Property Management, Tenant Selection, Real Estate News & Tips

Property Management Software, Solutions, Strategies, and Reviews

property management solutions

Property managers that thrive execute one thing very well:

Efficiency.

Because there are so many moving parts that go into running a successful rental business, property managers need have a system that keeps them efficient and effective.  Property management software gives landlords and property managers a convenient solution to organize their rental business and streamline their workflow.

So, what is property management software?

Property management software is an application design for property managers and landlords to organize their rental properties, accounts, renters, owners, and financials.

Software solutions created specifically for the real estate industry also provide useful features for streamlined rental management, like online rent payments, options to post rental vacancies online, screen prospective tenants, have renters sign lease agreements online, and, most importantly, full reporting functions.

Technology advances make software for property management easy to use on a smartphone, tablet, and mobile device for rental professionals on the go. From mobile lease execution and work order documentation to instant tenant screening and uploading new photos for online rental ads, it can all be done from your preferred device.

Property Management Software Solutions

Here’s a look at today’s most popular property management software companies based on a suite of features designed to make your job in rental management easier and more efficient.

Rentec Direct

Founded in 2009, works with landlords and property managers in the 10-2500 unit range.

Buildium

Founded in 2004, works with property managers in the 200-2500 unit range

Appfolio

Founded in 2006, works with property managers in the 200-2500 unit range.

 

All three of these solutions offer comparable features for property managers, landlords and investors. Continue reading to discover how to pick the right software for you.

property management comparison guide

The following list includes the complete list of property management software solutions for managers and owners for all types of portfolios and budget.  

There’s a lot of companies on this list, so keep reading to find out how to pick the best property management system for your business.

Do I need property management software?

Often times, the difference between a positive experience and a negative one is lack of knowledge about the resources that will make property management easier.

The problems experienced by many property managers and landlords can be solved with improved organization and online tools that help streamline business tasks associated with managing rentals.

Developments in technology and cloud-based computing have paved the way for property managers and rental owners who seek better processes to streamline their business and boost profits. By incorporating the latest software applications into your daily operations, property management has evolved to become easier and more efficient.

While software wont eliminate bad renters or prevent property damage, you will be able to find more responsible renters, keep up property maintenance and organize lease agreements, rental income, and more.

Shouldn’t I be using Quickbooks to manage my rental properties?

Sure, Quickbooks is the leading accounting solution for all business options. But what if there was an accounting program that gave you the powerful reporting functions of Quickbooks but was already set up with categories and ledgers for your rental business. That’s exactly what a good rental management software is –  Quickbooks for landlords.  

Also with software designed specific to your industry, you will get industry specific tools like a tenant portal for your tenants to login to and make maintenance requests and pay their rent, an owner portal for owners to review their property performance, and built-in tenant screening so you can screen your tenants right within the same application.  Quickbooks is great for general accounting, but it is missing all the tools which will make you the best property manager on the block.  Think about this: If a tenant has the option between a property manager who cannot provide them online access vs one that can, who will they choose?  Likewise, would today’s owners be happier with instant online access to review their property performance, or do they like to wait a month for you to mail out statements?

Plus, this “Quickbooks for landlords” comes with tons of other useful features that you will need to manage your rental properties, that Quickbooks won’t give you.

Quickbooks vs landlord software

What features does a complete software solution provide?

Property management needs can be broken down into 4 areas of operation and the right software will provide tools to complete all these tasks easily in one place: accounting, operations, leasing, and management.

Accounting Features

  • Full general ledger accounting for properties, tenants, and owners.
  • Accept online payments via ACH or credit card from your tenants.
  • Property managers can pay owners electronically via ACH.
  • Trust account certified software that complies with your state’s real estate board.
  • An extremely robust reporting system.
  • Built-in 1099-MISC e-filing system.

Operations Features

  • A professional website to promote your company and listings online.
  • Give your owners access to valuable property data through your owner portal.
  • Create, share, and store custom forms and accept electronic signatures.
  • Store and share important documents with owners and tenants in the file library.
  • Keep track of maintenance and repairs with the work order management system.
  • Setup unlimited user accounts for your team to access the software securely.

Leasing & Management Features

  • Receive rent payments and take maintenance requests via the tenant portal.
  • The most accurate tenant screening is built right into the platform.
  • Your own website with an advanced lead tracking tool for prospective tenants.
  • Automatically syndicate your vacancies to the world’s top property listing services.
  • Provide online applications and accept application payments for your vacancies.
  • Built-in email and text-message (SMS) service for convenient communication with your tenants, owners, and vendors.
  • Mobile rental property inspection tool for easy move-in and move-out inspections.

