A new year or month may be started without closing. No changes in processing are required. The problem is that the general ledger will not be fully up to date until the delayed closing is completed.

Budgets are available for this year and next year. Several methods are provided for making it easy to enter the numbers for the selected accounts, such as an option to increase or decrease last year's budget number or actual results by a percentage. Even though subtotals are defined in the report definitions instead of in the chart of accounts, subtotals could be set up for budgeting.

Other elements

Audit trails and operating restrictions are user defined in this program. Strong audit trails may be established by selecting such options as batch totals and forced balancing for all transactions and related operations, forced-zero proofs for several other operations, and extensive detailed logging of file accesses and operations.

There are different categories of reports in the system. One category is the automatic reports documenting the results of a particular operation or keyboard session. For example, the group of invoices entered or edited. Another category of reports are those listed on menus. The financial-statement capability of the menu reports is so advanced that it constitutes a separate category. Another category of reports are those designed and produced by the report write module (TS-Report).

The level of user control over the appearance and content of these four categories of reports increases from none for the automatic reports, to almost total flexibility for the those generated with the report writer.

There are several options available even for the menu-selectable reports. The options for various reports include labeling with title, date, and comment line; special front page; heading contents such as date, time, and file name; line spacing of single, double, or triple; page length; print style including pitch, lines per inch, single or multiple-strike quality; italic or standard font; and number of copies.

The financial statement generator is very impressive. It is essentially a report writer that understands financial statements. Several different financial reports can be generated, including consolidations and reports for partners showing their results from different properties.

Security is provided by optional password accesses to different functions for different categories of operators.

Conclusion

This system is among the very best property management programs in terms of ease of use and clearly understandable design, although there is always room for improvement. Current features, such a the queue function for lining up procedures and the "suspend" key, which allows to returning to your current work screen after performing some side tasks under other menus, provide a highly sophisticated product.

The reference manuals are also among the best around. There are still some improvements to be made, however, especially in cross-referencing and indexing.

This system is very good to excellent in terms of functionality for its competitive class. And in terms of all property management software, it helps set the standard of excellence in ease of use and documentation.

Michael J. Hanrahan is president of Real Estate Software Test Lab and Real Estate Software Advisors in San Francisco. He has been a software review consultant for the Journal for the past three years and has independently evaluated more than 50 property management software programs.

Mr. Hanrahan has been in the real estate business for more than 20 years. His academic background includes advanced studies and bachelor's and M.B.A. degrees in real estate, urban economic, applied economics, and international business. Prior to his current activities, he was director of research of Questor Associates, the predecessor company to Roulac Real Estate Consulting Group of Deloitte Haskins & Sells.

Mr. Hanrahan speaks to, writes for, and advises real estate companies, trade associations, and publications about real estate software for property management, investment, and other real estate applications. He also maintains the Real Estate Software Information Bank.
COPYRIGHT 1989 National Association of Realtors
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Computers
Author:Hanrahan, Michael J.
Publication:Journal of Property Management
Article Type:evaluation
Date:Nov 1, 1989
Words:3585
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