Running a successful property management operation is no small feat. Any number of business challenges keep property managers awake at night. How to fill vacancies? What can be done to ensure timely, full rent collection? Will property repairs, acquisitions, or improvements justify the return? To complicate things just a bit further, owners and investors want to know the answers too! After all, they know they have options. Savvy property management companies are increasingly utilizing robust software solutions to gain a competitive edge.
This guide offers information on the following topics:
Property management software helps manage income and expenses involved in managing both residential and commerical properties, such as collecting rent and handling proper maintenance. Common features of property management software include trust accounting, maintenance, inspections, tenant portals for communication, and reporting.
Property management software can help save time and money by giving you all the tools needed to maintain the health of your real estate assets and provide a better service to your tenants. Property management software can be used by a single landlord managing a few units, or by a large real estate portfolio managing thousands of apartment buildings.
What types of business challenges do property management software options address? There are property management solutions that address back-end accounting, payment processing, investment management, tenant tracking, work orders, complex reporting, and beyond.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the most important capabilities provided in property management software programs:
Robust property management solutions are becoming increasingly more accessible. Many features, which just a few years ago were reserved for only the most sophisticated, enterprise solutions, are now available to property management businesses of all sizes and software budgets. Software providers are leveraging many of the following tools to help property managers run their business more efficiently:
Property management companies come in all shapes and sizes of course. That’s a big part of the reason there is no one single answer to which property management software is the best. If you’re managing a large portfolio of industrial or office-oriented commercial space, your needs are different than if you manage a small set of single-family residences. Still, there are many common challenges. No matter your needs, software solutions are being designed to reinforce operating best practices and help your company become more profitable.
When shopping for solutions, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the amount of options intended for larger companies that manage upwards of 100+ units and have minimum pricing of a few hundred dollars. A landlord managing a small amount of units or properties will want to take advantage of the benefits of a property management software. These benefits will ease the burden of managing the properties, and include features such as tracking rent, scheduling maintenance and repairs, screening applicants, and paying vendors.
Rentec Direct is great choice for both landlords and property managers. The software was originally designed to be a simple and free application for streamlining the operations of a small rental business. Because of these roots, their paid options have no setup fees and no contracts. It’s now grown into a robust platform for managing properties, with built-in reporting and accounting that can be customized to fit your business, work order management, and vacancy filling via marketing tools.
Rentec can be tried via their free version, Rentec Basic, which is best used for small landlords with under 10 properties. Rentec Pro is their paid option for landlords and apartment owners, while Rentec PM is designed for property managers who manage on behalf of owners. All products from Rentec can easily be upgraded or downgraded to one another, making Rentec a great choice for those just getting started as well as something you can grow into.
123Landlord is a simple and basic property management tool. Unlike most software that will charge a cost per unit, 123Landlord groups their products into number of tenants. For example, 5 or less tenants will use the Basic product, while 12 or less tenants uses professional. All versions include the same level of features, so your costs will only increase if you cross into the next threshold based on your total tenants.
Many paid property management solutions have a free version available. However, these solutions are not without limitations. For example, a free solution might only be a limited free trial. Otherwise, a free solution may only be a slimmed down version of their paid option. These are intended to leave you wanting more so you’ll purchase the paid version.
TenantCloud is a free cloud property management software that can be used by both landlords and tenants. Landlords have the ability to receive online payments, screen applicants, manage finances, and get a free listing website. Meanwhile, tenants can submit rental applications, pay rent online and keep a detailed record of payments, and submit maintenance requests.
The free version of TenantCloud is best used by landlords who have under 75 units. This version allows for 1 user and up to 10 custom templates for rental agreements and notices. The paid version starts at $9/month.
TurboTenant is a great free tool for streamlining your rental process. It’s strengths include screening tenants, marketing your rentals, and receiving applications. The professional listing page can easily showcase your units and let your prospects submit applications quickly and easily.
While TurboTenant is free to landlords (with the exeption of some additional service features), the cost of applications is simply passed on to the applicant, who will spend $35-45 depending on whether you need an eviction report or not.
Rental property management software can be as simple or advanced as needed, providing rent collection, accounting, and maintenance into one combined option. Advanced systems will provide a layer of automation, or tenant portals that provide a way for online payments.