Additional Feature for Property Managers and Landlords

  • Mobile optimized software for easy use on a smartphone, tablet or mobile device.
  • Download and sync financial transactions between your software and your bank.
  • Synchronize all your financial data with QuickBooks Sync.
  • Unlimited recurring expenses and fully automated management fees.
  • Ratio Utility Billing (RUBS) for managing common area maintenance expenses.
  • Your data is secured using bank-grade security – the toughest in the industry.

Equally important to the list of features, your software should provide you with an excellent client success team and highly-rated client support.

Consider This:

Do you really want to be talking to an overseas tech support company who doesn’t understand that you need a renter payment to go through immediately so your owner can pay their mortgage payment?

How much does software for property managers and landlords cost?

Rental management software typically costs about $1 per unit for an all inclusive product. Additional expenses can include fees for payment processing, tenant screening, website hosting and registration, and tax filing services.

Cloud-based software companies, like most PM software solutions, typically charge users by the month or offer a discount for an annual payment made in advance.

Management software has become an affordable way for all types of managers  and owners to access powerful tools for effectively managing rental properties.  Cloud-based software is easily available to anyone with an internet connection.  The best part is, software  hosted the cloud is significantly more affordable than similar desktop applications of the past.  Affordability means more owners and managers are able to fit software into their operating budgets, allowing everyone to be competitive with larger firms.

You will also be able to find free property management software. The free versions will have limited featured and are best designed for landlords or managers with less than 10 units.


Question to ask while shopping:  

How long has your pricing been this rate?  How many times in the past 5 years have you increased pricing on existing customers?


When looking at software, you may be surprised that some solutions will be out of your price range due to required monthly minimums or steep on-boarding fees.

Minimum Monthly Payment
Find one that fits the size of your business and your budget. Additionally the right software should grow with you.

Some companies will require you to have a $200- $300 monthly minimum fee. So for an investor with less than 100 properties, these solutions are impractical.

On-boarding/Startup Fees
One of the highest costs associated with introducing a property management solution to your business is the integration and on-boarding fees. Some companies will charge anywhere $500-$1,000+ depending on how many units you have.

Look at what you get with the setup fee because some of the property management software companies offer free setup, and they also help migrate your data into the software and train you (all included in the base price).  A setup fee generally is used by the company you are choosing to pay the salesperson selling the account.  I personally tend to steer clear of companies requiring setup fees in this industry.


Question to ask while shopping:  

If you require a setup fee, will you provide an agreement in writing that the fees will be refunded if I am displeased with the features I am sold or if I feel like the sales person sold something that did not exist or was incomplete?


Do I have to sign a contract?

Depends on the company. A confident software solution will give their clients the option to commit as long as the client wants -that means no contract required!

Alternatively, some software companies think it’s necessary to lock their clients into a year long contract. What happens if the software isn’t all it’s cracked up to be an you want to change software? What if you find out about a new feature another solution is offering and you want to switch over? If you are locked into a contract it will be harder to make a choice based on what’s best for business.

Also consider many software companies consist mostly of poorly trained sales people who will always say “yes”, even if the software doesn’t do something you want in order to get you to sign a contract.  Yet another reason contracts can be bad as it incents the sales staff at the company to push the envelope.  With a month-to-month agreement, you don’t have this issue.

A good question when shopping if they require a contract:  

If you require a contract, will you give me an agreement in writing stating that I can get a refund of my setup costs and be let out of the contract immediately if any of the features I am sold are not as advertised?

What if I want to change software? Can I download my account history and make the jump?

This is a very important question to ask a company representative when you are looking at software.

A good software company should let you keep and download your data and records if you need to. This is very important for property managers and landlords who need to keep business records and tenant files for years.

Some solutions do not make it easy to download your files and data, claiming that the information is proprietary. This can make it nearly impossible to change solutions if you find something better.


A good question when shopping:  

Does your software let me download all of my ledgers into a universal format like CSV or Excel, and can I easily download all the files I have uploaded?


Does rental management software include tenant screening?

Most property management applications have partnered with the leading credit bureaus and criminal record agencies to provide users with instant tenant screening reports. When linked with an online rental application, ordering applicant screening reports is extremely easy with property management software.

Tenant screening reports are typically an added fee on top of the monthly subscription. These are on-time fees that can be passed along to your renters (if your state laws allow it).

A software company should prioritize legal access to tenant screening reports. They should be upfront with how they are meeting the guidelines established by the Federal Fair Credit Act. This will include requiring an application for credit access.  

Also, not all tenant screening is created equal.  Some “nationwide” reports can cover as few as 20 states and if your applicant had a felony or eviction in any of the other 30, you wouldn’t know.


