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Property Management Accounting 101 : The Basics

Part 1: The Basics of Property Management Accounting

In this series, we are going to cover the basics of property management accounting. Property management accounting is different from standard accounting because you not only need to keep track of your property management company’s finances, you are also managing separate accounts for the properties you manage.

Let’s start at the beginning, by covering some of the more commonly used accounting terms to familiarize you with accounting terminology.

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Commonly Used Accounting Terms

Accrual Accounting

Accrual accounting is the method of recording transactions when they are due rather than when the actual transaction takes place. For example, your contractor from a turn did work for you in June, so you record that bill as paid in June, and not July after the invoice arrived.

Bookkeeping For Property Management

The term bookkeeping and calling accounting records books comes from pre-computer days when all accounting records were kept in actual books. Very few people still use physical books with columns of records or even a physical check register now that there is state-of-the-art accounting software that makes everything easier.

Cash Accounting

Cash accounting is the process of recording transactions when they take place. You will need to choose whether you are going to use a cash accounting method or an accrual accounting method.

Chart of Accounts

Your chart of accounts is the different categories that you record your transactions under such as assets, liabilities, income, expenses, and equity.

Debits and Credits

Debits and credits are easily the most confusing part of accounting for most people. Debits increase asset or expense accounts and decrease liability and equity. The opposite is true for credits. Credits decrease asset and expense accounts and increase liability and equity accounts. For a detailed explanation, visit this informational page from

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This popular accounting method uses two accounts for every transaction, one account is debited, and one account is credited, an example of this is a tenant deposit. The tenant’s account is debited, and the account for security deposits is credited.

General Journal

The general journal is a chronological list of every transaction in your books. The transactions are called general journal entries. These entries are not divided out by accounts.

General Ledger

The general ledger is like the general journal, except the information in the general ledger or GL shows transactions broken down by accounts (the same accounts you list in your chart of accounts).

Want more? You can read part two explaining the Basics of Property Management Accounts.

Are you ready to start your own property management business, but you need more training before you feel confident? Our full course, “How to Start, Run, and Grow a Property Management Business” will teach you everything you need to know to start your own thriving property management company. This online go-your-own-pace course is accessible for life, meaning you will always have the tools and resources you need when you need them.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does a property account manager do?

A property account manager plays an important role in managing the financial aspects of a property, including rent collection, budgeting, and financial reporting, to ensure the property's financial health and profitability.

What is GAAP in property management?

GAAP (General Accepted Accounting Principals) in property management refers to the set of accounting principles and standards that govern the financial reporting and disclosure requirements for property-related transactions, ensuring transparency and accuracy in financial statements.

What is the difference between asset and property management?

Asset management primarily focuses on the strategic oversight and optimization of an entire property portfolio, including investment decisions and performance improvement, while property management deals with the day-to-day operations and maintenance of individual properties within that portfolio.


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