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October 7, 2021

Commercial Real Estate Technology: Five Innovations You Need Now

Experts share their software recommendations to help you identify tax-saving opportunities, manage electronic and paper tax documents, and become more efficient
TECHNOLOGY & TRENDS

Today, there’s no shortage of technological innovations to help manage your property tax portfolio. And working with the right tools can give your team a competitive advantage, enabling you to do more with less.  

But are you using the right commercial real estate technology to help your tax team work more efficiently? In this article, we explore our top five commercial real estate technology solutions for managing your property tax portfolio.

1. Data Abstraction: Collect, Digitize, and Analyze Property Tax Data and Documents

Data abstraction is the process of simplifying data into its most important components. By comparison, data extraction is the process of taking data directly from a document as-is. OCR (optical character recognition) tools will extract your data, which is useful for digitizing paper tax documents (like assessment notices and bills). Data abstraction goes one step further. With a data abstraction tool, like itamlink Capture, not only are you able to extract the data and store it, but you can also pull out the relevant information.

Data abstraction is useful not only in digitizing your bills for document management and tax bill payments, but also in projections and other activities. In the case of property tax, data abstraction tools can help you pull out key bits of information, including:

  • Parcel information
  • Tax installment amounts and due dates
  • Assessment values

These data points are critical for determining appeal opportunities, developing forecasts and budgets, and other key activities. Leveraging software to pull them from documents you already have (albeit in paper form) can help save you time and improve the accuracy of your data. That’s because sourcing property tax data is a key challenge (particularly if your portfolio is spread over many and/or smaller jurisdictions). Digitizing this data from your paper tax documents can provide a reliable source of truth for budgets, forecasts, and other property tax activities. Finally, data abstraction also helps you create actionable reports for senior leadership, executive staff, and other stakeholders (in less time).

2. Data Management: Centralization Improves Data Integrity, Manipulation, and Sharing

We couldn’t write this article without a nod to data management. With property tax teams receiving an average of 100 pieces of data per parcel (largely paper), a solid data management solution is the foundation of a rock-solid property tax strategy.  

We’ve spoken before about how Excel isn’t a reliable tool for property tax management. Spreadsheets increase the likelihood of error, are hard to maintain, and complex formulas and macros can be difficult to learn. A single, integrated data management system helps overcome many of the challenges associated with data integrity, completeness, and user accessibility.  

What’s more, companies managing large real estate portfolios need effective tools for manipulating property tax data in bulk. If data isn’t centralized, key properties, jurisdictions, and/or values may be omitted or missed. This can lead to inaccuracies in projections or assumptions.  

3. Document Management: Store Original Property Tax Documents

As an add-on to data management, document management is a key real estate innovation that helps facilitate property tax management. Today, property tax teams  receive a lot of their data in paper form: tax bills, assessment notices, appeal documentation – the list goes on.

Storing all those documents in filing cabinets takes up a ton of physical space and isn’t efficient to search for and retrieve when needed – and you’ll likely need to be looking for them often. For example, you’ll often need a copy of your paper tax bill when making a payment. Having the original bill easily accessible in a digital location can streamline your payment processes.  

What’s more, forecasting, budgeting, audits, and other regular activities will require you to access historical documents from past years. When selling properties, you’ll need to provide historical assessment notices and tax bills as part of closing documents. Clearly, storing all of the original, scanned copies of paper tax documents is a key efficiency-driver for today’s property tax team.  

4. Reporting and Dashboards: Analyze Portfolio Performance

In a recent event we hosted, industry colleagues shared that the frequency and number of reports they were expected to prepare for senior leaders was growing rapidly. Compiling raw property tax data into summaries (ideally from a centralized repository to speed up your processes) is a key task for property tax professionals.  

Commercial real estate technology that offers dedicated reporting tools and dashboards make it easy to see detailed summaries and drill down into key data points. Through reporting, data can be pulled together for executives, helping inform business decisions. Particularly when sharing data with senior leadership, having access to both detailed and high-level data, as well as being able to show it in an intuitive dashboard, is key for presenting the metrics they care about in the right way.  

5. GIS-Mapping Tools: Identify Appeal Opportunities and Inform Investment Decisions

GIS, or Geographic Information System Mapping, is a technology that allows you to visualize map data. Probably the most well-known example of GIS is Google Maps, a tool many of us use daily to get from place to place.  

When it comes to property tax, GIS-mapping tools can offer insight into properties and parcels. You can view parcel boundaries and review jurisdictional data for your own and neighboring properties, including parcel number, sales data, and market values.

GIS-mapping technology has two main applications in property tax management:  

  1. Verifying information in your real estate portfolio  
  1. Researching other, similar, and/or neighboring property information

For both points listed above, the visual layout of GIS tools like itamlink’s Parcel Overlay help to easily research values outside your portfolio. You can analyze sales and market data for similar parcels across a jurisdiction as well as neighboring properties, which helps you identify over- or under-assessed properties.

6. Bonus Feature: Built-in Calendar & Notifications

Property tax teams are juggling a lot of dates and deadlines, on top of an immense amount of real estate data. Commercial real estate technology with a built-in calendar function allows you to track due dates and deadlines for filing property tax returns, paying tax bills, and appealing notices of assessments. With a calendar, you can easily keep track of these dates and stay on top of timelines in each jurisdiction.  

These are just a few of the features that property tax teams can benefit from. But as you move forward in getting your systems and processes set up, you’ll realize that there are even more technological enhancements and innovations that you can use to improve your processes.

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© 2021 Rethink Solutions. All Rights Reserved
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© 2021 Rethink Solutions. All Rights Reserved