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Property Management Software – Is It Right For You?

by Kevin Perk on December 16, 2013 · 23 comments

  
Property Management Software

Recently, we invested in a property management software system and all I have to say it is one of the best things we have ever done to help our business.  The software system has made our lives as landlords so much easier that it has been well worth the investment.

Here are some of the software’s features.

  • It handles all of the accounting, creating easy to read reports for monthly operations and for tax time.
  • It produces timely reports regarding who has paid and who is behind.
  • It will generate the appropriate letters to those who are behind.
  • It comes with a website that provides us with an awesome web presence.  On that webpage prospective tenants can:
    • View all of our available properties with picture and descriptions
    • Apply directly online for one of those properties
    • Review our terms and policies
  • Current tenants can use our webpage to:
    • Set up automatic ACH rental payments
    • Review their accounts
    • Send us maintenance requests.
  • The software automatically generates an ad on our webpage and on Craigslist and Backpage as well as other sites when a unit comes up for rent.  Because of this feature, our out of state business has increased significantly.

Why Property Management Software?

All of these features have greatly increased our efficiency and productivity.  No more spreadsheets and no more trying to figure out quickbooks (ugh!).  Even better, it has dramatically reduced the number of phone calls both from prospective tenants and current tenants because much of what they need can now be found online.  In sum, this software has made our lives much, much easier.

Be warned though, using this software required a lot of upfront work imputing data.  It does not automatically know anything about you or your properties.  Someone has to input all of that stuff and that can take a significant amount of time.   These systems can also be pricy and are not perfect as they are often designed more for a management company rather than owners/managers.  Some of the phone apps also leave much to be desired but that will likely change in the near future as smart phones become more and more common.

Is It Worth It For You? 

Depends.  If you have a good accounting system in place and only a few properties it may not be worth it.  But once you acquire 15 or 20 properties or hate the hassle of developing and posting ads and accounting these systems start to make economic sense.  Then it may be time for you to look into this wise investment.

Be sure to shop around.  There are many different companies out there, each offering different bundles of services and different pricing structures.  Take a test drive on each one.  After a few weeks of research, you will find the one that best fits your needs and trust me, you will never look back.

Those of you who use a property management software system, share your experience with your comments.

Photo: Daveblog

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{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Michael Sadler December 16, 2013 at 5:58 am

Thanks Kevin,

Sounds interesting!

Reply

Kevin Perk December 17, 2013 at 4:37 pm

Michael,

It is! Thanks,

Kevin

Reply

Paul Salmela December 16, 2013 at 8:19 am

I currently own and manage 20 SFHs and use Excel for all of these. I’d be interested in using some property management software as I’m sure this would save me some time!

Reply

Kevin Perk December 17, 2013 at 4:38 pm

Paul,

Excel works perfectly well and did for us for a long time.

If you are interested in some software, shop around and find the one that best fits you.

Thanks for reading and commenting,

Kevin

Reply

Dave December 16, 2013 at 8:27 am

What did you end up purchasing? I’m between Buildium and Quickbooks for Rental Properties

Reply

Tom Sylvester December 16, 2013 at 5:05 pm

I believe Kevin uses Appfolio. I checked it out and it looks like great software, but it is expensive if you do not have a lot of units. The setup cost is 2x your monthly fee and the monthly fee is $1 unit (but with a $200 minimum fee per month). I was really interested in Appfolio, but without having a ton of units I just could not justify the cost.

When I decided that Appfolio was too expensive, I tried Buildium. It was $25/month, which was much more reasonable for my number of unit. It did not have an nice of an interface as Appfolio and it lacked several features, but it had the basics. It does take a lot of setup as you have to enter all of the information about your properties, tenants, leases, etc. What killed the deal for me on Buildium was that it did not have an accounting feature and it did not integrate with Quickbooks, so we would have double work to enter information into Buildium and Quickbooks. So after a month we cancelled Buildium.

I just published a blog today that may be of interest (http://www.biggerpockets.com/renewsblog/2013/12/16/dave-put-business-management-steroids-gqueues/). In that post, I show how I use GQueues to manage a lot of what a property management application would do. Not only is it flexible, it only costs me $25/year.

Reply

Kevin Perk December 17, 2013 at 4:39 pm

Tom,

You are correct. Thanks for the help here!

Kevin

Reply

Sharon Tzib December 16, 2013 at 8:59 am

Which property management software are you using?

