When the real estate market was still recovering from the financial crisis back in 2014, I purchased my first investment property, a 1,200-square-foot single-family home in the Miami, Fla., area. It had been abandoned for years and it showed: the hardwood floors resembled Swiss cheese thanks to termite damage, the kitchen cabinets were rotting away, and the bathroom had a huge hole where once the bathtub had been.
Renovating a property can be stressful and take a lot of time and energy. In my mind, I knew exactly what I wanted that house to become; I knew the style I wanted it to have and the materials I would need to achieve that vision. But once I started the renovations, I realized what was sorely needed was a way to stay on top of all my contractors, and an effective system to keep everyone in the loop and working efficiently on the same to-do list.
My previous career in technology had taught me a lot about the value of mobile apps, including how to repurpose them to serve your unique needs. This knowledge came in handy now.
If you’re also managing projects with multiple contractors and an endless to-do list, keep reading because your project management toolbox is about to get a major upgrade with just two free mobile apps.
Almost all my contractors today have an Android smartphone, while all my devices run on Apple. This isn’t a problem, however, as the tools I’m about to share with you have versions for both operating systems.
Turn WhatsApp into your central communication station
When working on construction and renovation projects, communication between the different teams can be challenging, especially if they are working on multiple projects at the same time. A flood of text messages turns into a never-ending thread that is hard to search and keep track of. Simple misunderstandings can result in mistakes, unforeseen costs, delays, and frustration among team members.
My team and I made the switch to the messaging app WhatsApp a while ago, and it was the best decision we could have made. We use the group chat function to create one chat room per project, using the property address as a group name. For example, if you’re working on “123 Main Street Unit 3,” use this as the group name and invite all contractors who are currently involved with the project. You can add and remove people on the go (your drywall contractor does not need to stay in the loop after his job is done), and you can share important information with just one message. The read receipt function also allows you to confirm everyone has received it.
Pro tip:When we conclude a project, we take photos of the materials used in order to capture the important info (for examples, pictures of the paint buckets showing the paint name and product code) and we add all these photos to the project chat. Should we have to return to this property for more work, we already know what we’ll need.
If you also own or manage rental properties, WhatsApp is a great way to establish chat rooms with your tenants. Simply give your group chat the address of the property and invite your tenants to join the group. They’ll be able to use the app to confirm rent payments and ask for assistance with maintenance issues.
Manage everyone’s tasks with Wunderlist
While Whatsapp chat rooms are a great way to centralize your operation, Wunderlist is a useful tool to help you supercharge your project management efforts. This “to-do list” app allows you to add and check off tasks as you complete them.
We converted this simple solution into something that works specifically for us, creating one to-do list for each project by—you guessed it—giving it the name of the address of the project. Simply add and remove tasks by typing them in the top bar or checking them off. Here too you can add your team members via email, and they will be sharing your to-do lists in real time.
Each task has a number of advanced features:
- Assign a task to a specific team member
- Give the task a due date (and set a reminder!)
- Add notes, images, or pictures to each task
- Add subtasks
- Add comments, creating a conversation thread within a single task
Once a task is complete, anyone can check it off, and a timestamp and username log is created to take note of who completed the task, and when.
Wunderlist helps us streamline task lists, and often we don’t even need to communicate via email or phone at all. I have a separate rental maintenance list, which I share with our handyman. When a tenant needs help in their residence, I can simply add the task to the list, and the handyman will get a notification on his phone.
When managing projects that involve a number of people, having everyone on the same page is key. These two tools have helped us tremendously in simplifying and streamlining our many projects. We use Whatsapp and Wunderlist, but there are many other great apps out there—you just have to tweak them a little to fit your needs.
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