Investing in rental properties is a great way to earn a passive income and managing them can be quite lucrative too. But if you’re spending your spare time on time-consuming tasks, then you’re making it much harder than it needs to be. Enter, property management software.
Good property management software allows real estate and property management companies as well as landlords to oversee their properties all from one easy-to-use place. Here’s our take on what you need to know about property management software and the best options to suit your business needs.
What Does Property Management Software Do?
All you have to do is a Google search for “property management software” to see there are a lot – and we mean a lot – of options out there. Don’t get overwhelmed!
We’re here to help you understand what this software can do for you and the best place to get it. First and foremost, you must understand what property management software is capable of. Any software worth its salt will automate things like:
- Collecting online payments for rent
- Tracking profits and expenses
- Advertising properties
- Requesting maintenance work
- Screening applicants
Basically, this software is a management tool that allows property owners to stay organized and track your properties in real-time so you can save time and money. When you’re trying to choose the best software for your business, it boils down to a few important factors.
How many properties you manage, your budget, the size of your staff, and how mobile you want (and need) to be all play a role in the best choice for you. Whatever software you settle on, there are some standard features you need to provide the right level of automation. These universal features ideally include:
Being On The Cloud
In the past, property management software was managed from a desktop computer, but times have changed. The best software will allow you to access information any time and anywhere and be accessible from many different devices.
Managing Expenses And Collecting Rent
When you’re attempting to juggle multiple properties, taking time to collect rent takes time away from other responsibilities. With good property management software, your operation is streamlined.
Your days of chasing down rent payments for residential properties and commercial properties should be a thing of the past since tenants can use a tenant portal to make all payments. It also needs to include robust accounting options to track your expenses by integrating your rent ledger and allowing the automation of as much accounting work as possible.
Any software you choose should allow you to do more than simply record work orders for specific properties, it should allow you to also track maintenance work orders and request them, too. Also, look for software that helps you to keep records of communications with tenants.
The best systems allow you to record maintenance messages from tenants. If you really want to take it the next level, choose software that allows you to store other information related to work orders too, such as documents and photos.
Advertising Vacant Properties
The less time it takes you to fill a vacant property, the more income you can generate. That’s why property management software should be advertising your properties online and on social media. Some applications even put the ads up on sites such as Zillow and Trulia where they’ll be very visible.
But the software shouldn’t stop there! It should also automate the process of filling out rental applications, allowing people interested in properties to fill out an application online, e-sign it, and then send it back to you.
It’s probably your goal as a property manager to try to avoid renting to people who pay their bills late or never at all. Tenant screening can be a cumbersome process, but with property management software, you can instantly run tenant screening that includes eviction reports, full credit reports, housing history, and criminal reports. These usually cost extra, but you can charge the applicant the fee if you choose.
Lease agreements are a must in the property management world to help you protect your investments. Property management software should allow you to create customized lease agreements easily, as well as late rent notices.
Property Management Software
So, which property management software is right for you? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of a few options on the market. While there are numerous solutions available, we’ve highlighted our favorites below:
For agents or managers that have more than 75 units, Buildium might just fit the bill! When you manage larger properties, there can be a lot of little expenses that add up over time. Eventually, they’ll start to impact your bottom line.
Plus, you need features such as better oversight and customer service when trying to manage such a large number of properties. What we’re trying to say is that you’re to the level where free software isn’t going to cut it and you need to spend a little money to better protect your investments.
For large property managers, commercial real estate managers, and landlords, Buildium is the best choice. It’s a popular property management software option because it’s easy to use and flexible.
It has a minimum monthly cost of $47 for one to 20 units, so it doesn’t make good financial sense if you don’t have a lot of properties under your management umbrella. The pros of Buildium are numerous. They include:
- Easy-to-use features for even those of you out there that don’t have a lot of experience with property management software
- Award-winning customer service
- Great online security
- The ability to create custom credit score requirements to screen applicants fast
- Allows you to prorate charges for tenants
- Convert maintenance work orders into bills that you can then pay online
- Automatically set up inspections with Happy Inspector
- Enables your tenants to set up automatic payments schedule and submit online maintenance requests
Buildium is a great product with a great reputation, but there are a few drawbacks to the software. The cons include:
- A site that isn’t terribly mobile-friendly
- A mobile app that only provides you with the bare essentials
- A high monthly cost
- Isn’t as customizable as other software on the market
If you’re looking for a good property management software that allows you to access all your information on the go, then AppFolio property manager is a great choice for a management platform. Every single function of the AppFolio software is available on for your mobile devices.
