Because you’re constantly bombarded with misleading advertising, trumped up demos, and bad information … from high-pressure sales to overpriced platforms to promises of “one size fits all.”
How do you ever find the software that’s right for you?
You start by asking the best of the best in the property management industry for their advice: real professionals who aren’t trying to sell you a thing. And that’s exactly what we did. What follows are …
20 property management experts answering just two question about how to select the best property management software:
- What’s the number one thing you should look for in property management software?
- What’s the biggest red flag?
These are not endorsements and we won’t mention a single product by name.
Instead, this is your personal guide to choosing the right software … and avoiding the pitfalls.
1. Sabrina Bower: President CIC Reports
One of the biggest red flags is a property management software company that traps your data. If you want to switch — but all of your tenants, vendors, maintenance, and accounting information can’t be exported — you may find it too cumbersome to re-input all the data thus being a hostage to a platform you don’t like.
2. Jason Hartman: CEO at JasonHartman.com
Again, don’t overthink it. Difficulty of use and high costs are two red flags that you’ll have to change systems in future. That’s a huge hassle; so focus on getting it right the first time!
3. Mark Ferguson: Founder Invest Four More
I also only have 14 rentals at the moment, so it is not a huge operation. If I had 100 or 1,000 rentals I would most likely want a specific rental property software that helped me keep track of rent payments and had more features.
Ease of use is the biggest issue with many programs. Having many features is awesome, unless you don’t need those features and it makes the program too complicated. I have tried out a few programs and they had so many features I was overwhelmed with where to start. If you don’t need an entire software platform, that’s your big red flag right there.
4. Andrew Cordle: Founder National Association of Real Estate Investors
On the other side, I hate large upfront-fee software. I don’t mind paying for the software itself when I buy it. But beware of plans that come in preset limits or ranges. Instead, make sure you can pay on a per-house fee.
5. Mark Juleen: The Apartment and Internet Marketing Nerd
The other thing we look for is what’s all included vs what gets nickeled and dimed as add on costs. For example, we recently converted to a new program and were able to get accounting, online leasing tools, and other tools all included in their base price. Many of these features are extras that cost more with other systems.
Red flags to me are the contracts. Be sure to understand the terms you’re locked into and any extra integration fees that could be charged.
6. Joe Samson: Joe Samson & Associates
Most of the time simple means better user experience. Highly customizable interfaces are only beneficial for a very small segment of property managers.
The bells and whistles may look very attractive at first glance, but they take way too much time to properly configure. Therefore, I have either abandoned complicated property management softwares in the past or shied away from trying it all together.
7. Victor Lund: CEO REtechnology
Biggest flag to avoid is system security. You need to select a vendor who has hacker proof systems. These systems contain a lot of personally identifiable information that could cause thousands of dollars in damages if not protected
8. Bart Sturzl: President of National Association of Residential Property Managers
The biggest red flag you should avoid is the hard sale for any upgraded modules.
9. Dan Pipito: ez Landlord Forms
In property management software, the biggest red flag to avoid is having to give payment information upfront while being pressured into a trial period that doesn’t let you really know what you’re getting.
10. Aaron Kardell: CEO Homespotter
What’s the biggest red flag that you should avoid?
Make sure to really understand how tenant screening works in the system. The difference to your bottom line in getting this right or wrong can be enormous.
11. Tyler Zey: Easy Agent Pro
My biggest focus with software in general is the scope of its capabilities, the price, and how intuitive it is. If it’s intuitive software you spend less time having to learn the technical aspect of the platform and more time actually running your business.
The biggest red flag for me would be lack of flexibility, especially when it comes to the little things. For example not being able to list out all a property’s amenities in detail. Or not being able to separate your renter and owner profiles for one unit. Those are little things I’ve come across that separate certain platforms from the rest of the pack. It’s the little things that matter.
12. Jim Smith:CEO/Broker The Property Management Company
The majority of the current software platforms have a really nice layout and front end appearance. The challenge is most are like a Hollywood movie set: they look nice from the street view, but walk inside and there is no depth; just a façade held up by a few 4X4s.
Establish a list of at least ten scenarios you want your software to do and then find active users to sit down and see if the scenarios can be done (quality companies will gladly refer you to current clients). Do not just rely on the demos the companies provide. After the test drive, ask the their current users, “Knowing what you know now, would you buy this software again?”
13. Debbie Biery: EXP Realty
As obvious as it might sound, the biggest red flag would be poor reviews of a particular product. Do your homework, especially on user-generated sites like Google and impartial app-review websites. Also, beware of glowing reviews the PMS presents in their own marketing.
14. Julie Nelson: The Nelson Project
The biggest red flag is if it lacks navigation ease. In other words, is it intuitive and user friendly. The only way to test it … is to test it: can you find what you’re looking quickly and easily? If not, then find one that makes navigational sense to you.
15. Trevor Mauch: Founder Carrot
So write down on a piece of paper what inefficiencies you’re currently experiencing and rank them. Then place a monthly value on each one along with — if you could solve it — what that’d be worth to you.
The biggest red flag that you should avoid is when a company’s own blog hasn’t been updated in over a month and their design is out of 2005. This shows that they aren’t committed to improving their product or staying at the cutting edge. Technology changes so fast these days that having your system of record as a rental property owner or property management company be out of date and be neglected is a huge liability for you long-term. The more you can align with a company that you can tell has momentum toward keeping their product updated, the more secure you’ll be in knowing that the software will be as relevant and effective in five years as it is today.
16. Rachael Hite: Listing Depot
Run from too many clicks! If you have to sit through too many webinars or training sessions to know how to work the product, the team will struggle. Great management software should be intuitive and require the least amount of clicks for team members in input or access data on a property. If it is too complicated, then the team (usually comprised of members with different technology skill sets) will not be cohesive.
17. Thomas Espy: International Editor at Tranio.com
Beware of a difficult interface coupled with poor customer service and product training. Also watch out for any sort of “one size fits all” promises; few programs are 100% comprehensive out of the box. If someone tells you it is, that’s a huge red flag.
18. Nico Hohman: NextHome Discovery
Look out for unresponsive design. Property managers are always on the go, working from their homes, their offices, their cars, and everywhere in between. You need software that can grow and adapt to wherever, however, and whenever you are working. The more nimble, agile, and flexible the software is … the better.
19. Anthony West: Moffitt Realty
In this day and age, SAAS (software as a service) companies are developing better competitive business models that allow more flexibility for their customers. Many companies are switching to monthly subscriptions vs. year long contracts. Try to avoid being locked in for a long-term commitment if possible. This will allow you to try out a product for a bit of time without having too much skin in the game.
20. Lee Davenport: Learn with Lee
If the demo is hard to figure out and operate on your own, do not buy into the claims that their team will train you to use it. We are headed into 2017 and there are enough software programs and apps that are user-friendly right out the box.
And note, I do not consider it a true demo if the vendor does all the maneuvering your team has to be able to massage and manipulate the program to see if it is really a good fit. Say, “Next!” and use what is easiest and most intuitive for your team.
Picking the Best Property Management Software
It’s true, picking the best the best property management software isn’t easy.
But if you follow the advice above, you’ll be well on your way to getting the right software for your business.
Along side of demoing the product for yourself and making sure it integrates with the other programs you use and that it’s mobile ready, just remember one thing: picking the best the best property management software for you is all about one thing … you.
Don’t let anyone push you into a platform — no matter how many bells and whistles it has — if it doesn’t fit your needs.
Did we leave out your own best tip or what to avoid? Be sure to share it in the comments.