Property management software: what do you use and what do you recommend?

6 Replies

I currently manage 18 units and will be adding 10 or so this month. I don't have any software now other than quick books. I am looking to see what everyone is using, how they like it and what they recommend. Thank you in advance!

I had been using Buildium for my property management software prior at Gallery of Homes Realtors In Virginia Beach, I saw how they charged you for every little service, for instance I believe we were at $125 a month for 99 units, and if you wanted your tenants to pay online you had the option of $.50 per transaction (5 day deposit to your account), $.75 (3 day post to your account) and $1.00 and, but what was even worse is if there were multiple tenants in the property.  For each tenant that paid online you were charged either the $.50, $.75 or $1.00 what ever your level you chose.  This would actually equate to 2.26 per unit or if you were at the higher scale it would put you at $3.26 per unit.  Also When it came time to filing the 1099's they made a big deal how easy it was,  all you had to do was hit the button and then there were transmitted to the IRS, but that ease came with a $15.00 batch feel and I believe that was $1.26 a per line each owner in the batch.   

Before I started my company in 2012, I did my research and I decided to go with Appfolio.  Their pricing is as far as I am concerned very reasonable for all that they offer. The Appfolio property management software runs $200 a month (they charge this for 1-200 units and it is a flat fee and has not changed in 2 years). I know they charge you a larger fee than most to start up, I believe I had to pay the $600, and another $400 to set up the electronic banking portion, but it was well worth it, because you are not charged anything else for those things. I also paid for their website services, (which was ok to start, however I don't like having to send my changes in and wait for them to take affect, so I took it back over ). The website set up cost me $1000 and nothing else.

As I started using the software I started reading how we could have tenants fill out applications online, and all we had was hit the convert button and we didn't have to go through the hole process of putting all the information about their families in as well. they charge $15 per credit report, and I was using background Info USA and they were the same cost, but I had to manually put all the tenant information in, and I just wanted to work smarter so I chose to discontinue using Background Info and go with Appfolio for the background. I am very glad that I did that, because we do all our screening through Appfolio, which uses Experian for credit checks, and we also report to Experian Rent Bureau, which records lease dates, owed balances, and also can help boost or drop a credit score based on the tenants payment history. This has turned out to be such a wonderful tool because tenants are coming back to me paying debt because they can't get the apartment they want because their outstanding balance was reported to Experian Rent Bureau.

So roughly the only reoccurring costs you have is $200 (up to 200 units) a month for the software, and $15 per each credit report that I run. When I left Gallery of homes I was sent the bill for the software, and I find it ironic that for the month of may 2012 (99 units) their cost was $249.00, But their monthly subscription costs was only supposed to be $125, but as you can see the extra were all the incoming and out going payments.  

Just when you are doing your research,

1.take a look at your growth,  I was only at 89 units  when I started with Appfolio and I now have 197 units. 

2.  Make sure that the company you go with does not have a static product.  You want something that will evolve and be enhanced as new technology is enhanced.  

3.  Ask people how easy the software is to use

4.  Find at least one company that uses the software and ask them if you can call for advise if you are having trouble (preferably in your same time zone) A lot of the PM software companies have a 24 hr wait on support, so you either have to go to their support page and read to find your answers, or find a buddy you can call.

How much you intend to scale is an important consideration. If you don't want to or expect to have over 100 units, Appfolio may be overkill. It is one of the better product though.

At smaller scale, there are better options that get the job done at a much more accessible cost.

@Jeff Blanchard  can you give me some names? I have researched a few but it is hard to separate the hype from the actual experience.

@Lisa Doud  how long did it take to switch products? Buildium's price is $40 for the first 40 units. If I don't use any of the add on features are there any other hidden costs? 

I hope to expand rapidly but in reality, it has taken 8 years to go from 1 to 18 and now I am buying a trailer park which is adding 11. I purchased another park which has 100+ spaces so I could get over 100 in the next couple of years but I have some regulatory hurtles to jump first. Since I have no system currently, I am open to anything. However, the Appfolio price does not seem workable for me until I get my first park stabilized. I have to be very cautious of adding fixed expenses. I am expanding rapidly and need all of the revenue I can get to direct to growth.

Any other product recommendations would be appreciated!

@Paul Choate  I haven't experienced any hidden costs with Buildium. There are also no set up fees, and the monthly cost grants you nearly all features of Buildium, including the free web portal for your business. Things that will cost you extra are screening reports (all companies charge extra for these), a small fee to establish electronic bank transfers (if this is something you will need at all), letter mailings, and 1099-MISC tax form preparation. 

@Paul Choate

I have starting using Rentec Direct. It is easy to setup and very inexpensive. I am still working the ins and outs of the system so my review is a little shallow. I do not think it is as intensive as Appfolio or Builduim. You can manage units, split payments, activate ACH, market the property and syndicate, and many other features.

I wish there was a decent software package for landlords dealing with property management firms.  I have 4 property managers, I do not deal with leases or tenants directly.  So far the best I can find is a simple excel spreadsheet.

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