AppFolio will cost you, though. It’s pricing starts at $1.25 per unit per month and there’s a minimum monthly payment of $250 required as well as an onboarding fee of $400.
It’s more expensive than other options, but you do get a lot of features for the price to help make your property management job a little easier. The pros of AppFolio are numerous. They include:
- Intuitive software that’s easy to use and master
- A fully mobile platform
- An inspection feature that allows you to take photos on your device and record verbal notes
- Great customer service
- A wide variety of plans to help suit your needs including commercial, residential, community associations, and student housing
There are a few cons to AppFolio, such as:
- No free trial to prospective customers, but you can find a free demo to see how it works
- An expensive minimum monthly charge
3. Rent Manager
If you’re a property management company that’s growing and need software that can be tailored to any size portfolio, then you should take a look at Rent Manager. This property management tool is very customizable, allowing you to pick and pay for the features you want to use. This allows for a pricing structure that can fit all kinds of property management operations.
This ranges from mom and pop shops to companies like the Wistar Group in Omaha, NE. They are considered a “super user” of the software because they utilize virtually every feature. With the software, they’re able to scale and this has significantly helped profitability. This type of scaling ability is available to you too, at affordable rates.
To use Rent Manager, you’re not charged by the rental unit but by the user. For each user, you pay a flat fee of $75 per month. So, if you have a lot of properties but not a lot of employees, Rent Manager can be a very cost-effective property management software for you. The pros of Rent Manager include:
- Completely customizable features to meet your needs including the features seen in the drop-down menu on your dashboard
- Automatically identifies callers through VoIP technology and opens their records for you to help speed up your interactions with tenants
- Great document management with the ability to print and send documents through a virtual post office
- Full read and write date functionality by integrating the software with multiple partners such as Safeguard and AmRent
There are a few drawbacks to using Rent Manager that you should be aware of too. These include:
- Software that isn’t cloud-based, but hosted on a remote desktop
- An interface design that can be more difficult to learn for some users since it’s not as intuitive
- A high monthly cost if you don’t manage enough units to make the economical
This is free property management software, so if you’re looking to dip your toe into the property management pond to test the waters because you have a small number of units, then this might be the right choice for you. SparkRental is not well-known, but is a great option for beginners.
It has the features that the managers and landlords of smaller properties need in order to automate their property management processes, all without costly fees and monthly charges.
The standard plan is free, but you can upgrade to the premium plan for $19 per month and the ultimate plan for $39. The pros of this property management software include:
- Rental listings can be sent to HotPads, Zillow, and Trulia to reach more people
- Rental applications can be filled out free and signed online too
- Lease agreements can be customized with protective clauses of your choosing
- Tenant screening reports can be run at a charge to you or the applicants
- Rent collection through an online portal with a direct deposit into your account
- Documents related to property condition, such as records and photos, are stored in a secure property management hub
- You can track expenses and rent in one place for fast, easy accounting
- Generate and send tenant notices such as late rent with just a click of a button
There are a few cons to be aware of with SparkRental, such as:
- Maintenance and communication logging, priority customer support, and the landlord website builder are not included with the free plan
- If you have a property with more than 75 units, then you’ll need to find more customizable software to address all of your needs
Which Property Management Software Is Right For You?
No matter the size of your real estate business, the right property management solution can save you time and money by helping to automate your daily operations. Imagine having an overview of everything right at your fingertips – that would make life a whole lot easier and a lot less stressful. It’s important to explore the management system options out there and choose a software solution that suits the needs of your business. There’s no one perfect product, but there is a product out there that’s close to perfect for you.