Question to ask while shopping:  

Does your software have built in credit, criminal, and eviction reports available so I can screen my applicants?  Also, how comprehensive are your nationwide reports and what states do they get data from?


Cloud-based vs. Desktop Application Software – which is right for me?

Cloud-based software allows users to access their business data from any internet connected device.  Cloud-based software require a monthly subscription fee and is typically a lower upfront cost compared to a desktop application

Desktop application software is downloaded and installed to your computer (think Outlook and Microsoft Word). An installed software is only accessible from that one device. Desktop applications require a one time fee. If something happens to your computer, you lose your software and all the information stored in the installed software program.


Question to ask cloud based providers:  

How do you backup my data and can I download a copy of my data at any time to back it up myself?

Question to ask non cloud based providers:  

How often do you update your application, and will I pay fees for these updates?  


Updates and Latest Versions
Cloud-based software will instantly update the software to the latest version and new features will be instantly available to next time you log into a program.  Installed desktop software will require a manual update by the user or you might have to purchase the latest version.  


Question to ask while shopping:  

How often do you update your system?  If I have a feature that I would like to see in the system, can I tell you about it and how long will it take to make it happen?


What about security? Won’t my cloud-based software data get breached by hackers?

Cloud-based software solutions are actually more secure than installed software or files saved to your computer.

A reliable cloud-based software will use extremely secure servers and networks to protect your data. Cloud-based software offers the following security measures:

  • Servers are routinely scanned by a 3rd party security vendor for viruses or hacking attempts.
  • Servers are backed up on and off site with redundant copies at each location.
  • Enterprise grade hardware and software provide a high reliability. Technologies such as RAID (hard drive mirroring), replication, load balancing, and other modern methods.

Property managers have access to highly sensitive personal data from their renters, that they are professionally obligated to keep safe and secure.  So it is extra important for property managers and landlords to use the most secure system possible, to keep their tenant information and business records safe, and keep their operations going smoothly.


Question to ask while shopping:  

What security measures do you take to ensure my data is secure from hackers.  Also, in the event you have server problems, can I download my data at any time?


How do I find the right management software for my rental business?

Property management software reviews will be a great resource when comparing software solutions a review site is a great resource.

The current front-runners in the software market for property management have an almost identical suite of core features. So beyond comparing features, check out reviews to see how the features actually work for people. Just because one solution has a mobile app, if users complain that it is constantly broken or has limited functionality, do you really want to sign up with that software?

The most widely used and trusted property management software review sites include Software Advice and Capterra, which collect reviews from verified software users.

Review sites will also give you an idea about the support the software offers their clients. When you are learning a new software or trying out a new feature, you will probably need to contact support at least once.

When evaluating a system’s support team ask the following questions:

Do they have a phone number for you call, email support, or live chat support?

Is the support team located in the US or overseas?

How long does it take the support team to respond to requests? 24-hrs? 3 days?

Another trick is to pick up the phone and call the company’s support line. Do they actually answer the phone? Do they return your phone call quickly?


Question to ask while shopping:  

Do you offer free phone support?  If so, who will I be talking to when I call?  Can I ask to speak to the same person who has helped me before?


Talk to experts and your network

Find out what industry professionals have to say about the best solutions on the market. Ask around at your local real estate investor association meeting.

I am a landlord, can I use property management software?

Of course. Most property management software companies scale their product to suit the needs of their users. Landlords need almost all the same features as a property manager. 

Because landlords tend to have fewer properties under management than a property manager be careful of setup costs and minimums that can quickly make the software unaffordable.

Property management software gives landlords all the tools they need to manage rental properties.


Question to ask while shopping:  

Do you have a version of your software specific for landlords?


I am an investor, is property management software for me?

The best way for an investor to track the profitability and performance of their real estate portfolio is with property management software. You will have an at a glance view of income, expenses, vacancy rates and occupancy.  

Investors typically have more than one project keeping them busy. PM software is designed to save an investor time and make real estate management even more efficient.  

If an investor employs a property manager, you should ask your manager which software they use. The right software will provide detailed reports about your property and give you a portal to log into and view performance and profits.

If you are an investor who loves graphs, numbers and reports, online property management software is exactly what you need.


[Editor’s Note: Property Management Software, Solutions, Strategies, and Resources is intended as a collaborative, growing body of work, as opposed to a static, single-author piece. If you have comments, suggestions, and of course any corrections, please contact us via email: marketing@rentecdirect.com]


Related Reading For:

Do I Really Need a Tenant Portal For My Renters?

Free Domains and Website Hosting For Property Managers

How To Grow Your Property Management Business

 

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About the Author

About the Author: Kaycee manages marketing and media relations for Rentec Direct, bringing a unique perspective to the world of property management and proudly shares industry news, products, and trends within the community. .

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