Reply

Kevin Perk December 17, 2013 at 4:40 pm

Sharon,

Hopefully you saw Tom’s reply above.

Thanks for reading,

Kevin

Reply

Kevin Nguyen December 16, 2013 at 9:22 am

Thanks Kevin for the great post. I did look at the property management softwares myself in the past and did not use one due to two reasons: cost and like you mentioned, many features are designed for big players like big property management companies. So I ended up writing the accounting software myself using ms access and made my own website using word press. They are free but the downside is I need to personally involve with the maintenance. So far I’m still juggling..

Reply

Tom Sylvester December 16, 2013 at 5:09 pm

Kevin – I went a similar path. I use GQueues to manage the properties (and all the other business tasks). I then use Quickbooks (outsources) to manage the accounting and wordpress to manage our website. With the way I have our website configured, advertising a property is one click to turn it on or off.

I definitely think there is a place for property management software, but each person needs to identify what is best for them and what cost make sense for their business.

Reply

Kevin Perk December 17, 2013 at 4:44 pm

Tom,

Thanks again for helping out with your advice,

Kevin

Reply

Kevin Perk December 17, 2013 at 4:43 pm

Kevin,

Your experience shows that this type of thing is not for everyone. Take a test drive and see if you like it. Good for you for being able to design and develop a system that works for you.

I appreciate you reading and taking the time to comment,

Kevin

Reply

Kevin Nguyen December 19, 2013 at 6:56 am

Thanks for the kind words Kevin. I’m a loyal follower of BP podcast and BP forums.
Happy holidays!

Reply

Aaron Peeler December 16, 2013 at 9:26 am

I do third party fee management and use PropertyWare. I love it – all our tenants pay rent online and then I turn around and pay all our owners by ACH with just two clicks.

Reply

Kevin Perk December 17, 2013 at 4:47 pm

Aaron,

The productivity gains are awesome with the use of these tools. Just two clicks!

Thanks for reading and sharing your experience,

Kevin

Reply

Greg Jackson December 16, 2013 at 9:50 am

Kevin,

Kevin, great info, thanks …

Here’s a link to a list of property-management vendors from the show notes of your Podcast (#36) for our BiggerPocketers edification:

http://www.biggerpockets.com/rei/online-property-management-software-cloud/

Happy Holidays, Greg

Reply

Kevin Perk December 17, 2013 at 4:48 pm

Greg,

Thanks for helping out and for reading and commenting.

Happy Holidays to you as well,

Kevin

Reply

Tim jensen December 16, 2013 at 10:57 am

I use a cloud based property management software.

I started with rentech direct and am switching to pendo rent. The only reason I changed is that pendo rent is free for unlimited number of units and I am cheap. If you don’t mind paying them use rentech direct. Both of these programs are pretty easy to use. I think they work well for people who self manage their own properties.

Tim

Reply

Kevin Perk December 17, 2013 at 4:49 pm

Tim,

Thanks for the tips!

Kevin

Reply

Ron Rolland December 17, 2013 at 5:23 am

I agree completely with Kevin on this suggestion. It’s too easy to fall into a false sense of security, mostly caused by easily accepting inertia and the status quo. Stepping out of your comfort zone to try a better way of doing things, especially those that utilize the latest technologies available today, will bring efficiencies and benefits unseen before. Ultimately the real goal of automating your work flow processes and utilizing task management, is not to just save time, but freeing up time from those mundane “must be done” activities, so that you can then focus on how to make better business decisions based on the analysis of real-time market data that available. You probably just don’t have the time now, but once you get past the inertia, you’ll be out performing your competition because you have gained insightful information from utilizing the available information you just didn’t have time to consider before. I’m working for such a company now and after people see the demo, they leave with a new attitude. Investing in automating your business is exactly what Kevin said: “one of the best things we have ever done to help our business”; and it will be the same for you. Make sure to look around and ask others for their opinion on which company offers the best value for the features that you need. – Ron at Taza Systems

Reply

Kevin Perk December 17, 2013 at 4:51 pm

Ron,

Thanks for sharing and for the kind words.

Our system really has made us much more productive. It has been a great benefit to our business.

Kevin

Reply

Michael Sadler December 18, 2013 at 9:32 am

Hello Everyone,

I don’t want to get self-promotional, though I really feel like I should chime in about a potential solution for most of everyone in this post.

I recently finished writing some software that does pretty much everything you mention you are looking in property management software for free. I am very proud of it and am open to growing it’s features as I gather more feedback.

Reply

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