Buildium is a complete property management solution designed by property managers. The software handles property accounting, company financials, reporting, as well as handling online payments with both a tenant portal and an owner portal. Buildium is best used by residential rental management companies given it’s scalability in how many units can be managed.
Buildium starts at $47/month, but has a unique a la carte fee structure that really only makes the software worth it if you manage at least 50 properties. For example, while managing 1 unit costs $47/month, managing 50 units is only $31 more at $78/month. They do have a “Pro” version which includes free EFT payments, free bank account setup, and free electronic leases.
RentManger helps track finances, list vacancies, screen tenants, manage repairs, pay bills, and collect rent. RentManager is great for property managers require a heavy level of customization in the software, which is great for those with rental portfolios that have a unique combination of properties.
The program is completely self-contained, meaning it should be the only solution you’ll need to manage your rental properties. On top of that, the solution provides a strong web portal suite that gives your tenants and prospects the ability to submit online applications, pay their rent, submit work orders, and more.
Want more options? Check out our list of best rental property management software options.
Commercial property management companies look to benefit from features that are built with their unique needs in mind. These features help attract new property owners to utilize their services, help reduce vacancy days at properties, streamline the leasing process, and respond to maintenance requests quickly.
AppFolio’s commercial property management option is built to deal with more complicated leases, specialized reporting, CAM reconciliations, and more. The commercial management view displays fields that are more relevant to a commercial property management company, such as square footage, rent per square foot, monthly rent amounts, and occupancy status. The software helps post vacancies to your website and syncs with 3rd party hosting sites. You can also easily establish rent increases based on the terms of the lease.
Appfolio is completely web-based and starts at $1.50/unit/month for commercial properties. There is a $250 minimum charge each month, so you’ll get the most value if you are managing over 167 units per month.
MRI Commercial Suite helps centralize building, suite, and lease information exclusively for commercial properties. The software has been implemented into many commercial operations and has helped reduce operating costs, improve strategic planning, and bring a level of automation into the business.
The commerical real estate management tool from MRI has a strong lease calculation tool which includes clauses, breakpoints, offsets, estimated payments, and recoveries. Additional reporting and data visualization capabilities can help you gain insight and improve your decision making.
Want more options? Check out our list of best commercial property management software.
Online, or cloud property management software provides the benefits of reduced startup costs through a subscription-based pricing model, greater accessibility with at-home and mobile access, and easier collaboration with your colleagues with real-time edits and cloud storage.
Propertyware is a completely web-based system providing flexible pricing and fully-integrated accounting, marketing, and maintenance features. Propertyware is a fantastic choice for a fast-growing company that is looking to expand to more properties and units.
Propertyware provides one of the most flexible reporting options among property management tools, including the ability to create custom fields (in contrast to solution with static reports with no content or layout customization options). The solution also has automatic email notifications for owners and tenants, owner ACH contributions via an owner portal, and an overall more robust feel.
Yardi Breeze is the newest offering from Yardi, who has been in the property management game for 30 years with their Voyager and Genesis2 product. The Breeze product was created for smaller businesses who desried an easy to use online solution to manage their properties.
While the program hasn’t been around as long as others, the Yardi name behind it gives confidence that any growing pains will be minimal. The solution offers a low starting cost of $1/unit/month, can be used for both residential and commercial properties, and includes a strong mobile functionality.
Using QuickBooks Online as a property management tool is possible for a property manager handling small to midsize properties. Desktop versions of Quickbooks allow you to set up company and customer files as various properties. This will allow you to handle tasks such as collecting rent from tenants and paying property owners and management companies, on top of any fees involved in property maintenance.
The above video demonstrates just how you can set up your Quickbooks Desktop to manage buildings and units within them.
If the property management business is comprised of several large properties or multiple complexes, it is advised you look into a more advanced system. A professional property manager could be better off finding a trust accounting system. Once rent is received from the tenants, it needs to be disbursed to the property owners. This money should be kept in its own account and separate from any account that is used to pay expenses. Any money also received from the owners for the work you’ve done (your management fee) should be put into your own account. QuickBooks lacks this type of account management and is why it can be difficult to manage multiple properties using QuickBooks.