Pros and Cons of Using Google Sheets for Real Estate Financial Models

5 min read
Tyler Kastelberg
Founder & CEO
Published on
December 23, 2020

I’m a big believer that Google Sheets will soon become the norm when analyzing commercial real estate. Why? Collaboration and version control.

Google Sheets allow for multiple stakeholders to easily view, comment, and collaborate on a document. This comes in handy when working on complex analysis projects where multiple stakeholders are involved. Google Sheets is also built with a robust version control function, allowing for easy audits between different versions of the same document.

The decision to use Google Sheets versus Microsoft Excel is predicated on your decision to use the Google Suite or Microsft Office Suite as your work management solution. Microsoft and Google’s software solutions don’t work seamlessly together, and you’ll want to keep your provider consistent.

8 Pros of using Google Sheets for Real Estate

1. Ability to control sheet settings in one place, like circular references.

Have you ever sent a real estate excel model to someone and receive an angry response about broken calculations?

It’s common for development models to require iterative calculations when sizing construction debt. However, iterative calculation settings are individual to your excel instance. In other words, you’ll have to coach each of the recipients of your excel spreadsheet through how to enable iterative calculations.

Google Sheets allows you to control iterative calculation settings in the workbook, so you don’t have to worry about confused stakeholders.

2. Easy version control

One of the biggest frustrations I experienced when working in investment banking was when my boss was working in an old version of an excel or powerpoint document.

All of the work had to be merged with the current version, and changes were always missed. Google Sheets is in the cloud, so everybody will automatically be working on the most up-to-date version. Additionally, old versions can be labeled and accessed with the click of a button.

3. Collaboration

More than one person can work together in a Google Sheet at the same time. You can’t do this in excel.

4. Remote access

You can access a Google Sheet from anywhere that has internet (and even on your phone). Yes, technically this is possible by using excel in conjunction with Dropbox, or another cloud storage service. However, the functionality is native to Google Sheets, which makes it especially convenient. 

5. Access Controls

Google Sheets makes it easy to provide and revoke access to the document. This makes it especially convenient for managing the model as part of a deal room.

6. Easily share with links

When I worked for Raymond James, I regularly delete emails with large file attachments. Many of which included goliath excels documents. Since Google Sheets is cloud-based, you can distribute the sheet with a simple URL. Your inbox will thank you.

7. Edit, Comment, and Viewer Permissions 

Excel allows you to distribute locked or unlocked workbooks. However, Google takes it a step further, allowing you to give users edit, viewer, or commenter access. This additional “commenter” role makes it easier for remote teams to share ideas.

8. Audit Trail

Google Sheet’s version history functionality allows you to show changes from prior versions. This toggle highlights cells that are different from the last version (or whatever version you want to compare it against). This can be particularly useful when trying to determine the changes to the model from the last conversation.

7 Cons of using Google Sheets for Real Estate

1. Different Keyboard Shortcuts

Excel is such a staple skillset that most analysts know a plethora of keyboard shortcuts. It’s hard to become familiar with new shortcuts, and I commonly find myself attempting to use excel shortcuts in my google sheet. In addition, some less common functions don’t have a keyboard shortcut.

Fortunately, google has a listing of keyboard shortcuts for sheets.

2. Formula Auditing

Microsoft Excel has a nifty feature that allows you to audit a formula, step by step. This helps you find bugs in complex formulas. I haven't found such a function in google sheets, and it can be tough to diagnose formula errors.

3. Setting Print Areas

In order to print a portion of a google sheet, you must highlight it. Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as “setting and forgetting” a print area in excel.

4. Tables and Graphs Aren’t PowerPoint Friendly

If you’re creating a model in google sheets with tables and graphs, plan to use google slides as your alternative to PowerPoint. Google Sheets and PowerPoint aren’t seamlessly compatible, and it can be a pain to copy and paste parts of your google sheet financial model in a PowerPoint.

5. You need a google email account

This is mostly true. There are a few ways around using a Google email account to access sheets, but it is a headache. If you don’t have a Google account, Google Sheets can be frustrating, and your recipient might ask you to export the document to excel.

6. Dinosaurs aren’t going to like it

Commercial real estate is notorious for its lack of adoption of new technology. Though Google Sheets isn’t new, legacy platforms with big Microsoft contracts are unlikely to make the switch sheets.

7. Google outages

From time to time, Google crashes. It’s rare and typically makes headline news. However, it might create untimely stress if you have a big meeting and can’t access your model. However, the risk of a Google outage is less than your hard drive crashing, so I wouldn’t let it keep you up at night.

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