Why Use Property Management Software?
As a property manager, you know the name of the game is organization. You have to manage lease applications, rent payments, maintenance requests and listings of vacancies, among other things. Whether you’re using a pen-and-paper manual method or a handful of programs to get the work done, there’s an easier way. Online property management software helps to automate many of your chores so you can concentrate on building profitable real estate management companies. Most rental property management software comes in the software-as-a-service (SaaS) format, which means you don’t need to install software on every computer used in your office. In the cloud-computing environment, all you need is a web browser and an internet connection.
The best property management software is efficient, has features that foster better communication between tenants, owners and property managers, and lets you manage rent and vendor payments all in one place. Propertyware, AppFolio and MRI Software are excellent examples of what to look for in an online property management solution.
If you’re managing thousands of units and a large team of maintenance workers, cleaning crews, front office workers and leasing agents, you might want to look into adding a task management system as a supplement to property management software. To learn more about which service is right for your situation, read our articles about online property management.
Best Commercial Property Management Solutions
Most of the property management software available is meant for those who have at least 10 units to manage. If you’re looking for a property management solution for managing commercial properties, you should consider a robust system that helps you manage a large staff and several properties. Programs like MRI Software and Total Management offer customizable dashboards so you can have the most important tasks displayed front and center, which keeps you focused and organized.
Propertyware offers powerful tools to help you with day-to-day banking and end-of-year taxes. It also synchronizes with QuickBooks, so you can continue using a system you’re comfortable with.
Best Residential Property Management Solutions
Although any of the top-rated property management software we’ve included in our lineup would suit any size business, there are some titles that are better for smaller businesses than others for their ease of use and tutorials. You want to focus on keeping your tenants happy, vacancies filled and your staff completing tasks on time, so you don’t want to spend extra time having to learn a new system. Buildium and AppFolio are simple to use straight out of the box.
Residential property management software may have a learning curve for some leasing agents, though, so you should look for a solution that offers helpful guides and tutorials, like AppFolio. Its walkthrough helps you achieve familiarity with the software after the first use. If you still have questions, you can find answers in its help section. If you still need help, you can shoot an email to the customer support team and get an answer in a matter of hours.
Most Affordable Property Management Software
Although there are free property management solutions available – and some of them are surprisingly robust – you aren’t going to get the best and most complete program to help you manage your properties. Finding the most affordable full-featured option comes down to a few factors.
If you manage a single apartment complex with 10 units, the most cost-effective online property management software for you would be Promas or Property Manager Cloud – you pay about a dollar per unit. However, you miss out on a few features, such as data migration and QuickBooks integration. Buildium is an excellent choice if you manage hundreds of units because of its low monthly cost. AppFolio is a great program, but it comes with an onboarding fee and a $250 minimum monthly fee – it equates to $1.25 per month per unit, which is a bargain if you’re managing several properties and hundreds of units.
Property Management Software: What to Look For
Most property management programs handle the basics of property management. Across the board, every online property management system includes a way for your tenants to pay rent through the portal, even if a third party is involved. Maintenance is a big part of a property manager’s life, so you’re going to find a way to fire off a work order to your staff through these programs. Also, you’d be hard pressed to find a rental property management program that doesn’t include accounting and reporting tools.
To find the best online property management software, you should look for a service that has a good balance of marketing, tenant and maintenance management, accounting and reporting features, and extras that make your life easier, like mobile apps. The software should be easy to use and offer reliable technical support.
We tested or evaluated each program in our lineup through a free trial or by demonstration to ensure they meet our requirements for ease of use, customizability and efficacy. We took each task as far as we could, given the limits of the software and the law – we didn’t link a bank account or actually post listings online. The trials and demonstrations allowed us to look at every tool and task we’ve scored, and none of the software makers had influence or input over our testing methodology. None of them received results of our tests prior to the publication of our reviews.
To fill vacancies quickly and effectively, you need tools that help cut down on the time you spend posting listings, sending applications to potential tenants and answering the phone. Skyline and Point2 Property Manager from Yardi let you create HTML-coded listings that you can store in the system for each of your units. When you have a vacancy, simply click a few buttons and the property management software posts your listing on your website. Top rental websites can then pick them up and attract interested parties quickly.
Applicants can fill out an online form to apply for the unit, and you won’t have to spend hours responding to emails and phone calls just to send out applications. Those who apply can even pay their fees online, which eliminates the need to wait for someone to come in with cash, check or money order.
Property management software isn’t just about making your life as a manager easier by reducing paperwork and tedious tasks – it also makes your tenants happier. A tenant portal is a valuable addition to any property solution because it allows your tenants to have a central place where they can pay their rent, submit maintenance requests, view their lease and see status updates on maintenance. Skyline and Rent Manager let tenants pay rent online, which reduces late payments and pays you faster. Property managers also benefit from tenant management with the ability to view tenant statistics and histories.
As long as everything is working as intended, everyone is happy, but it seems that there’s always something to fix, inspect or replace. This is where facilities management tools are essential to measure and maintain your property's health. In Buildium, once a tenant submits a maintenance request, you are able to view it, assign the task to a staff member and update the status of the request in the system. AppFolio lets users upload photos to the system from their mobile device, along with notes about the issue or inspection, which cuts down considerably on paperwork. Additionally, property management software like Point2 Property Manager and Rent Manager allow managers to solicit bids, track vendors and make payments electronically.
Accounting & Reporting
One of most time-consuming tasks of any property manager is handling the money. You have money coming in and going out in various forms. Propertyware and MRI Software help you keep track of deposits, rent payments, maintenance costs, payment to vendors and more with powerful accounting tools. These features enable you to track income and expenses, prevent clerical errors and make payments when necessary.
In AppFolio, you can set up an automatic late payment schedule, so you don’t have to keep track of who owes what. Buildium and Point2 Property Manager include reporting options that let you or the owner see an at-a-glance view of cash flow, balances or delinquencies. Many of the programs let you link your bank accounts and automatically calculate any commission or fees owed to managers or leasing agents, which makes managing money even easier.
Help & Support
All of the property management programs we tested offer customer support that you can contact by phone or email. You should be able to contact customer support in a number of different ways. An online forum is a great way to ask questions and learn from other property managers that use the product. The FAQs sections should be clear and informative.
Whether you manage a single complex with 25 units or several properties with hundreds of units, your job as a property manager relies on your ability to keep everything and everyone organized and on task. Online property management gives you the tools, shortcuts and features to help make your job easier and put you on a path to success.